SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Lest anyone think his prior praise of San Francisco 49ers right tackle Trent Brown was hyperbole, Denver Broncos pass-rusher Von Miller strengthened his already glowing opinion of Brown after the teams practiced together on Wednesday.
"I’ve said it before, he’s a great tackle," Miller said. "He is the best right tackle in the National Football League, if not a top-five offensive tackle, period. So going against Trent Brown and Joe Staley, they have two of the best tackles. Trent Brown is one of the best in the National Football League and Joe Staley has been one of the best for a long time."
Almost exactly a year after Miller praised Brown as "one of the better tackles in the NFL" for how he held up in pass protection in joint practices with the Niners in Denver, the teams reconvened in the Bay Area on Wednesday for the first of two workouts together.
During the course of that practice, Brown and Miller matched up multiple times. Early in the session, Brown took on Miller in one-on-one pass-blocking drills, and Miller quickly blew past him on the first try. After a brief meeting with Staley and offensive line coach John Benton, Brown fared much better the second time, initially pushing Miller out wide then quickly shuffling his feet to cut Miller off before he could dip his shoulder to go inside and get to the quarterback.
Brown followed with another strong rep, then held up well during team drills. Perhaps it shouldn't have come as a surprise given the work Miller and Brown have done together previously.
When Miller hosted his "Pass Rush Academy" at Stanford over the summer, Brown was the only offensive lineman to get an invite, though he wasn't the only 49er in attendance.
Throughout this training camp, Brown has earned plenty of praise for his efforts to get in shape and come back ready to go in coach Kyle Shanahan's offensive scheme. He reported for the team's offseason program well over his listed playing weight of 355 pounds. Challenged to come back in the best shape of his three-year career, the 6-foot-8 Brown did just that, reporting for camp at less than the 358-pound target weight the team set for him.
“I know he’s worked very hard to do that and we’re very proud of him for doing that,” Shanahan said. “The thing is, it doesn’t end right there, though. It’s every day. And it’s going to be every day forever for him. He’s a guy that can put on weight fast. But when he’s on it and he’s at his right weight, he’s tough to deal with.”
Working at a reduced weight, Brown has been able to show the necessary athleticism to get to the second level and do what's necessary to run block in Shanahan's outside zone scheme. In the process, he's staved off any competition from restricted free agent Garry Gilliam, who was brought in to provide a challenge.
Whatever battle might have been taking place at right tackle seems to have dissipated, though, as Brown has taken the majority of the reps there. Right guard Brandon Fusco, who lines up next to Brown every day, would agree with Miller's assessment of his linemate.
"I don’t know how much weight he’s lost, but he’s lost a ton," Fusco said. "You can see it in how he moves. It’s unbelievable for his size. He’s moving as fast as I am and I’m half his size."