Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh expects Arthur Brown to be his starting weak-side linebacker next season.
Harbaugh said that at the Ravens' season-review news conference earlier this month.
And Brown, Baltimore's second-round pick last year, feels like he will be ready to take on an increased role as well. He played strictly in sub packages as a rookie this season and only had 15 tackles.
"I feel a lot further along," Brown told The Times during a phone interview. "There was so much coming into this team from college that I did not know when it came to the defense. It was a whole new system that I had to learn, and I really had to take it all in.
"But after being here for one whole season, I can see how far I've come since the beginning."
Brown was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-American as a senior at Kansas State in 2012. But Kansas State ran a 4-3 defense. The Ravens play a 3-4.
So in college, Brown was primarily responsible for just the middle of the field. That's not the case with Baltimore.
"I had to play a lot more outside the box than I did in college," Brown said. "So in terms of coverage and space on the field, there's definitely a difference."
Brown is also in the process of trying to bulk up.
Inside linebackers in a 3-4 are typically between 235 and 250 pounds. Brown said that he was consistently around 228 during his rookie year.
Linebackers coach Ted Monachino told Brown after the season ended that he would like him to get bigger this offseason.
"That definitely is a goal of mine," Brown said. "I don't necessarily have a particular weight in mind, but I would like to bulk up as long as I can maintain my athletic ability and my speed."
From there, Brown earning a bigger role and being in position to make more of an impact will come down to him continuing to grow within Baltimore's defense.
"I spoke to [Monachino] quite often throughout the year and toward the end of the season, and he wants me to continue to stay locked in and to gain more knowledge of the defensive scheme," Brown said. "He'd like me to also be improve being able to recognize tendencies and personnel of the offense.
"I gained and improved a lot from the beginning of the season to now, but I still have so much to learn and so far to go."
Nonetheless, Harbaugh is hopeful Brown will be ready to take on a bigger role next season.
Harbaugh said in November that Brown reminds him of wide receiver Torrey Smith because of his work ethic.
"He comes to work every single day with one thing in mind - that is to improve," Harbaugh said at the time. "He doesn't let his energy be misdirected in any way. It is focused on getting better as a football player and being the best he can be.
"Because of that, he's going to be an excellent football player. He's on his way."
Brown is expected to compete for playing time with Jameel McClain and Josh Bynes.
Bynes started the first six games of this season while McClain worked back from a spinal cord injury. McClain then started the final 10 games.
However, the Ravens may part ways with McClain to create additional room under the salary cap, which would create even more of an opportunity for Brown.
Baltimore also may keep McClain and move him to the other inside linebacker spot if it is unable to re-sign Daryl Smith, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent.
That would leave Brown competing with Bynes for the starting weak-side linebacker job.
But whether he's starting or not, Brown thinks he will be in a much better position to make an impact than he was as a rookie.
"Most everything leading up to next season is going to be built off of what I learned and what I experienced during my rookie year and my preparation during this offseason," Brown said.
"So I definitely feel like with that time and with that experience, that is going to prepare me to where I can take on a bigger leadership role, be more productive and be more of a contributor on the field."