The Buffalo Bills believe they were given a gift when linebacker Preston Brown from the University of Louisville fell into their laps in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft. They are probably correct, given Brown’s phenomenal production throughout his tenure at Louisville. After leading his team in tackles (109) as a junior, Brown went on to have an equally impressive encore performance to finish out his collegiate career.
In his senior year, Brown again led the Cardinals in tackles (98), becoming just the 12th player in Louisville history to lead the team in tackles in multiple seasons. Perhaps more impressive for the middle linebacker, however, was his ability to register 4.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss while remaining an enforcer in the middle of the Cardinals’ defense over the course of the season.
Obviously, Brown’s versatility as both a run-stuffer and pass-rusher – as well as his experience in both the middle and off the edge – were evidently just too tempting for Buffalo to pass up. Additionally, Brown was part of a winning college program for several years. That time clearly gave the young man from Cincinnati, Ohio a bit of swag to go with his winner’s mentality.
That is just the type of mindset Buffalo is hoping to nurture in their locker room moving forward. With one of the longest playoff-drought streaks in the NFL currently ongoing, Buffalo fans are starved for any glimmer of hope.
Just fielding a consistently competitive team would likely give this somber fanbase a reason to believe that one day, they could return to their glory days in the AFC. Yet, obviously even better than hope would be the end of the Bills’ playoff drought entirely. In order for that to happen, Buffalo will need the help of their young up-and-coming defense.
While the organization received a fair amount of criticism for allowing safety Jairus Byrd and wide receiver Stevie Johnson to walk via free agency, Buffalo was able to upgrade several other areas of their roster this offseason. With Brown’s addition, no unit may be more vicious and imposing than Buffalo’s interior linebacker core.
With budding superstar Kiko Alonso already a mainstay at one interior linebacker position, it now seems the Bills’ coaching staff will deploy a two-headed monster at the other with veteran free agent acquisition Brandon Spikes pairing with the aforementioned Brown.
Spikes comes to Buffalo after being dishonorably castoff from the division rival New England Patriots over the offseason. He is mostly considered a two-down linebacker who is at his best against the run. Though Spikes claims to be in the best shape of his life, he is still likely to come off the field on passing downs.
That is where Brown should make his mark as a rookie. His abilities in pass coverage are already far superior to those of Spikes. Plus, with Brown’s past experience playing outside linebacker, it is very possible that Buffalo will use their rookie third-rounder at a variety of positions in order for him to gain valuable, and ultimately necessary experience.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether or not the former Cardinal can catch up to speed quickly enough to make an immediate impact, but the key to Buffalo’s future very well may lie with their defense. Sorry Sammy Watkins.