Here are a few factoids on Bills free-agent linebacker Zach Brown, who is visiting the Dolphins.
First, though, the basics: Brown, 27, is a 6-foot-1, 244-pounder who attended North Carolina, spent his first four seasons in Tennessee and headed to Buffalo last season. He had 149 tackles, four sacks and two forced fumbles last season and took the alternate’s route to his first Pro Bowl.
• He doesn’t like the Patriots: Brown seems to have a little Bryan Cox in him. Some members of the Bills and Patriots got into a pregame skirmish before their game in October, but Brown was unaware until he came out to warm up and quite disappointed. “I was sitting there, like, ‘Man, y’all didn’t invite me to the party? Y’all could’ve came and got me,’ ” Brown told The Buffalo News. “I was ready for them. I don’t like them.”
Players who don’t like the Patriots no doubt are welcome in Davie, but Brown didn’t just talk. He had 18 tackles, a sack and two forced fumbles in Buffalo’s 16-0 victory at Gillette Stadium, no less.
On one play, Julian Edelman was running toward the end zone for a play that everybody knew was getting called back by penalty, but Brown still popped him.
“I saw the flag, but at the same time, you’re not going to run to the end zone free,” Brown said.
• Curious tweet: Brown’s time in Tennessee didn’t seem to end merrily. The Titans took him in the second round (52nd overall) in 2012, but by October 2015, they were demoting him to second team behind Wesley Woodyard. About the time that Brown caught wind of what was going on, he tweeted, “ready to move on,” but he said the two situations were not related.
• Making progress? Brown also had a rough patch in 2013 and was benched late that season, although coach Ken Whisenhunt said Brown was working hard before suffering a torn pectoral muscle. “I can only judge it based off what I’ve seen since I’ve been with Zach, and he was one of the guys that I’ve enjoyed seeing make the progress that they did,” Whisenhunt said, according to The Herald-Citizen of Cookeville, Tenn. “He was really doing a nice job, so I’m disappointed for Zach. To me, it means a lot when you do what’s being asked of you and you change the perception of you.”
• No, this guy isn’t on your radio: OK, we’ll get the elephant out of the room. The country group spells it Zac, as in the Zac Brown Band, but there’s plenty more room for confusion. There’s a Zach Brown from Miami’s Liberty City who played basketball and was recruited by UConn. Portland State had a kicker named Zach Brown. At Wisconsin, mention the name Zach Brown and they’ll think you’re talking about a former running back. Etc.
• Athletic, but scouts were wary: Brown is athletic, to say the least. At North Carolina, he set the school record in indoor track by running 60 meters in 6.72. At Wilde Lake High, he played running back and linebacker in football, was 29-0 as a wrestler and won Maryland state titles in the 100 and 200 in track.
Because Brown was a late bloomer in college, draftniks weren’t sure what to make of him. Mel Kiper Jr. said it was “a difficult evaluation” (when’s the last time Kiper wasn’t sure what to say about anything?) and added it was tough to project his role on the NFL level. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock was blunt.
“I’m not as impressed with Zach Brown as most of the league is,” Mayock told The Baltimore Sun. “I guess the most impressive attribute he has is obvious, which is his speed. From a height, weight, speed perspective, he’s a first-round pick. When you watch the tape, he makes a lot of plays, but they are almost all in space. If he diagnoses a screen pass, and drives on it between the guard and tackle, he looks beautiful. However, anytime a big body gets on him, actually anytime anybody gets on him, his feet stop and he’s not physical at all. I don’t see the toughness and the physicality. He’s a run-and-chase linebacker that’s going to make plays with his speed. But I think he’s going to get enveloped by (everybody).”
Brown bristled at questions about his work ethic: “A lot of people are asking about my work ethic and I always say, ‘How am I a lazy player when I led the team in tackles the past two years and my numbers jumped this year?’ How can you consider that lazy?”
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