By: Derek Havens
After the New England Patriots signed cornerback, Brandon Browner, to a three-year contract over the weekend, I wanted to get a perspective from someone who has covered him during his time with the Seattle Seahawks. As a result I caught up with, John Boyle of The Daily Herald, for his take on the newly acquired defensive back.
“Browner’s biggest strength is obviously his physicality,” Boyle said. “When he gets his hands on a receiver in press coverage, that receiver is pretty much out of the play. He also brings toughness and intimidation factor rarely seen from a corner.”
Browner’s size shows up on film as soon as you push play. You don’t see too many guys playing that position who check in at 6’4, 221 pounds. His long arms help him breakup passes thrown his way.
“His length allows him to compensate to a degree for one of his weaknesses, which is a lack of top-end speed for a corner,” said Boyle. “I can’t tell you how many times he’s a step or two behind a receiver — basically beaten on the play — only to get an arm up to break up the pass, or even reach in the punch the ball loose as the receive is pulling the ball in.”
“He also has pretty sure hands, you won’t see him drop many INT chances.” Browner’s had 10 interceptions his last three years with Seattle.
One area that Boyle feels Browner struggles is against small, quick receivers, and the fact his physical play sometimes causes him to commit penalties.
“He lacks top-end speed for a corner, though by no means is he slow, and his aggressive nature can make him susceptible to a double move,” explained Boyle. “In fact he was benched for part of a game early last season after getting beat on a couple of big plays. Smaller, quick receivers are always going to be a tough matchup for him. And of course with any player who plays as physical as Browner, you’re going to have to live with some penalties.”
Seattle encourages physical play, and like Boyle said, Browner’s physicality will lead to penalties at times. The Seahawks led the NFL with 7.9 penalties a game in 2013. In contrast, the Patriots were second-fewest with only 4.2 per game.
Browner is 29-years-old, but he’ll be 30 when he suits up the first time for New England. He spent his rookie season with the Denver Broncos, four years in the Canadian Football League and the past three seasons with Seattle. With that being said, has his play declined?
“I’m not sure I saw his play decline over the past year, though he’s approaching an age that has to be a concern going forward,” said Boyle. “If anything, other corners on the Seahawks roster were just pushing him to the point that he may not have gotten his starting job back had he returned.”
There has been so much talk of Browner’s size and if it might mean a transition to safety now that he’s with the Patriots. I don’t see the move happening, as it would eliminate one his best abilities, press-coverage at the line of scrimmage. Still, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Bill Belichick move him around as he’s done with select players in the past.
Boyle feels the prospect of moving Browner to safety is an intriguing one, although it’s hard to say how he would adjust to playing that role.
“It’s hard to say for me how he’d be at safety just because we haven’t seen him do it here, but I do think putting him at safety would take away one of his best attributes in his ability to disrupt at the line of scrimmage,” said Boyle. “That being said, his size and ability to hit makes it an intriguing idea. You know Belichick a lot better than me, but based on what I do know, I could certainly see the Patriots getting creative with him, maybe in some sort of hybrid corner/safety role.”
“This is no knock on New England’s safety play,” Boyle added. “But I do wonder to a degree how much of the Seahawks’ ability to crank out good corners over and over has had to do with their standout safety play, and Earl Thomas’ range in particular, as well as Richard Sherman’s presence on the other side of the field. It’s a lot easier to play aggressive press coverage when you know you have Thomas’ speed behind you to clean things up.”
Devin McCourty will be big beneficiary of Revis & Browner signings. Physical CBs push plays to middle, making smaller area for him to cover.
— Derek Havens (@PatriotsHaven) March 15, 2014
It’s hard to disagree with that take, as Earl Thomas is widely viewed as the league’s top safety — or at least, in the conversation. Devin McCourty is no slouch, though. Not to mention with cornerback, Darrelle Revis, also in the mix, the Patriots have built a similar environment to what Browner had the last few years.
So we have a better idea of what Browner can bring to a defense on the field, but how is he off the gridiron? As has been noted by many, Browner will be suspended for the first four contests of the 2014 season.
He can, however, participate in offseason activities, training camp and play in pre-season games. One of the biggest questions with a new player coming to a team, though, especially an organization like the patriots, is how will he fit ‘the Patriot way’.
“Off the field, the big concern is obviously that he’s another failed drug test — PED or substance abuse — from a long suspension,” Boyle mentioned. “Despite the suspension issues, he’s otherwise by all accounts a good dude. No legal trouble I’ve ever heard of, good to the media, loved by teammates, etc.”