WASHINGTON — Redskins inside linebacker Zach Brown minces no words.
A breakthrough season with the Buffalo Bills in 2016, where Brown made the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career, has fueled bigger goals in Washington.
“I want to repeat what I did last year or even better,” Brown said. “Got a bigger goal this year. My individual goal – I want to win a defensive MVP. Right now I’m in one of the best shapes of my life. Hopefully I get it. But I’m going to work to get it.”
Last year was a crossroads of sorts for Brown after the Tennessee Titans chose not to re-sign him after the 2015 season. Brown never really lived up to his billing as a second-round draft pick in 2012 by Tennessee.
But Brown found a home in Buffalo under head coach Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. He finished with 149 tackles, four sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception. That was a big step forward for a player who started 27 of 31 games for the Titans in his first two NFL seasons before falling out of favor with the coaching staff there.
The Bills took a hands-off approach with Brown. The Ryans told him exactly what they expected from him and let him go make plays. He said the Redskins under defensive coordinator Greg Manusky have taken the same approach.
“‘Hey look – downhill. Downhill. The edge is going to be set, go get the ball,'” Manusky told Brown. “I’m like say no more. I’m going to do what you want me to do.”
A new coaching staff in Buffalo left Brown seeking other options as a free agent – though he wanted to stay in a base 3-4 defense. He didn’t want to go back to being a Will linebacker in a 4-3 defense that doesn’t necessarily fit his strengths.
Brown will compete with Will Compton, the primary signal caller at inside linebacker the past two seasons, and Mason Foster, who also has two seasons with the Redskins at inside linebacker.
Adding a Pro Bowler to the mix with the sideline-to-sideline speed helps Washington, but has the potential to cause some friction as established players scrap for snaps. All three players took turns at the two inside linebacker spots during organized team activities sessions (OTAs) open to reporters last week and again on Wednesday.
“Everything will sort itself out. It’s competition,” Brown said. “Someone is always going to come in and try to take your job. For me, every year I’ve been in the league I’ve had competition. I’ve never just been certified as a starter.”
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