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Zach Brown in Town?

April 3, 2017
The Washington Redskins are hosting free agent inside linebacker Zach Brown on Monday, as first reported by Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post and John Keim of ESPN.

No, not the great band although the Redskins would be a lot better and less of a dysfunctional disaster if they hosted the Zac Brown Band instead. They always put me in a better state of mind.

Brown, a Pro Bowl linebacker during his first year in Buffalo, is listed at 6’1” and nearly 250 pounds. He was born in South Carolina, played college ball at North Carolina and went to high school in Columbia, Maryland and at Hargrave Military Academy.

Brown began his NFL career in Tennessee with the Titans where he played four seasons before moving on to Buffalo, where he teamed with former Redskin, Lorenzo Alexander, at the linebacker spot to both make it to the league’s all-star game.

Brown, hit the free market in March and has visited Oakland and Miami, but has not locked up a deal. Buffalo has a new head coach in Sean McDermott, a new scheme and Alexander was retained by the Bills new coaching staff.

In his only year in Buffalo, Brown racked up 149 tackles, 4.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and an interception.

The visit and interest certainly makes sense because starting ‘mike’ inside linebacker Will Compton is a restricted free agent on a one-year tender offer that has no draft pick compensation attached. It’s possible that he could sign an offer with another team and if the Redskins choose to not match, Compton would no longer be a Redskin.

It’s more likely that he returns for one year at about $1.8 million and is the starter, leader and signal caller of the defense. Essentially, the brains behind the operation.

Brown, is considered a good athlete but might be more known for his talent and athleticism than football IQ. He's been on the Redskins interest list for a while, as he should be. 

When Brown went from Tennessee to Buffalo before last season, ProFootballFocus.com cited a lost season in 2014 as a main reason why his career stalled  but that Brown is “most effective in space” and a “reliable tackler” that has “the quickness and athleticism to stick with backs and tight ends in coverage.”

Furthermore, per PFF, Brown allowed 22 receptions on 31 targets in his final year in Nashville for 198 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions and a pass defended.

Once again, per PFF, Brown had a 61.0 quarterback rating against which was 3 rd best among inside linebackers behind Luke Kuechly and Josh Mauga in 2015.

Brown was the third-highest graded inside linebacker by PFF in 2016 among free agents, right behind Dont’a Hightower and former Redskins linebacker Perry Riley. Hightower was a 85.7, Riley was graded an 84.8 and Brown came in at 84.1 per PFF in 2016.

The main differences between Riley and Brown? Riley is already 31 years old while Brown is just 27. Brown also played 978 snaps in 2016 compared to Riley’s 698 and Hightower’s 864.

What Brown may lack in some areas, he brings something the Redskins just didn’t have enough of over the last several years. Speed and athleticism.

It wasn’t Joe Barry’s fault that gaping windows were often found in zone defense, it was a lack of speed and closing burst as we said all year long. The Redskins simply are not a fast defense. Period. They haven’t been for a while.

Size and toughness is important. Speed often kills. In a good way.

Brown, if he were to sign, could battle with Mason Foster for playing time at the other inside linebacker spot as well. Foster, had a strong finish to the season, but is not considered great in coverage and lacks that needed juice in space. Foster also has one year left on his current deal.

Compton has a natural backup at this point in Martrell Spaight who has been groomed in a signal calling role but that position is much harder than it appears.

If the Redskins could somehow walk away with Compton, Foster, Brown and Spaight as a top-four inside linebacker group for 2017 and perhaps Brown and one or two of this group beyond 2017, the Redskins would be in  good shape, and it would add to a growing list of positives for the Skins during this messy off-season. 

Chris Russell has covered the Washington Redskins for eight seasons for multiple media outlets and was a part of the Redskins Radio Network broadcast team for five years. He covers the Redskins for Monumental Sports Network (www.DCHotRead.com) & Warpath Magazine. Listen to Chris on Washington D.C.'s # 1 sports radio station, 106.7 The FAN    


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