Arthur Brown spent the majority of his rookie season operating in pass coverage as a nickel linebacker, embracing a complementary role after being drafted in the second round.
Now, the inside linebacker has set his ambitions on winning a starting job as the Ravens' weak-side inside linebacker opposite veteran middle linebacker Daryl Smith. With Jameel McClain, last year’s starter, having signed with the New York Giants, Brown has a prime opportunity to emerge as his replacement.
“It’s an honor to even be considered and compete for that spot,” Brown said during a telephone interview. “I’m looking forward to it. Some strengths to my game are my explosiveness, my speed and being a sideline-to-sideline defender that has a high motor and has great instincts to the ball. I take that into account and play to my strengths and work on the other levels of my game to make me the complete package as a player.
“That’s what I’m working on. Last year, was a stepping stone for me and a lot of the other rookies to learn and gain from our experiences. I’m looking forward to making a greater impact and a greater contribution this year.
As the Ravens begin the first phase of their voluntary offseason workout program Monday at their training complex, this marks a continuation of what Brown has been working on ever since an 8-8 season ended with a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals and the team failed to make the playoffs for the first time under coach John Harbaugh.
After finishing his rookie season with 15 tackles, a half-sack and a forced fumble in 14 games, the former Big 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year has been trying to add weight without losing any of the speed that sets him apart as a linebacker. Brown said he currently weighs about 233 pounds, about six pounds heavier than where he finished last year.
“I’m looking to put on a little more weight until training camp and then start shedding some pounds from there,” Brown said. “I’ve got to maintain the speed. I’m willing to put on weight as long as I don’t compromise my speed. A key part of my game is speed.
“I’ve been working on my physical strength, just getting in the weight room and putting on some more functional muscle mass. All of my workouts have been performed with a purpose of that in mind. It’s been beneficial leading up to this point and I’m continuing to do what I’ve been doing to improve myself.”
Billed as an every-down linebacker out of Kansas State, Brown got most of his snaps as a rookie on third downs and excelled at shadowing running backs due to his instincts and mobility.
When the season ended, Ravens coach John Harbaugh was complimentary of Brown while also saying more will be expected from him going forward.
“Art Brown did a really good job in our nickel packages,” Harbaugh said. “He bounced around a little bit in college. And football, understanding the complexity of defensive schemes in this league, at this level, is going to take him to a starting role. He’s going to compete for a starting job. He’ll be competing for that linebacker starting job. I expect him to win the job, but he’s got to go win the job.”
The Ravens retained Smith with a four-year contract worth up to $16.1 million in March, which sets up another year of him mentoring Brown after Smith led the defense in tackles last season.
“I’m extremely excited,” Brown said. “I was so happy to hear he signed back. That was probably the most exciting news I received this offseason. The influence and impact Daryl had on the team last year was so valuable and the impact he had on me, he really taught me a lot. Being able to have the opportunity to play by his side and learn some more, that’s an really exciting thing.”
Brown was an All-American selection, a two-time team captain and a two-time All-Big 12 selection who recorded 201 tackles, 16.5 for losses, three sacks, three interceptions in two seasons at Kansas State after transferring from the University of Miami.
That’s the kind of production that the Ravens and Brown are hoping for as he matures into an increased role in his second NFL season.
“I came in with high expectations and I didn’t want to limit myself,” Brown said. “I know the expectations coming into my rookie season, but it was a stepping stone season. I learned a lot and gained from it. I’m looking forward to making some noise this year.”