The Buffalo Bills have seen two different linebackers in three years of having Preston Brown on the roster. In his debut NFL season, Brown looked like one of the best young linebackers in football.
He significantly regressed since and became a liability in Rex Ryan's defense.
Which version of Brown should the Bills expect this season?
Let's take a look at how Pro Football Focus has graded Brown's roller-coaster start to his professional career.
In 2016, Brown received an overall PFF grade of 45.9, which ranked 48th among 59 qualifying off-ball linebackers. As if that wasn't bad enough, during his first year in Ryan's scheme, Brown's grade of 30.1 was the worst among 60 qualifying inside linebackers.
However, examining Brown during his rookie year in Jim Schwartz's one-gap 4-3 paints an entirely different picture of the type of player the third-round pick can be.
His overall grade of 79.0 ranked 43rd among the 97 qualifying linebackers who played that season.
While not identical to Schwartz's defense, McDermott's scheme has the same main philosophies.
Brown's linebacker mate in 2014, Nigel Bradham, experienced a similar roller-coaster from 2014 to 2016. As a free-flowing defender in Schwartz's system in 2014, Bradham was the 33rd-ranked linebacker. In 2015, with Ryan, Bradham dipped to the No. 84 at his position. The former Bill reunited with Schwartz in Philadelphia in 2016 and finished the season as PFF's 11th-best linebacker.
Typically, a player is who he is, regardless of scheme. But Ryan's defense is, in essence, the polar opposite of the defenses Schwartz and McDermott deploy on a weekly basis. Brown will be an interesting case study in determining if a scheme can totally transform the effectiveness of a defender.
(Stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus.)
Story topics: Preston Brown