Every summer leading up to training camp **Buffalobills.com* examines some of the more pressing issues facing the team on the field as they make their final preparations for the regular season. We also focus on a few different areas that impact the team off the field. We'll address these subjects one at a time until report day at training camp. Here now is the latest daily installment as we closely examine some of the answers the Buffalo Bills have to come up with between July 30 and the Sept. 13 opener at Ralph Wilson Stadium against Indianapolis.*
!(http://bufbills.co/ccarticle300)Preston Brown set a high bar for himself during his rookie season last year. His 66 tackles led the Bills and he had an interception during the 43-23 rout of the New York Jets on Oct. 26.
"With any athlete, with any player on the squad, you want to see improvement from year to year," defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman said. "Usually, young guys take quantum leaps, major leaps in between years one and two."
Here are three reasons why this year could be even better for Brown.
Brown has been watching game film since he was six years old. His father, Mike Brown, was briefly in the NFL as an undrafted linebacker for the Denver Broncos and has coached Brown for most of his life. That high level of attention from a former NFL player has made Brown's ability to read plays second to none.
"Usually a coach's kid is going to have that mental aptitude because he's been around the game a long time," Thurman said.
These instincts have put Brown in position to be a natural leader on the field, a role that he enjoys.
"It's fun, I'm a 22-year old guy telling these old guys what to do," Brown said. "That's something I had to learn back in college. I was a young guy always so they taught me how to be assertive."
Another benefit of being a coach's son is that Brown is fundamentally sound. He rarely misses tackles—if he has the ball carrier wrapped up, the play is as good as over. This was a major factor in him leading the team in tackles last season.
Brown's coverage game is also solid. Although he didn't play as much coverage in his role last season, he did have an interception and a couple passes defended.
"I think you've got to do a little more because you have to read off the line a lot more," Brown said of his role as a sideline-to-sideline pass defender this year. "We're linebackers so we've just got to back them up and go off of which way they go."
Good fundamentals usually ensure a good season. With his fundamentals and attention to detail, Brown is set for an even better season than last.
He's in a playmaking position
Although he had a good season last year, Brown's new position in head coach Rex Ryan's 3-4 scheme could set him up to make video game level stats. With Ryan's tendency to call blitzes often, Brown could be that much more productive. He could rack up sacks by blitzing himself or get gaudy interception numbers by dropping back into coverage and taking advantage of errant throws.
"Going to a 3-4 from a 4-3 it's a lot different," he said. "I did a little in college. Just trying to get back into that two-gap kind of mindset, but we'll get it right."
Another thing Brown has going for him is the stellar defensive line in front of him. With every player on the line being a perennial Pro Bowler, offensive lines will have their hands full with the linemen alone. This will free up Brown to wreak havoc on opposing running backs and quarterbacks. Brown could be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the new 3-4 defense.