It’s currently all hands on deck along the defensive line for the Cincinnati Bengals. With Ryan Glasgow, Josh Tupuo, and Renell Wren all out of the picture, depth at defensive tackle is at a scarcity level that may be normal in November, but certainly not August.
If there was ever a season for Andrew Brown to prove his worth, this is it.
Hometown: Chesapeake, VA
Experience: two years
Brown is entering the second year of a two-year futures contract he signed at the beginning of the 2019 calendar year. His base salary, cap hit, and cash value are all $675,000 for this season. He will become an exclusive rights free agent at the end of the 2020 league year, giving the Bengals an easy avenue to retain him if they desire.
As a four-year player at Virginia, Brown emerged as a starter during his junior year in 2016. From his first start at the beginning of that season until his last start to close out 2017, Brown accumulated over 20 tackles for loss and nearly 10 sacks as a versatile edge/interior defender in the Cavalier’s 3-4 scheme. Brown had the quickness and explosion to make an impact near the edge as well as the length to win inside, but his effort was always on display and an obvious asset of his.
Brown turned some heads down at the 2018 Senior Bowl when he was primarily used as a defensive tackle. The splash plays he made during the week of practice were validated when he showed out during the game itself.
In these Top 50 pieces, you get my grades on each player (10 categories), my evaluations/takes, 2018 projection and videos.— Goodberry (@JoeGoodberry) June 18, 2018
Like this Andrew Brown Senior Bowl cutup (white helmet #99). pic.twitter.com/4o4UwC0rPY
A month later, Brown put together a passable performance at the NFL combine at 6-3, 296 pounds. His 5.03 40-yard dash and 4.48 short shuttle were amongst the best for interior linemen. And sure enough, it helped him get drafted just outside the top 150 picks.
The Bengals made Brown the newest Bengal with the 158th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. As a rookie, his chances of making the roster were already questionable at best, but a hamstring injury took him out of the majority of training camp and the preseason. Brown did not make the Week 1 roster but was added to the practice squad, where he would stay for the entire year.
Brown signed back with the team following the 2018 season and with a fully healthy offseason, he made the 2019 53-man roster as one of 11 defensive linemen. The Bengals would need Brown for 14 games and to play the seventh-most snaps along the defensive line. Brown would operate as an edge defender for most of his snaps.
Outlook for 2020
Accruing less than 300 snaps after spending two years in the league doesn’t sound too flattering for a former fifth-round pick, but Brown’s career is far from being set in stone. It’s all about opportunity, and Brown has a great one in front of him.
Geno Atkins, D.J. Reader, and Mike Daniels. That’s all the Bengals have in terms of proven talent at defensive tackle. Brown was used as an edge defender out of necessity last year despite showing promise as a 3-technique during the preseason, but they really don’t have a choice now. Brown is needed inside if the rotation to keep Atkins and Reader fresh is to transpire.
The spot where Brown may be most utilized at is at 5-technique, otherwise known as a 3-4 defensive end. Tupou seized that starting gig last year and when he opted out, Wren taking over was the most logical option. With both players unavailable, Brown becomes next in line for the job, and it might be where he can play his best at. He’s got the necessary size, length and even experience at the position to boot.
In Cincinnati’s defense, three down linemen between the tackles are deemed starters. Brown looks to have found himself as the third guy without even doing anything, unless the team opts for a lesser player on the roster or signs someone else off of the market.
Brown has newfound leverage entering his second accrued season. Before training camp, it was possible the Bengals could go with 11 defensive linemen again. Now, nine seems like an optimistic number. If Brown isn’t one of them, something went seriously wrong for him.
Roster Odds: 95%