Matchup to Watch: Bills WR John Brown vs. Browns secondary

This offseason, the Buffalo Bills set out to provide their second-year quarterback, Josh Allen, with some weapons in the passing game. The biggest addition came in the form of one of the league’s smallest (5-foot-11, 178 pounds), but most dangerous receivers, John Brown. The Bills inked Brown to a three-year, $27 million deal in March with the hopes he would provide Allen with a legit No. 1 receiver who could take the top off of the defense.

Through eight games, Brown has 42 catches for 603 yards (14.4 yards per catch) with two touchdowns, and Allen has a QB rating of 99.5 when targeting him. Brown is on pace for career highs in both catches (84) and yards (1,206), shattering his previous marks of 65 receptions and 1,003 yards back in 2015, respectively. 

Brown has been incredibly consistent for the Bills, posting at least four catches and 50 yards receiving in all eight games this year. He is the first Bills receiver since the legendary Andre Reed to hit those marks in eight straight games.  

Brown is not only consistent, but also is explosive. He has at least one catch of 20-plus yards in six of the team’s eight games and has a 17-plus yard reception in all eight of them. The Bills love to send Brown deep, especially off play-action, and his 15 targets of 20-plus air yards are the 10th most of any player in the NFL.

Check out photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Bills Sunday by team photographer Matt Starkey

The Browns have been playing their cornerbacks exclusively to one side of the field and have not been “following” star receivers with Denzel Ward. Ward has been manning the left cornerback slot (to the right side of the field from the quarterback’s view), while Greedy Williams has played exclusively on the right side.  

Brown is constantly moved around the formation by the Bills and has hauled in 10 passes on 19 targets outside right of the numbers for 176 yards. Outside of the numbers on the left side of the field, Brown has been incredibly efficient, catching 13 of his 15 targets for 185 yards and a touchdown.

Despite his small stature, Brown is not afraid to work the middle of the field at all. On passes 19 yards or less from the line of scrimmage, Brown has caught 19 of his 21 targets for 242 yards and a touchdown. He can always turn a short slant into a big play, so sure tackling is a must. 

Brown will test every blade of grass on the field, and free safety Damarious Randall, who is expected to return this week, will have to always have eyes on Brown, who currently has more receiving yards than all other Bills WRs combined and who is accounting for 34 percent of the entire Buffalo passing game.

Allen has the utmost confidence in Brown and will sometimes throw the ball to him in tight coverage, as two of his seven interceptions this year have been intended for Brown. It is imperative the Browns focus their pass defense on stopping Brown, limiting his big plays and hopefully this is the week they can snag their first interception since Week 4 against the Ravens, Brown’s former team.

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