Buffalo Bills linebacker Preston Brown has been under the microscope this offseason, cast largely in a negative light by his own head coach.
In recent weeks, Rex Ryan has been peppered with questions about the current top inside linebacker on his depth chart. Does Brown have what it takes to play inside linebacker in Ryan's system? What does Ryan need to see out of Brown in 2016? Where does Brown need to improve most?
Ryan has been fair, citing Brown's upside and physical skill set as pluses, but the thrust of his rhetoric has centered on Brown needing to take charge on the field.
"He has the physical attributes you look for in a Mike linebacker, an inside 'backer," Ryan said this week, reiterating and expanding on previous comments. "He really does. And he's a good football player. But that spot, in particular, it's like a quarterback of the defense. You're in the middle of it, you need to step up and communicate that way. I know it's not his personality off the field, he's a very quiet individual. But you've got to be a leader on it. That's the challenge to Preston, and he understands that. We'll see how he does in that role."
BuffaloBills.com had previously reported that Brown had his play-calling duties stripped away at the end of the 2015 regular season - the team gave those to Manny Lawson, instead - and Ryan also confirmed that this week.
Brown, for his part, is aware of all that has been said about him, and told The Buffalo News on Thursday that he's "going to say what I have to say" as part of his bounce-back strategy in 2016. He's saying the right things in March, and giving every indication that he's aware that his job is on the line if he can't meet Ryan's expectations for an on-field general.
"If I want to be playing for that defense and those coaches," Brown told Tyler Dunne, "I have to be that kind of player."
What will the Bills be doing to help guide Brown down that path? Ryan's response: "We're going to put a pretty good coach with him to make sure that that goes the way we want it to." When asked to clarify who that might be, Ryan reportedly said, "You know who." His brother, Rob, cut his teeth at the college and pro levels coaching linebackers.