Browner adds thump to Patriots secondary

Browner adds thump to Patriots secondary
March 14, 2014, 7:30 pm
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Earlier Friday, I offered that – if Brandon Browner signed – he would be thrown in competition with Alfonzo Dennard and Logan Ryan for the starting corner spot opposite Darrelle Revis.
But Browner’s three-year deal worth a reported $17M means he ain’t competing for a starting job. He is expected to be the starter.
(Once his four-game suspension for a very confusing substance policy infraction is served.)
So the Patriots starting corners go from 5-9 and 5-10 Kyle Arrington and Devin McCourty for most of the 2012 season to 5-11 and 6-3 Browner and Revis in March 2014.
The Patriots saw where they came up short – literally – against the Broncos in January. Their secondary players were overwhelmed by the size of 6-5 tight end Julius Thomas and 6-3 receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker.
Alfonzo Dennard (who, to be fair, was nursing a couple of injuries) looked like a little kid chasing his school bus in pursuit of D. Thomas. Ryan, meanwhile, got tortured with back-shoulder completions to Decker which looked like someone posting up his youngest brother.
Browner should counteract that in two ways. First, with his physicality at the line of scrimmage he’ll be able to lay hands on wideouts and gum up the works. Second, obviously, he’ll be a much more potent red-zone defender in the back corners and across the end line. Obviously, he’ll be more susceptible to smaller, quick wideouts who are put in motion to avoid his contact but that’s where the use of Dennard, Arrington and Ryan comes in.
A friend asked me on Twitter Friday night why it took so long for the Patriots to adjust their pass defense in this fashion.
I think it’s two things. First, opportunity.
In 2012, with Talib coming off a suspension in Tampa and desperately needing a change of scenery, the Patriots were able to get him for a song.
It worked beautifully because not only was he a very good player, it allowed the team to put Devin McCourty back at safety where he’s flourished, allowed them to put Kyle Arrington inside and let them use the promising Dennard outside.
So when the team realized it was losing Talib it was fortunate that Revis was about to be released. Need and opportunity have intersected.
Why didn’t they get “good” secondary players before? They tried. And they needed to see if they’d work out. Most didn’t. Including Patrick Chung, who seemed on the cusp of becoming really good in 2011 before going completely south. Including Arrington and McCourty on the outside who were fair to good for parts of 2010 and 2011. Including Darius Butler, Ras-I Dowling, Tavon Wilson, Terrence Wheatley…you get the point.
Bad job in the secondary. But not for lack of trying.
We’ll see what Browner brings. He’s certainly going to look good coming off the bus. But will he be worth a $6M per year deal? Who can tell? He was a Pro Bowler in 2012. Other than that, he’s been in the league three seasons and turns 30 this year. He’s in a good spot. He’s playing with a very good safety – Devin McCourty – a wily slot corner (Arrington) and opposite the best corner in the game.
The Patriots are taking a run at it and spending some money on the back end. Those who’ve been whining about the team being in love with “value” should slow their victory lap stride just a bit. Because it was a value pickup – Talib – that helped them alter their back-end beliefs.