Brandon Browner may not be Robin to Darrelle Revis’ Batman.
The talk of the offseason has obviously been the Patriots massive upgrade at cornerback. While Talib gave us fans a hint of what our defense could be, I fully expect Revis to show us exactly how good our glorious defense can be. And it shall be glorious.
Revis locking down one whole side of the field opens up endless possibilities on defense. Add a All-Pro safety in Devin McCourty floating around the middle of the field and the Beast on Revis Island, Brandon Browner, lined up on the right side, and the Hoodie surely has had wet dream upon wet dream of all the exotic blitzes and formations he can create with his front seven.
This was all but assumed when the Patriots signed not only Revis, but also Browner, that these two big play corners would start, freeing Belichick to just cause chaos with the front seven.
But what if Browner isn’t a sure thing?
In his article for the MMQB, Greg Bedard talked about Browner’s role on the defense and that it might not be the second starting corner we all assumed:
“Even after his four-game suspension is up, Brandon Browner is no sure thing at cornerback opposite Revis. Alfonzo Dennard has proven capable in the past, and undrafted rookie Malcolm Butler has opened eyes. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Patriots match up their cornerbacks depending on the opponent, with Browner sitting against teams with a smaller receiving corp but matching up with big vertical receivers.”
Now, for starters, I love me some Malcolm Butler. He was the only bright light in what was otherwise a disgustingly gross dark room last week against Washington and I can’t wait to see what he does tonight against the Eagles. (Side note: obviously my boy Jimmy Garoppolo was the other bright light.) But I think Bedard is getting a little carried away here with Butler. There are a few other guys — mainly Logan Ryan (yes, his first outing wasn’t the best) — who I would put over Butler to start at the second CB slot. But I can’t fault Bedard for showing the kid some love and getting wrapped up in the preseason hype. Let’s be honest, we all fell victim of that last year with goldilocks Zach Sudfeld. God what a waste of excitement.
But Bedard, despite his love for undrafted rookie corners, has a point about Browner’s role on the Patriots. Browner’s greatest strength is his size and physicality. However, with the NFL’s heightened rules on downfield contact (at the rate the NFL is making these rules, cornerbacks are going to be out of the league in 5 years), Browner’s style of play could hurt the Pats more than help. We already saw it last week where Browner was flagged against Washington on a 3rd and long for illegal contact. Obviously there are sometimes when a flag here and there isn’t all that bad. Middle of the first quarter, early second quarter, but you can’t have silly flags when teams are driving late in games.
It also doesn’t make sense for Browner to cover receivers who are drastically smaller than him, which is pretty much every receiver out there. At 6’4”, Browner wins the size battle against 85.33% (repeating of course) of the receivers in the NFL. (That’s an exact number, you can tell because of the repeating decimal. Math.) One of the things the Patriots do so well is match ups and using Browner as a matchup tool, rather than a full time starter, works in the Patriots favor.
At the beginning of the season it would sound ridiculous to say that Browner wouldn’t start along side Revis and that maybe Alfonzo Dennard would start more games then him (though if you include Browner’s four game suspension, it’s not that crazy to think). But I wouldn’t be surprised it all to see the Patriots, instead of throwing Browner right back in the mix in Week 5, to take their time putting him into the defense and in fact, only using him as a matchup man, rather than a full time starter on the outside.
I love the Beast on Revis Island, but that Beast might have to be let out only to feed.