Defensive end Alex Brown will surely be missed in the Windy City, from his tireless effort on the field to his gregarious personality off the field, but calling him a great player during his time with the Bears would be inaccurate.
As expected, the Monsters of the Midway released Brown on Thursday, putting an end to a durable Chicago career that saw him suit up for 127 of 128 regular season games over the course of eight years. Averaging 46.9 tackles and just under 5.5 sacks per campaign, Brown was a decent pass rusher, a solid run defender and a leader in the locker room. Still, he never did better than 58 tackles (2003), never did better than 7.0 sacks (2006), and while he was an alternate in both '06 and '07, he was never voted to the Pro Bowl by the fans or his peers.
True, Israel Idonije is unproven as a starter at end and was playing tackle as recently as 2009, and Mark Anderson has been a disappointment ever since his runner-up finish for Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2006, but in terms of measurable production, will Brown really me missed all that much?
For an insider's perspective on Brown and what he actually brings to the table as a starting defensive end in this league, here's a little twist on our Scout's Analysis series – I'm actually filling out this scouting report myself since nobody on the Scout.com network knows more about him than I do:
Strengths: A jack of all trades but master of none, Brown is proficient at most aspects of playing defensive end in your standard 4-3 scheme. As a pass rusher, he can get you five or six sacks, but he has never reached double digits and most likely never will. Defending the run, he holds the point of attack admirably and always gives top effort until the ball carrier is on the ground. If there is one thing he does incredibly well, he knows how to sniff out a screen pass and doesn't get fooled if his path to the QB is curiously easy. Away from the field, Brown was born with an ear-to-ear grin on his face and has always been a media darling.
Weaknesses: Defenses put a premium on pass rushers in the NFL, and Brown has trouble getting after the quarterback with any level of consistency. Not athletic enough to be a classic right end and not sturdy enough to be a classic left end, it may be time for him to be a bench player and maybe even slide inside to tackle on passing downs. He's blocked some kicks here and there, but he's not overly useful on special teams as a whole.
JC Says: When the team put it out there that Brown would either be traded or released, most Bears fans were fairly stunned by the news. Even though he has never been a ridiculously productive player from a stat-sheet perspective, he has played through pain – taking the field for all but one game since his rookie year in 2002 – and been quite consistent. But after the Bears signed Julius Peppers to a monster contract and still with tons of money committed to Tommie Harris, Brown's $10.5 million due for 2010-11 was considered too much for the defensive line. Make no mistake about it: The decision to release him was financially motivated. He's a solid D-end, but it remains to be seen if the intangibles he brought to Chicago carry over to his new team.
Final Verdict: Casting aside his in-your-face allegiance to Florida and my to-the-grave support of Florida State, I always considered Brown the best interview on the Bears and one of few willing to be accountable after a loss.
There is something to be said for team chemistry, fire and passion, civic pride and all the other stuff that doesn't show up in the box score. But in terms of what Brown actually did on the field of battle in between the whistles, it's certainly possible that he won't be missed all that much if Peppers is as good as advertised, Idonije transitions well from backup to starter – not to mention yet another switch from tackle to end – and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli's love for Anderson turns out to be justified. Expecting 50 tackles and half a dozen sacks out of Idonije isn't unreasonable, and that's about what the Bears got from Brown on a yearly basis.
Especially with Peppers on the opposite side of the line, as he is twice the pure pass rusher the departed Adewale Ogunleye ever was in Chicago.
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John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
How Much Will Brown Be Missed?
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