During the second day of the legal tampering period, the Buffalo Bills continued their renovations on offense. The new-look receiving corps continued the trend of smaller and faster—which began late last season. John Brown, a receiver coveted by the Bills last year, decided to sign in Western New York. What does he add to the offense? Let’s look at the tape.
John Brown has an incredible set of brakes. It’s not just this play either. If there’s one thing to count on him for, it’s a quick stop to come back to the play. Baltimore didn’t routinely ask him to use a wide array of routes, but the ones he utilized came with some sophistication. Small tweaks like we see here drifting off the straight line can pay dividends. The little shift to the right also sets up the quick stop. Making Brown even more dangerous is good judgment on the angle to attack after the catch. Breaking a tackle for a few more yards is gravy.
Like above, we have a good change of direction in his cut. With two defenders closing in, many receivers aren’t getting anything after the catch. Brown takes a small step back toward the line of scrimmage, which allows another broken tackle and some yards after the catch. More good judgment regarding angles on the part of Brown gets the most out of this catch.
It’s Buffalo. There’s no way we look at a receiver without judging his blocking ability. Brown doesn’t excel at blocking in that there’s a lack of refinement after contact. Turning his opponent’s shoulders in either direction likely adds a good chunk of yards here. Make no mistake though, the fact that he engaged in the first place created a few more yards anyway. Brown isn’t precisely eager to make contact, but he certainly doesn’t shy away either. Coming in well under 200 pounds doesn’t help matters either.
A lot was made about how long Josh Allen held the ball in 2018. With a decent dose of “running for his life,” Allen would benefit from players that check back in on their quarterback and find a soft spot when the play breaks down. While the usual wisdom is to work back to the quarterback, Brown will sometimes find an impact play opportunity like we see above.
Brown probably isn’t blowing the doors off of too many defenses, but uses shiftiness to make a little space. And when that space closes, he’s capable of concentrating on making the play. Don’t expect something like this routinely, but the fact that he has a shot at plays like this should be exciting.
John Brown shouldn’t be expected to take over games by himself, but brings a lot of upside to a wide receiver group that was less-than-inspiring in 2018. Brown has a knack for finding the right angle to attack after the catch and can make a defender miss in the open field. Catch rates have been a concern, with four of his five seasons under 60% (and his last two under 45%). Brown is a gamble, but if he can develop chemistry with Josh Allen, there’s plenty that could go right.