Buffalo Bills’ linebacker Preston Brown has received a lot of criticism this offseason. He had a clear message for that doubt.
The Buffalo Bills have very tight position battles at middle linebacker and strong side linebacker this offseason. Preston Brown, Reggie Ragland and Gerald Hodges Jr. are presumed to be the three fighting for those two starting spots.
The more important of the two will be the middle linebacker, which will be asked to do a lot in coverage under the new 4-3 defensive scheme being brought in by Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier. Right now, that position battle is being dominated by Ragland and Brown, with Ragland the front-runner.
Preston Brown has started at middle linebacker for several years since being drafted by the team in 2014. He has never recorded under 109 tackles in a season, which he recorded in his rookie year. Over his three-year NFL career, he has totaled 368 tacklesfour fumble recoveries and 3 interceptions.
When figuring out who would be better in the middle in a 4-3 scheme, speed has been a big factor brought up by pretty much everyone — including me. I was huge on finding a linebacker that can add some speed to the coverage aspect. Since the Buffalo Bills didn’t really add a linebacker with that speed everyone was looking for, many people have began doubting the Bills’ linebackers.
Preston Brown came through with a little glimmer of hope — something that Reggie Ragland would agree with. You don’t need to be a fast linebacker to do well in coverage. Personally, I haven’t really looked at it from that angle, yet. Thinking about it, it makes sense.
Here’s what P. Brown had to say about it:
"“Everybody thinks you’ve got to be fast to cover, but I don’t think that’s necessary,” said Brown. “I mean, a lot of fast guys overrun stuff, so you’ve got to study. I take a lot of time to study routes and those things to be better at pass coverage. I think we all can do better at pass coverage as a better unit to get more turnovers to help the team.”"
He’s got a point here. At the end of the day, being a smart linebacker and coming to each game prepared will surely trump speed when it comes to the field. In better words, being faster at reading plays will help you more than just being fast. Obviously, the two together would be ultimate, but not needed.
Preston Brown and Reggie Ragland pride themselves on being students of the game and hard workers. It’s part of the reason P. Brown was the main signal caller for most of the 2015 season and all of 2016. Add that to Sean McDermott’s attention to detail and Leslie Frazier’s veteran coaching, these two should have no problem in coverage this season.
They might not have the speed many fans are hoping for, but they will definitely have the smarts.
If what Preston Brown said wasn’t enough to convince you, check out Reggie Ragland’s tweet not too long ago:
With all of the criticism these two have received, I think they both enter the 2017 season with a chip on their shoulder. That’s exactly what Zach Brown had coming into last season. I say whoever takes over middle linebacker will play well — both in coverage and against the run.
As for the one that doesn’t win that spot, they will likely move to the outside and play strong side linebacker. Don’t forget about Gerald Hodges, who could be in that conversation as well.
The way I look at it, all three of these linebackers are quality starters and when you already have Lorenzo Alexander at weak side, the Buffalo Bills will boast a strong rotation at linebacker this season.
I wouldn’t quite count anyone out right now. I think Buffalo has a strong linebacker group, coupled with a dominant defensive line and a whole secondary with a lot to prove.
You could say I’m excited.
How do you think the offseason will play out at linebacker? Leave your thoughts below!