Bengals linebacker Preston Brown was tied for the NFL lead in tackles last year, but new tackle rules could change the way he operates.
Brown had 144 total tackles in his final season with the Buffalo Bills, tying Blake Martinez of the Green Bay Packers for the most in the NFL. He has eclipsed the 100 tackle mark in each of his first four seasons, and hasn’t missed a single game in that span.
Here is the language of the new rule: It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent. Applies to any player anywhere on the field. The player may be disqualified.
The NFL also voted to allow plays during which a ruling is made to disqualify a player to be reviewed. So for example, when Vontaze Burfict was ejected from the Bengals vs Titans game in 2017 for seemingly nothing, that would now be reviewed and he may not have had to leave the game.
Brown doesn’t know a ton about the new rules — the players will be taught more as the 2018 NFL season approaches — but he doesn’t think the changes will hurt his game.
“I think I was born knowing how to tackle. ... I know you can’t duck your head and stuff like that,” Brown told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “Hopefully it won’t be as bad as the first couple of games. I think the first couple of games there’ll be a lot of flags, but hopefully it will weed itself out.”
The Bengals’ coaching staff is confident that they can teach well in relation to these new rules, and the Bengals will be able to tackle well while still following the rules.
“At the end of the day it’s an adjustment of small things,” said defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. “I think you can teach it a certain way so you keep the head out of play … We’ll abide by the rules because we want to be a great tackling team and we want our players to keep their money in their pockets.”
Austin doesn’t have any concern about Brown and how this rule will affect him. The Bengals’ new defensive coordinator called Brown “a real pro,” and “a great guy.”
Once Burfict returns from his four-game suspension to start the season, he and Brown will team up at the linebacker position. Both of them have NFL tackle titles, and Brown likes what he sees in his new teammate.
“How smart he is. How instinctive he is. How hard he practices,” Brown said of Burfict. “This is Vontaze’s team … I’m just trying to learn personalities right now. I’m trying to see how guys react in certain situations … I don’t know everything yet. I don’t know everybody’s name yet. I’m still learning from him.”
With Brown joining the Bengals this season, he and Burfict will give the team a tackling machine within the front seven. Hopefully nothing about the new rules changes the duo’s ability to take charge on the field.
“You can’t worry about anything on the football field,” Brown said. “That’s when bad stuff happens … I don’t do that much ducking. They teach when you’re five, six to see what you’re hitting. That’s what I’ve been trying to do since I was that age. So hopefully that transforms into the rules.”