Ravens See A Little Lewis In Brown
By Cian Fahey
Seventeen years ago the Baltimore Ravens brought in an overlooked college prospect from the University of Miami. Too small to go early or be special, this 20-year-old was the fifth linebacker taken in the draft and the 26th player overall. Yet, that description is a long way down the list of ways that you can describe the career of Ray Lewis.
In order to replace Lewis, who retired this year after a Hall of Fame career, Ravens' GM Ozzie Newsome looked to another undersized, overlooked aggressive speedster who fell in the draft. This time that prospect came from Kansas State and was 22 years of age, but unlike Lewis, the Ravens traded up to make sure that they could draft Arthur Brown in the second round.
Brown was the eighth linebacker taken in the draft and came off the board at No. 56. Outside of his size, there was a shoulder problem that may have put teams off, but the Ravens felt confident enough in him to trade away a fifth- and sixth-round pick to move up just six spots and select him. Brown will immediately slot into the starting spot next to Jameel McClain at the heart of the Ravens' front seven.
However, not only will Brown be a starter in any base 3-4 defenses, when the Ravens flip to a 4-3 – something that could be their base this year considering other personnel moves – he will move outside to be the starting weak-side linebacker with ease. That is where Brown's size works in his favor. He is an incredibly instinctive and quick player who can excel in space, but also use that speed to avoid blocks intelligently and work his way through crowds between the tackles.
Because the Ravens are expecting to have an outstanding group of defensive linemen up front this year, Brown's job will be made easier and he could spend a significant amount of time in coverage. While he is not outstanding in that respect, he has the versatility and flexibility as an athlete to do a multitude of things effectively and, just as importantly, he has the room to develop a greater repertoire as his career grows.
Flexibility is an important part of the Ravens' identity on defense. Having Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs gives them two rushers off the edge who can comfortably line up as defensive ends in a 4-3 or outside linebackers in a 3-4. Having Chris Canty, Marcus Spears, Arthur Jones, Terrance Cody, Haloti Ngata, third-round pick Brandon Williams and Pernell McPheee – all of whom can fit into a variety of fronts – allows them to run different base formations. McPhee and Courtney Upshaw could play as outside linebackers in a 3-4 or strong-side linebackers in a 4-3 while Jameel McClain could play inside linebacker in either formation.
The only thing missing from their front seven was that weak-side linebacker who could also shift inside in a 3-4 front. Brown gives them that option and dramatically improves the talent level over Rolando McClain, Bryan Hall, Josh Bynes or Spencer Adkins.