The Redskins' inside linebacker and free agent pickup has high expectations of himself this season, even as he learns his way around new terminologies and teammates.
It took new Redskins linebacker Zach Brown just a few questions into his media session following OTAs on Wednesday to make a bold statement.
"I have a bigger goal this year," Brown said. "This year my individual goal is to win defensive MVP."
That expectation isn't exactly declaratory so much as a window into Brown's ambition this season, coming several months after the best statistical year of his career with the Buffalo Bills.
"Last year I hit a little snub in the road, but right now I'm in the best shape of my life being here right now," Brown said. "Hopefully I get it, but I'm going to work to get it."
Brown played in all 16 games for the Bills, combining for 149 tackles, four sacks, four passes defensed and one interception. When the Redskins scooped him up in free agency this offseason, they knew they were getting a player, at age 27, still in the prime of his career and hungry to show that 2016 wasn't a fluke.
"I can play football. I can play with the best of them," Brown said. "I'm just not another linebacker out here that can be replaced. For me, I feel like I'm one of the top guys in the league as an inside linebacker. I can do everything, so for me, I just make sure I do what I have to do to help the team win."
The Bills shifted to a 4-3 defensive scheme and Brown was wary of staying in the 3-4 that had allowed him to thrive and make big plays. The Redskins fit that bill, operated by a defensive coordinator that had also been a linebacker in the NFL, and Brown jumped at the opportunity to earn a starting role in the middle of the field.
So far through nearly two weeks of OTAs, Brown has been focused on learning the new language and terminologies that come with joining a new team. In terms of communicating with linebackers Will Compton and Mason Foster, an experienced duo that has played together for a couple of years, Brown hasn't had any trouble.
"They're working together and they're figuring it out and they're trying to get the calls down the best they can," defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said.
Check out images from the Washington Redskins' defense and special teams during their fifth day of OTAs at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
Brown also knows that this is a time where players size each other up, preparing for competition that will extend into training camp. Brown is used to this, from his four years in Tennessee to his time in Buffalo last season, and knows the simple solution to quelling any anxiety.
"For me, you just have to do what you have to do on the field and just keep playing," he said. "Everything else will work itself out. It's competition. Somebody's always going to come in and try to take your job. So for me, every year since I've been in the league I've had competition. I was never just certified as the starter going into any season I've been playing in so far."
The Redskins expect a lot from Brown, one of the new parts they hope will turn around a defense that struggled in multiple categories last season. They wouldn't mind if his goal comes true this year.
"He's a guy that comes into a system [that has] a lot of similarities from what we're doing here is what he did at Buffalo, so he's very comfortable," head coach Jay Gruden said. "It's just a matter of getting the calls down and the terminology down a little bit, but he's a great athlete. You can't coach the height, weight, speed that he has – the natural speed. You can feel it at linebacker with him chasing down players on the outside zones or the tosses outside and chasing down backs out of the backfield, so it's a great addition for us and it's just a matter of him picking it up, communicating the defense to the other players around him. But he's going to be a heck of a player for us."