A few days ago, the Jets signed pro bowl offensive tackle Duane Brown and we’ll be breaking him down in depth for you today.
The 36-year old Brown is listed at 6’4” and 315 pounds and was a first round pick out of Virginia Tech in 2008. Brown, who has been a pro bowler five times, has played for the Houston Texans and Seattle Seahawks.
Brown started off his football career as a three-star tight end prospect out of high school. He headed to Virginia Tech, where he redshirted his first season in 2003 and then caught three passes for 64 yards and a touchdown in 2004.
In 2005, Brown moved to right tackle and started every game. He was a starter for three seasons, earning second team all-ACC honors in each of his last two years.
Brown was selected by the Texans in the first round and immediately became their starter at left tackle in his rookie season. He started every game, but did surrender 11 sacks.
Over the next few seasons, Brown established himself as a top level left tackle, earning second-team all-pro honors at the end of his fourth season and making the first of five pro bowl appearances as a first-team all-pro in the following year. He was voted the 48th best player in the NFL at the end of that season.
Brown continued to play at a high level until 2017, when he missed the first six games due to a contract holdout. He made his return for the seventh game, but was then traded to Seattle with whom he once again went to the pro bowl. He’s been a solid player with the Seahawks as he was a second team all-pro in 2018, pro bowl alternate in 2020 and a pro bowler last year.
He was without a team throughout the offseason but finally agreed to a deal with the Jets this week, for a reported $22 million over two years.
Now let’s take a look at what Brown brings to the table, divided into categories.
Brown has good size and a powerful frame, but he has looked bigger than his listed weight at times over the past few seasons. He possesses average length and hand size, but opposing players have said he has a vice-like grip. He had some impressive weightlifting feats at college and 24 bench press reps at the scouting combine.
As a converted tight end, Brown’s initial calling card was his athletic ability. He ran a sub-5.1 in the 40-yard dash at the combine and posted good numbers for explosiveness and agility. This was 15 years ago, though.
One concern about Brown is that he’s regarded as a pure left tackle. After the Jets went to the trouble of allowing George Fant to stay at left tackle this season, partly due to Fant’s comfort level within that role, they may be reluctant to move him.
Brown has played two years at right tackle, but these were with the Hokies back in 2006 and 2007. At the NFL level, he’s been exclusively used on the left, although he filled in at guard on three snaps and has been aligned as a jumbo package tight end from time to time in unbalanced sets.
Brown developed into one of the most reliable pass protectors in the league, although there is concern that he’s starting to lose a step in this area.
When he looks good, he gets back into his stance well and can mirror his man, use his length and lock onto his man to shut him down.
In 2021, he gave up eight sacks, which was the first time he’s allowed as many as five since 2010. His pressure rate was still pretty good though and, actually, he only gave up one sack and one quarterback hit in the last eight games.
The Jets will be hopeful that technical corrections Brown made over the course of the 2021 season will carry over into 2022. It may also be the case that he got into better shape as the season went along. There’s also a chance that Russell Wilson being out was a factor in some of the plays that ended up as sacks:
Brown has always been regarded as a top run blocker with excellent power, control, balance and movement abilities. This translates to on-the-field success where Arian Foster had four thousand-yard seasons running behind him and Seattle went from one of the league’s worst running games to the NFL’s best in 2018. Brown was widely viewed as the main catalyst in both cases.
In addition to having power at the point of attack, Brown’s athleticism allows him to make some impressive blocks on the move.
He’s also adept and finding and locking onto a target in space and can overpower and overwhelm smaller players.
Unsurprisingly, Brown’s teams have had good success running behind him in short yardage situations. Seattle had 13 touchdowns, including nine rushing scores from inside the four yard line last season.
Brown may have lost a step, but he’s still more than capable of getting out into space to find a blocker at the second level or downfield. He still possesses the athleticism to get out in front of a screen pass or moving laterally to seal a man on the inside.
The book on Brown coming out of college was that he was still raw technically having only played one season as a left tackle and three on the line overall. However, he’s worked on his technique over the years and has become solid against the pass and in the running game.
Despite this, there is still some concern he has relied too much on his athletic gifts in the past so he may need to shift his focus as he enters his late-thirties.
In particular, Ray Roberts - a former NFL lineman who now works as an analyst for the Seahawks radio broadcast - referred to his early season pass protection technique in 2021 as “terrible” in an article with the Athletic. Roberts essentially said his base wasn’t wide enough and opposing pass rushers were able to get into his body and drive him back too often.
As noted, Brown gave up seven sacks in the first half of the season but only one after midseason so this issue appears to have been fixed. There may have been some physical limitation that was preventing him from stepping out wide enough in those early-season games.
Penalties have never been a major issue for Brown, who hasn’t had more than five in a season since 2015. His discipline is good too, as he’s only had one personal foul in that time.
For his career as a whole, he has 19 holding penalties and 32 false starts. He uncharacteristically had four false starts last season but only one other penalty for holding.
At the NFL level, Brown has been used as a blocker on the placekicking unit and didn’t even do this last season. In 2016, he gave up a kick block in a key fourth quarter situation.
At Virginia Tech, he showcased his athleticism in his senior year with four tackles in punt coverage and a blocked kick.
Brown has a ton of experience and Russell Wilson praised his high level football IQ when he missed time with them. Developing chemistry and picking up stunts and twists shouldn’t be an issue with his new teammates.
He is also adept at peeling off to a secondary block and setting up at the right angle to wall his player off.
In Brown, the Jets are getting a vocal leader who has a fiery character and is regarded as a popular teammate. Fant has already benefited from his mentoring in the past and now Mekhi Becton and Max Mitchell could also benefit from having him around even if they don’t play in 2022.
He brings an aggressive attitude onto the field and will play to the whistle and finish his blocks.
Off the field, there was an arrest on gun charges during the offseason, but the Jets are obviously unconcerned that this is a major worry.
The Jets obviously locked him up for two years, so any threat of him repeating his holdouts from the past has been avoided.
The Jets are getting a durable player who has started every game over the past two seasons. He showed toughness last year by playing through a groin injury suffered in November.
During his first eight seasons, Brown was basically injury free, missing eight games in total. Since then, he’s dealt with a variety of issues, albeit that none have been too serious.
He tore his quad right at the end of the 2015 season, then hurt his knee in the 2016 offseason and missed the first four games. Over the past five seasons, six of the 10 games he missed were because he was holding out. The rest were in 2019 where he dealt with a bicep injury and a torn meniscus.
Brown has played with two teams that primarily use zone blocking schemes in the running game, so he should fit well into the Jets’ system.
He’s familiar with Robert Saleh, who was an assistant coach with the Texans during Brown’s first three seasons, and has been a teammate of Fant, DJ Reed and Jacob Martin while in Seattle.
This would have been a great signing as a third tackle, but Becton’s injury has increased the urgency for Brown to get up to speed in order to start during the regular season. The two-year deal also gives the Jets options in the likely event that Becton’s status is uncertain this time next year too.
Brown is a terrific talent who has been a superb player over the years, but obviously as he turns 37 later this month there will be concern that his play will take a downturn as his prime moves into the rear-view mirror.
In light of what happened with Becton, it’s about as good a move as the Jets could possibly have made and in terms of how successful it will be, the Jets will hope it turns out more like the Morgan Moses deal last year than the Ryan Kalil signing in 2020.