Lions head coach Jim Schwartz raised a few eyebrows at the league meetings in March when said new free agent defensive end
But reminding someone of a player and actually becoming a player of that caliber are two very different things.
Brown, a second-round pick of the Panthers in 2009, played with two teams (Panthers and Chargers) in three years before signing with the Lions as a free agent this offseason. He recorded six sacks in two years with the Panthers before they released him in final cuts last season. Brown wasn’t initially signed after his release until the Chargers tried to make him an outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme last November.
Neither situation fit Brown’s particular skillsets all that well, but he thinks he’s found the right fit with the Lions.
“As a player you look at what you do really well and you take that thing and ask yourself, ‘how can I use it in my every-down game.’ That’s what I’m able to do here,” he said. Brown is an undersized defensive end in most 4-3 schemes, but that’s how the Lions like them. Avril (6-3, 260),
Brown says his biggest asset is his speed and his ability to get off the line of scrimmage quickly, which is certainly another trait the Lions covet in their defensive ends. Avril had the best 10-yard dash time (1.51) of any defensive end or outside linebacker in his group at the 2008 NFL Scouting Combine.
The Lions value defensive ends who can get off the line of scrimmage quickly and into the backfield in a hurry in their wide-9 scheme.
Brown’s 10-yard split of 1.59 at the 2009 combine was among the tops for defensive ends and is very comparable to Avril’s.
“The thing that fits me is getting a great takeoff and using my speed,” Brown said. “If I don’t get a great takeoff it’s a bad play for me. When I line up on the ball the first thing I’m thinking is get off. If I get off fast the lineman is already at a disadvantage and the width that we play here and the scheme with the wide-9 alignments allows me to really use my speed and get on those guys quick.”
The Lions brought Brown in for a workout last year when they were dealing with injuries along their defensive front, but ultimately didn’t sign him when the progress reports for
"We liked him coming out in the draft,” Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said of Brown. “He hadn't put it all together yet, but we'll see how he does. We think our scheme is going to fit him. He has a lot of speed and athleticism so I think he fits our system. We'll see how it goes."
Two teams have discarded Brown over the last year and he says one of his biggest motivations heading into training camp is to prove the Lions and Mayhew right for signing him this offseason.
“It’s like you being on the playground and you have two captains and they’re picking teams,” Brown said. “When you get picked, that guy picked you because he wanted you and not because you were just the last man standing or he just covered his eyes and pointed. Whenever you get picked on the playground to be a part of a team, there’s a little more sense of urgency to help that team.”
Brown was picked to compete, but he still has to make the 53-man roster, which could be tough sledding with the Lions bringing back their top four defensive ends from last year and drafting Ronnell Lewis in the fourth round.
“Every year you are fighting for a roster spot no matter if you’re a first-year, second-year or third-year guy,” Brown said. “Every year you are fighting for a seat on the bus. I’m just coming in and working as hard as I can and getting better every day and learning the system. It’s fun. That’s what football is all about.”