Noah Brown turned in some highlight-reel performances this past season at Ohio State, but he wasn't heavily featured in the Buckeyes offense. To learn more about one of the newest Cowboys, we turned to Colton Denning of Ohio State blog and SBN sister site Land Grant Holy Land to find out just what makes Brown so special.
Question: Noah Brown had some big moments in a Buckeye uniform this past season. His game against Oklahoma stands out. Still there were other times where he appeared to be a non-factor in the Ohio State offense. What led to the inconsistencies?
Denning: There were a number of reasons for Brown’s up-and-down play in 2016. Overall, Ohio State’s passing game struggled, and their inability to hold up in pass protection - mixed with Quarterback J.T. Barrett’s own inconsistency, and a lack of traditional wideouts to lean on - led to a lot of the promise that you mentioned from the Oklahoma game being unfulfilled as the year went on.
It wasn’t a huge surprise that it played out that way, given what he’d been through the prior year. Brown was one of the stars of the 2015 offseason, but broke his leg before camp broke, and missed the whole year. That injury - coupled with 2016 being his first full season as an option in the passing game - makes it easy to see how he hasn’t exactly refined his consistency and development in the passing game yet.
Question: Some wide outs tend to shy away from contact when they can. From the film I have seen, Brown is not this type of guy. Tell me more about how he can get physical with his man, especially when he is blocking for the run game.
Denning: Whether he’s bodying up defensive backs in the endzone, or blocking on the perimeter, Brown is a physical dude. To your point, he’s awesome in the run game, and I’d imagine his proficiency and willingness to block was a major reason why the Cowboys took him. If there exists such a thing as a ‘versatile blocking game’ for a wide receiver, Brown has it.
He’s not only big enough to engulf nearly any defensive backs he comes across (Brown is lined up to the left, in the slot in each play):
But is also willing to crack back on any linebacker or safety who gets in his way:
His blocking is good to the point where I’d be interested to see if Dallas’ offensive staff experiments with him in-line a little bit during preseason, just to see if he can do it. If not, then I’m sure they’ll be just fine with him sticking to crushing opposing corners.
Question: My understanding is that a lot of the concerns surrounding Brown come from limited football experience. What is his background in the game prior to college?
Denning: Coming out of Pope John XXIII High School (Sparta, NJ), Brown was listed as an ‘athlete’ during his recruiting process. Per Max Preps, he had 1,353 yards rushing and 1,291 receiving total in two varsity seasons, so the skillset of a versatile offensive weapon is there.
I think the concerns about his ‘football experience’ probably have more to do with his time at Ohio State than in high school, though. Sitting out all of 2015 was a big hit to his development, but even when he played a decent amount of snaps in 2014, he was almost exclusively used as a blocker, albeit a great one.
Question: What is the one biggest thing that you see that Noah will have to work on to get his game ready for Sunday afternoons?
Denning: Route running, and just the nuances of playing receiver. The blocking and redzone skills are superb; but can he beat NFL corners on a semi-consistent basis? Can he read a defense and know where to sit down in a zone? There’s a lot of small details of playing the position I think he hasn’t learned yet, and for at least for his rookie season, it’ll probably be a struggle for him to fully grasp it.
Discounting UNC’s Mack Hollins, (who only played in 7 games last season) Brown had less catches and yards than all of the other 31 receivers drafted. His physical traits, coupled with his strengths as a blocker and in the redzone were what got him to Dallas, and now he just needs more repetitions playing the position. Those reps in mini camp, training camp, etc. are going to be huge for his development, and I don’t doubt that he’ll eventually put it together; it’s just going to take some time.
Querstion: The Dallas WR corps is pretty deep. Brown is going to have to show up on film to fight his way onto the field. Where do you think will be the biggest area where he can stand out and make a case for himself to be on the 53-man roster?
Denning: Blocking, blocking, and more blocking. Dallas already has the best run game in the league, and Brown has the skillset to help them continue playing that physical brand of football in a unique way. Coaches love a wide receiver that can block, and lighting up a few linebackers and defensive backs in mini camp and the preseason is exactly the type of thing that’ll get him noticed over other receivers. He’ll obviously need to show that he can be a viable option in the passing game, but his skillset is much different than say, Brice Butler’s, and I wouldn’t be completely shocked if Will McClay, Jason Garrett and co. see enough versatility in his game to take a chance and bank that he’ll be worth it in 2018 and beyond.
Thanks to Colton at LGHL for being more than willing to fill us in on what we need to know about Noah.