The Tennessee Titans have a defense that boasts some big names. However, while Jayon Brown is not usually considered one of them, Pro Football Network’s Matt Williamson recently listed Brown as one of his top 25 players at linebacker entering the 2020 season. On the list, Brown cracked the top 15 as Williamson showed a lot of respect to the Titans young linebacker. Brown has come a long way to become a complete linebacker in the NFL and is a tale of how athletic testing doesn’t always tell the story.
Brown’s ranking and the company he’s with
On Williamson’s list, Brown ranks as the 14th overall linebacker heading into the 2020 season, ahead of Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy and right below Corey Littleton and Fred Warner. Collins and Van Noy have had great success in the league under Bill Belichick excelling in more than one aspect of the linebacker position. Littleton cashed in on a big contract with the Las Vegas Raiders due to his prowess in getting downhill in the run game and using arm length to succeed in coverage. At the same time, Warner became an absolute star at the position during the 2019 season and playoffs.
To the casual fan, Brown’s name would seem to be the square peg in a round hole of this group. Which begs the question of; does he fit? Brown has always been strong in coverage, as it was his best trait coming out of UCLA. With the additions Titans’ General Manager Jon Robinson has made to the defensive line, Brown is now kept cleaner and is able to be a stabilizing force in stopping the run. With less blitz responsibility in 2019, Brown boosted career highs in solo tackles with 69, total tackles with 105, and passes defensed with eight. He added a fumble recovery for a touchdown as well while only playing 14 games.
Where does Jayon Brown excel as a top linebacker
Brown is one of the best coverage linebackers in the NFL, his ability to read tight end and running back routes are as good as it gets. He often beats his coverage assignment to the ball or meets the player on ball arrival, allowing for no yards after the catch even if it is completed. He is disciplined in zone coverage and shows great ability to pass his assignment off to the next defender.
Taking the step up in run defense as an inside backer is whats taken Brown’s game to the next level. Brown has been able to use his read and recognition skills much better on the inside. He demonstrated an ability to read pulling guards and beat them to the spot. This is crucial for Brown because, at 6′ 226 pounds, his frame cannot fight off these much larger men. He gets downhill quickly on toss/outside runs and breaks down into solid tackling form.
Brown is a pure example of why people say “watch the tape”
The NFL Draft process can be fickle one for many a prospect, and Brown is a perfect example of this. He was dinged for his size, which isn’t ideal, but it pigeon holes you into a label of “coverage” linebacker. His athletic testing was not impressive, meaning the label of coverage guy didn’t match. His tape, however, told another story. He is always the first to the ball in run support and can track the ball well through the air, resulting in interceptions or pass breakups. It took some time for him to adjust, but now it can be said that Brown is a top linebacker in the NFL.
Projecting Brown’s 2020 season
Brown teams up on the inside with Rashaan Evans, who finished second on the team in tackles in 2019. They make a great duo, Brown is more the playmaker of the two, roaming downhill and not leaving the field in distinct pass situations. Brown’s growth and confidence in his game and his teammates’ trust should lead to him being the Titans top linebacker in 2020. Brown is in a contract year, and his development in the run game while being stout in coverage should lead to a substantial payday.