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Raiders free agency 2022: Jayon Brown needs good health

If he can stay on the field, Vegas landed a quality inside linebacker in free agency

Houston Texans v Tennessee Titans
An elbow injury last season limited Jayon Brown’s availability for the Titans, but when he’s healthy, the linebacker is a rangy and tenacious defender.
Photo by Silas Walker/Getty Images

If Jayon Brown not only makes the 53-man roster, but is healthy and active for the majority of the season, then the Las Vegas Raiders made a solid addition to their linebacker unit in free agency. One could classify it as a sneaky good move snagging the unrestricted free agent who used to patrol the Tennessee Titans defense.

Because before injuries limited both his availability and effectiveness of the former UCLA Bruin, Brown was a solid cover linebacker, something the Silver & Black are famished for. At 6-feet, 226 pounds, Brown will remind Raider fans of a linebacker — who had his own battles with injury last season — that departed in free agency.

At a similar height, weight, and build, Brown comes into Las Vegas profiling like Nicholas Morrow, who signed with the Chicago Bears earlier this month. Morrow, at 6-foot, 225, was a cover linebacker type who came into the league undersized but showcased the straight-line speed and fluid hips to drop into coverage and be a nuisance to the opposing quarterback.

Both Brown’s and Morrow’s cover chart, according to Pro Football Reference, are eerily similar: From 2018 to 2020, Brown sported a completion percentage of 62.5, 68.7 and 72.4 percent over the course of those season. Morrow, on the other hand, showcased completion rates of 74.1, 71.9 and 67.7 percent. Brown racked up 26 passes defensed over that time while Morrow had 20.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos
The Raiders lost Nicholas Morrow in free agency to the Bears. However, they replaced him with a similar type linebacker in Jayon Brown.
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Morrow missed all of 2021 due to a foot injury but still attracted the Bears attention in free agency and is now in Chicago.

Brown, meanwhile, hasn’t been a beacon of health the last two seasons. His 2020 season campaign ended prematurely with an elbow injury (injured reserve) and his 2021 year saw him land on the COVID-19 list and also get nicked up as the season went on. In total, Brown has played in 20 of the 33 regular season games the last two seasons.

Las Vegas is banking on Brown having a relatively healthy bill of health-type season in 2022, much like the team did with Denzel Perryman. Like Brown, Perryman made habitual appearances on the weekly injury report missing games. But in 2021, Perryman played and started in 15 games and lead the Raiders in total tackles with 154, earning Pro Bowl nods.

While Brown showcases a similar hunter, read-react-attack demeanor like Perryman, he’s got the more polished cover skills.

Because of that, Brown arrives in Vegas with the every-down skills that not all linebackers have. He can play on all three downs with due to his instincts, athleticism and motor — health permitting. And for a Raiders team that isn’t settled at the linebacker position, Brown’s presence not only bolsters Patrick Graham’s defense, it harkens on what general manager Dave Ziegler preached about during his media appearances: Competition.

Brown will be hungry to prove he’s not only the capable linebacker he’s shown (when healthy), but he’s determined to prove he can get even better.

“Every year when I enter a new year, I want to improve on everything I did good on, and things I didn’t do so good on, every year I want to become a more complete player for myself,” Brown told Titans.com. “I want to improve on everything across the board that I can improve on.”

And with the Raiders likely to use a 3-4 base alignment, having Brown compete with incumbents Perryman and Divine Deablo for one of the inside linebacker spots will help the entire group.

Brown’s played in both the Titans base and nickel alignments and is comfortable with a group of linebackers on the field or just a pair.

For his career, Brown’s racked up 385 total tackles, 9.5 sacks, 17 tackles for loss, four interceptions and the aforementioned 28 passes defensed. He posted that stat line in 66 career games (39 starts). His best season was his sophomore campaign in 2018 that saw the fifth-round pick (2017 NFL Draft) have 97 total tackles, six sacks, one interception and six passes defensed. That was the season Brown was called upon to blitz 71 times to create 12 pressures, according to Pro Football Reference.

Perhaps that’s an element of Brown’s game Raiders defensive boss Graham brings out more. Since that 71-blitz 2018 year, Brown’s been called upon to get after the quarterback just 66 times.

We’ll find out if a change of scenery and return to the West side of the country helps Brown recapture what he displayed in years prior. He’ll have familiar Bruin faces Kolton Miller and Andre James in Vegas. The one thing Brown won’t have, however, is the No. 55 he’s worn as a Titan. Those digits belong to fellow free agent signee Chandler Jones.