Zach Brown holding it down in Buffalo's defense

Posted Sep 30, 2016

Inside linebacker Zach Brown was an unknown quantity to Bills fans, but his presence in the middle of Buffalo's defensive front has been invaluable.

If you asked Rex Ryan who the Buffalo Bills leading tackler would be three weeks into the season, Zach Brown probably wouldn’t have been too high on his list. 

However, since Brown stepped into a starting inside linebacker role he has dominated both the box score and his opponents in the first quarter of the 2016 season.

He has 34 tackles, tied for second most in the NFL, and 22 solo tackles. He signed a one-year deal with the Bills after spending the first four years of his career with the Tennessee Titans. 

Brown was signed by Bills GM Doug Whaley with the intention of making him a starter, but after the team moved up in the draft to take Alabama’s Reggie Ragland in the second round, Brown was relegated to a reserve role.

Following Ragland’s ACL knee injury in the beginning of August at a training camp practice, Brown was once again thrust into a starter’s role alongside Preston Brown.

“He’s obviously doing a fantastic job playing,” Ryan said. “I think this is the best he’s ever played. So we’re certainly pleased with him.” 

Brown has been equally impressive with his pass coverage and run-stopping abilities. Last week he had 12 tackles and helped the Bills limit Arizona’s production in short-yardage and third-down situations. 

“I played against him in college, so I’m not surprised by his play at all,” Preston Brown said. 

This week, the Bills face the NFL’s leading rusher and an offense that hasn’t missed a beat since losing Tom Brady to suspension.

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New England’s LeGarrette Blount has 75 carries, 298 yards and four touchdowns through three games and was just named the AFC Offensive Player of the Month for September.            

“You know we just have to stop him before he gets going; it’s almost the same with any running back,” Zach Brown said. “You have to tackle and wrap up, because he does have the speed to take it the distance as we saw last week.”             

In last week’s 27-0 thumping of the Houston Texans, Blount broke free for a 41-yard touchdown run. He has been a workhorse this season, as New England’s next leading rusher is Jacoby Brissett with 60 yards.               

In addition to preparing a game plan for Blount, the Bills also have the added challenge of who will line up under center for the Patriots this week. The only thing the Bills know for sure is that it won’t be Brady taking snaps.               

“I’m not going to say it’s a challenge. We have them all on tape and we know what they all can do,” Zach Brown said. “So we are going to watch the film and prepare for all of them.”             

Regardless of who gets the start, Brown likes where he stands in Ryan’s defensive scheme.               

Over his first four seasons in the NFL, he played under defensive coordinators Jerry Gray and Dick LeBeau, who have different roles for their linebackers than what Brown has seen in Ryan’s system. He says that he is much more comfortable with the fit in Ryan’s scheme.             

“So right now it’s more of the front seven can do what we need to do and let our DBs play football because at the end of the day it’s like, ‘Look, we are going to take care of the run with seven people,’” said Brown. ‘Y’all get the ball on the pass.’”         

Not surprisingly, Zach Brown has developed a tight relationship with teammate Preston Brown.             

“I always have my brother Preston right there next to me doing what he has to do so I don’t really have to worry about that side of the field, I know he is going to take care of it,” Brown said.               

Preston Brown has 29 tackles and is enjoying the success that the linebackers are having as well.             

“I told him that if he plays good he’s my brother,” Preston Brown said.  “So right now he’s my brother; if he starts playing bad then we just aren’t related.”               

Zach Brown is quick to give most of the credit for the defense’s success to his fellow linebackers. He says that the balance Jerry Hughes and Lorenzo Alexander have provided in the pass rush with three sacks each has been crucial to keeping offenses honest.  

“It’s the players that you have with it,” he said. “I say that this is the best group of players that I’ve played with since I’ve been in the league and it’s fun.”