The run defense, to me, has been the weak link on the defense in the overall sense. They seem to have been gashed pretty badly in the middle, versus to the outside consistently. Is this a sophomore slump issue with Derrick Brown, or is the combination of DaQuan Jones or Bravvion Roy with Brown not meshing well? — Clyde, Vacaville, CA
Well, we’ll see how those guys respond after last week’s benching of Brown.
Parking last year’s first-rounder after a poor game at Washington was clearly a message from head coach Matt Rhule, who spent time last week meeting one-on-one with Brown to talk about what he was hoping to see.
Here’s what we know about Brown: He’s an incredibly talented large strong man. Here’s what we’ve seen from Brown at times this year: He can get a little loose with his technique and still be effective at times because he’s an incredibly talented large strong man.
Football guys like to talk about pad level, which is jargon for being able to use leverage. If you have power like Brown does, and can come up into a blocker, it’s going to be hard for many of them to control you. But if you enter the transaction a little upright, it’s easier for an offensive lineman to move you instead.
That, and other small technical issues (the kind of repeatable fundamentals Rhule likes to talk about) could help Brown capitalize on the talent that’s clearly there.
The other interesting thing worth watching the next few weeks is how an expanded rotation of defensive tackles impacts his play. The Panthers had just three active on game days after the injury to rookie Daviyon Nixon. But rookie Phil Hoskins was active for the first time last week and played 16 snaps (22 percent). That’s not a lot, but it helps.
Jones played 39 of the 74 snaps last week (53 percent), Brown 36 (49 percent), and Roy 34 (46 percent). Having Hoskins take anything off their workload is only going to help.
Looking back over the course of the season, Brown has played 70 percent of the snaps in five games. One of those was the Saints game in Week 2 when they only had 44 defensive snaps as a team, so it wasn’t like he was worn down that day.
But the other four came against Washington, Dallas, New England, and Philadelphia. You’ll note that group includes four losses, and three games in which the run defense sprang huge leaks.
If they get Nixon back next year (he was looking good before he was injured) and Hoskins develops, it would help Brown in a number of ways. We’ll see how he responds in the coming weeks.