As head coach Matt Rhule was detailing what the Panthers liked about first-round pick Derrick Brown Thursday night, he mentioned offensive coordinator Joe Brady felt Brown was the No. 1 player LSU had to game plan for last year in the SEC.
Now that Brown is headed to Carolina, Brady is happy to be on the same side as the big defensive lineman.
"That's one less guy I have to worry about from our perspective," Brady quipped Friday afternoon.
Brown was a load for any team to handle in 2019, amassing 12.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks. And he played everywhere along the defensive front, giving Auburn the versatility to use three or four down linemen depending on its opponent. Because of that, Brady said LSU had checks to change the play at the line of scrimmage based on where Brown lined up.
"On any given play, we had to know where Derrick Brown was," Brady said. "I think it's easy sometimes for people to look at D-linemen and they're just naturally always talking about looking at sacks. But just the way that he would collapse the pocket from the inside when you want these quarterbacks to be able to step up — it presents so many issues. And that's what excites me about us getting him now."
With Brown checking in at the NFL Combine at 6-foot-5 and 326 pounds, Brady said the defensive lineman's combination of size, speed, and versatility make him a key defensive asset.
"He can penetrate with such a quick first step that he can disrupt the game both in the run and the pass on any given play," Brady said. "He has such a quick first step, and he's so physical that you have to account for him because of the tackles for loss, sacks — he's been productive his whole career."
Brown's defensive line coach at Auburn, Rodney Garner, noted teams would tell him all the time about how they tried to keep Brown from wrecking their game plans.
"When the game was over with, you heard over and over again people talk about, 'We had to know where Derrick was,' 'We schemed around Derrick,'" Garner said. "He made it very difficult to run inside, and then when he was able to turn and run and go make plays out on the perimeter, too, it just added more stress for the offenses to account for."
Garner said Brown's athleticism and high football IQ were two reasons why Auburn could line him up anywhere. Garner compared Brown to seven-time Pro Bowler Richard Seymour, who Garner coached at Georgia from 1998-2000.
"I was talking to (Patriots head coach Bill) Belichick one time, and he was talking to me about Richard, he said that's what separated Richard and made him one of the best players he's ever coached — Richard had the ability to play every position on the defensive line, every technique," Garner said. "And that was the same thing with Derrick. His athleticism really jumped out at you. And I think sometimes he doesn't get the credit for the athleticism that he has, just because he's so big and so imposing."
Garner said Brown excelled while spending some time at defensive end as a freshman, starting a few games on the edge. So Auburn continued to move him around to create favorable matchups.
"My coaching staff at Auburn made me play every single position. And that's just something I got accustomed to," Brown said Friday. "I just love playing and I think being able to play all across the line, that I can do it all — no matter what."
Those traits, along with Brown's strong character, thrill his new teammate, Shaq Thompson, who said Brown's ability to take on blockers makes him "a linebacker's best friend."
"Really, the whole defense's best friend because he plays fast, downhill, takes a lot of guys up with blocks, and just not allowing the guards or center or anybody to climb so fast to the second level," Thompson said.
It will be a while before we all see what Brown can do on the field with his new teammates. But Thompson is excited to see how the defense can develop with Brown in front of him.
"If you know Carolina, if you've played in Carolina, you're a fan in Carolina — you know our biggest thing is the D-linemen and the front seven," Thompson said. "And we needed somebody to go well with KK (Kawann Short) and just come in and help this defense out with stopping the run.
"He's a big man that plays big. And he's strong, he's athletic for his size. He can move. It's hard for people to block him one-on-one or even double team him. So I think him and KK — he's going to go well in the whole D-line group. And him and KK are definitely going to be a great duo to have in front."