Raiders: Breaking down newly-signed linebacker Preston Brown

Raiders (Photo by Timothy Ludwig/Getty Images)
Raiders (Photo by Timothy Ludwig/Getty Images) /

The Oakland Raiders added a veteran to their linebacker core on Monday signing former Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Preston Brown.

It’s no secret that the Oakland Raiders have been desperately searching for some help at linebacker seemingly for the entire season.

And if we’re being honest, it dates back even farther than that.

But the Raiders made the move to sign Preston Brown on Monday to give the team a veteran presence with an abundance of starting experience.

Brown was originally drafted in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills where he would spend the first four seasons of his career. While with the Bills, Brown managed four straight 100-tackle seasons including a league-leading 144 tackles in 2017.

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However, the Louisville product would not be re-signed and would join the Cincinnati Bengals prior to the 2018 season. Brown would play in just seven games during his first season with the club before suffering a knee injury that would land him on the injured reserve.

Still, his play in those seven games was enough to earn him a three-year, $16.5 million contract extension with the team in the offseason. Unfortunately, the Bengals would soon end up regretting that deal.

Brown played in the first nine games of the 2019 season before unceremoniously being released less than 10 games into his three-year extension. Even on a winless Bengals team, Brown just couldn’t cut it.

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The 27-year-old graded out very poorly with Pro Football Focus earning him a lowly 44.1 grade. That placed him 81st out of 90 qualified linebackers in the league and his stats while in pass coverage are likely an explanation of his poor final grade.

Brown allowed 20 receptions on 21 targets for a whopping 213 yards and two TD’s making him nearly unplayable on passing downs. That combined with Cinciannti’s desire to get younger at the position likely contributed to his early departure.

For the Raiders, however, beggars can’t be choosers.

Oakland has dealt with some serious bad luck at the linebacker position with a season-long suspension to Vontaze Burfict and a long-term injury to Marquel Lee. That’s left the duo of Tahir Whitehead and Nicholas Morrow playing essentially every defensive down.

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Whitehead is still a solid, if not unspectacular player, but Morrow has especially struggled against the run. Opponents have fared very well on the ground against the Raiders as of late and much of those struggles are due to the lackluster linebacker core.

Veteran Will Compton has also been thrown into the mix and while he’s likely a batter run defender than Morrow, he’s not exactly a starting-caliber player.

Brown struggles in coverage, that much is certain. But he has shown flashes in the past of being a stout run defender as evidenced by his 144 tackles back in 2017. He can be the first and second-down upgrade over Morrow that the Raiders desperately need,

Expectations should absolutely be curbed and it wouldn’t be wise for the team to utilize him much in coverage, but Brown is absolutely a positive addition to a very thin group of linebackers.

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And on a defense full of street free agents and unknowns, Brown should see playing time very early and fit right in.