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2017 NFL Draft Q&A: Steve Helwick of Hustle Belt on rookie linebacker Blair Brown

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Getting to know Jacksonville’s newest linebacker a little bit better.

NCAA Football: Ohio at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

We kicked off our 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars draft class Q&A series with fullback Marquez Williams, now we’re continuing with fifth-round pick Blair Brown, a linebacker out of Ohio.

I spoke with Steve Helwick, a Mid-American Conference football writer for SB Nation’s Hustle Belt. In order to gain more insights about Brown, check out Steve’s answers to my questions below.

In short, what did I learn about Brown? Expect a lot of speed, effort, and physicality.

1. Brown is a tackling machine, recording 128 total in 2016. What other aspects of Brown's game should Jacksonville fans take note of?

Brown is incredibly physical and aggressive. He's a dominant run stopper and possesses great athleticism for his position. Brown reacts quickly to plays, as evident by his 15 tackles for loss in 2016. Although he was a three-year starter, Brown made major progressions as a defender in his senior year, evolving into a tackling machine. One element of his game he must develop as an outside linebacker in the NFL is his ability to cover receivers and tight ends on passing plays. Brown excels as a run-stopping, blitzing linebacker, but could be exploited as a mismatch if forced to drop back into coverage.

2. As a 2016 first-team All-MAC selection, how can Brown bring that same level of effort with him to the NFL?

Brown was among the elite defenders in the MAC last season. While some may have overlooked Brown due to his conference, the MAC has produced solid NFL outside linebackers in the past. The Raiders' outside linebacker/defensive end hybrid Khalil Mack (Buffalo) is the gold standard of linebackers from the conference and the Steelers' James Harrison (Kent State) has been terrorizing backfields for years. Brown is smaller than the aforementioned former MAC stars, but has the necessary tackling skills and athleticism to fit in the NFL. He plays with unmatched levels of effort and aggressiveness on every play, so Brown — albeit a fifth-round pick — can potentially enshrine his name as the next great outside linebacker from the conference.

3. Do you see Brown as more of a strong-side linebacker or a weak-side linebacker in Jacksonville's 4-3 defense?

In Todd Wash's 4-3 scheme, I see Brown as more of a strong-side linebacker. He has the speed of a weak-side linebacker, but doesn't own the complete skill set in the pass coverage game. As a strong-side linebacker, Brown would be equipped with the strength to shed off blockers and the ability to smother the run game. He developed solid pass rushing skills last season, tallying 4.5 sacks in Ohio's 14 games. Brown must further improve in blitzing schemes to increase his effectiveness as a strong-side linebacker, but I think he could be an asset as an inside linebacker as well. Inside linebackers primarily focus on limiting the run game and pursuing the backfield, so Brown could fit this position as well. The Jaguars currently feature a solid starting linebacker corps with Myles Jack, Telvin Smith, and the veteran Paul Posluszny, so Brown is granted with quality mentors as he begins his NFL career.

Note: While many of us envisioned Brown as a strong-side linebacker, General Manager Dave Caldwell said in a recent interview with Sirius XM NFL Radio that Brown will provide depth at both the weak-side and middle linebacker spots, while also contributing on special teams.

4. Brown seems to be a downhill player with great instincts. Can you talk about his ability to read and react quickly to plays?

Many scouts highlighted Brown's great instincts as the strongest aspect of his game. Brown is a very aggressive defender and sprints across the field, focused on his target at all times. By combining his quick speed burst (4.65 40-yard dash) with his instincts, Brown establishes himself as a strong run stopper. He plays with a high level of awareness, often reading plays before they develop.

In Ohio's week three loss to Tennessee, Brown was one of the Bobcats' bright spots, stifling Tennessee running back (and Saints third round pick) Alvin Kamara.

Here is another clip of Brown's quick reaction time, halting Kamara's progress immediately on a screen pass.

5. Brown also recorded 15 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks. He got into the backfield, but how is he against the pass, specifically in man coverage?

As mentioned before, Brown's coverage ability is one shortcoming of his game. He accumulated zero interceptions and only three passes defended (all in 2014) in his college career. Ohio primarily used him to occupy opposing backfields, playing Brown to his strengths. But in the NFL, offenses will attempt to take advantage of any defender's weaknesses. Luckily for Brown, he is gifted with the speed to keep up in coverage and just needs more practice covering tight ends and receivers one-on-one.

It seems as though Brown is a hard-working player who can provide depth at all three linebacker spots, make a difference on special teams and earn a role with the Jags. I’m excited about this prospect.

For more from Steve, follow him on Twitter @S_Helwick and read his work on hustlebelt.com.