After a strong rookie season, it looked like Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Jatavis Brown was ready for a fruitful career with the Bolts. However, his second season may have changed those thoughts.
Brown was one of the league’s most impactful defensive rookies in 2016, racking up 79 tackles, 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He also got his hand in on six pass deflections.
But after switching back to a 4-3 defensive scheme under new coordinator Gus Bradley in 2017, Brown no longer seemed like a great fit. Bradley favored veteran linebacker Hayes Pullard III over Brown and Brown became somewhat of an afterthought.
Comparing his defensive snap counts from one season to the next prove that.
According to Pro Football Reference, Brown saw time on 56 percent of the team’s defensive snaps in 2016. That number dipped to just 48.1 percent last season. Diving deeper into the statistics, there are a couple of things that stand out.
Brown played in just 12 games as a rookie, or that 56 percent would be even higher. But playing on 95 less total snaps in 2017, Brown still matched his tackle count from 2016, posting 79 tackles. That’s a testament to his ability to make plays.
So what does the future hold for Brown, and what did Bradley feel Pullard was so much better at? Pullard had more experience playing Bradley’s scheme, as USC, where he played in college, ran a similar system.
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Still, give me the more athletic player with a much higher ceiling.
But will the Chargers feel the same way? After drafting Uchenna Nwosu and Kyzir White in the first four rounds of the draft, Brown may become part of a rotational committee who may end up being lucky to see the 48 percent of defensive snaps he got last year. He’ll have a good chance to be one of the linebackers the team calls upon in its nickel package.
Were the Chargers just biding time for Brown to learn the nuances of the defense last year, or does the team still feel that Pullard is a better option? Is either guy a focal point of the defensive plans in 2018?
One thing is for sure, it’s hard to argue that the linebacker position won’t be the most interesting to follow this summer as there will be a good group of guys looking to prove they deserve playing time.