Maybe Bill Belichick was having a rare candid moment when he hinted that Brandon Browner’s New England Patriots debut was delayed because of conditioning, not knowledge of the defense.
Browner admitted that he was tired Thursday night against the New York Jets, and he looked winded as he sat on the bench in between defensive series. Browner played 41 of a possible 87 defensive snaps for the Patriots, and he had up-and-down moments. He was targeted just once, which speaks to his solid man coverage, but he also was flagged twice for holding (the second penalty should have been illegal contact, for whatever it’s worth).
Browner was at his best when he could force his receiver to the sideline.
He had some trouble when he was expected to trail over the middle.
That was the book on Browner as he was leaving the Seattle Seahawks. His biggest strength was dropping back in a cover 3, where he could bump and trail the receiver down the sideline and pass him off to linebackers in the middle. The trouble in New England is that the Patriots don’t have three athletic linebackers like the Seahawks did during Browner’s tenure in Seattle.
Fellow Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis excels in man coverage, and using him in a Cover 3 would be a waste of his talents.
Because of Browner’s size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds), some expected that he would be used as a safety or even hybrid linebacker. He wasn’t, and he won’t be. Browner is a cornerback, and a solid one at that.
Check out the other observations from this week’s film review:
Brady had this third consecutive solid game, though the Patriots’ passing game started to struggle in the second half when the Jets ramped up their pressure.
Of Brady’s 17 incompletions, just four were inaccurate passes. Brady continues to improve his downfield accuracy, completing 5 of 9 attempts over 15 yards and 3 of 6 over 20 yards.
This 20-yard pass to wide receiver Brandon LaFell was placed only where the big receiver could reach up for it.
Shane Vereen seemed to have a hop in his step as he filled in for fellow stablemate and good friend Stevan Ridley. Vereen ran harder than usual, even pushing some defenders down the field on his first carry of the game.
Vereen caught five passes for 71 yards with two touchdowns, and he scored on a 49-yard pass from Brady on the Patriots’ first drive after Jets safety Antonio Allen failed to pick him up when cornerback Philip Adams passed the running back off in zone.
Jonas Gray received three rushing attempts for just 12 yards. He was mostly solid in pass blocking, though he allowed a hurry with five minutes left in the third quarter.
Julian Edelman had two drops, but he also picked up two key first downs when the Patriots trailed 19-17 in the third quarter. Edelman’s best play might have come on an 8-yard jet sweep in the middle of the third quarter when the Patriots needed 1 yard for a first down.
Danny Amendola impressed as a returner, running back four kicks for 105 yards. He also caught what wound up being the game-winning touchdown after Brady started to scramble to his left. Amendola broke off his route, a hitch, and turned into the end zone.
LaFell had another solid game. He uses his entire 210-pound frame to break tackles and get yards after the catch. LaFell has emerged as an every-week starter and continues to beat out Aaron Dobson and Brian Tyms for snaps.
Rob Gronkowski wasn’t as effective as he’s been in recent weeks, but he still had a solid game. Gronk suffered one drop and didn’t flash as much mobility as he did in Weeks 5 and 6. That could be because he was working on just three days’ rest on an already surgically repaired knee.
Wright played just 20 snaps and only found his way into the box score because of a false start. He was solid as a run blocker.
The Patriots’ O-line played very well in the first half, giving Brady eons of time to throw. They started to surrender more pressures as the game went along and the Jets started to mix up their pass rushes.
The Patriots missed Dan Connolly and Bryan Stork. Their replacements, Jordan Devey and Josh Kline, allowed multiple pressures each. Marcus Cannon, whom the Patriots continue to rotate in at tackle for Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer, allowed two pressures in limited snaps. The Patriots are better off sticking with Solder and Vollmer.
The Patriots allowed 218 yards on 43 attempts, but their front actually played pretty well. Vince Wilfork was stout against the run, and Casey Walker continues to flash.
Walker completely dominated center Jets Nick Mangold twice. Walker helped tackle Chris Johnson for a 1-yard loss (below) and later redirected Chris Ivory for a 2-yard gain.
The Patriots might have found a dominant player if Walker can find some consistency, since he has a tendency to get pushed back at times. He also recorded a sack.
Chandler Jones had a sack and seven total pressures, and Rob Ninkovich had six hurries. Both players had up-and-down moments against the run but lost contain and overpursued at times.
Chris Jones recorded two QB hits and two hurries. He was lucky that he wasn’t flagged for hitting Geno Smith low on one of his pressures. The Jets QB had to miss a play, then returned to the game with a knee injury.
Rookie defensive lineman Dominique Easley has failed to live up to his first-round billing. Sixth-round pick Zach Moore recorded his first hurry of the season, equaling Easley’s six-game total.
The defensive line can partially share responsibility for the Jets’ 218 rushing yards, but most of the onus falls on the linebackers, who failed to properly fill in for Jerod Mayo. Dont’a Hightower played pretty well for the most part, filling his gaps, being proficient in coverage and bringing the heat in pass rush. He was hesitant at times against the run, which hurt the Patriots as he was caught up at the second level.
Jamie Collins has shown some growing pains in his second year. Collins was very hesitant as he was filling Mayo’s role at middle linebacker. The same happened to Hightower last season when Mayo went down, and it might just take some time for Collins to grow into the added responsibility. Collins added some weight over the offseason, but he has to play with abandon to properly use it.
Revis allowed three passes on five targets, including a 1-yard screen. He whiffed on a 24-yard completion to Eric Decker in the first quarter and also allowed an 18-yard catch on a crossing route to Decker. Revis also broke up a pass intended for Decker on third-and-4 in the fourth quarter.
Alfonzo Dennard struggled while taking over the slot, allowing four catches on five targets for 55 yards. I can understand the Patriots wanting to get Dennard snaps with Browner back, but Kyle Arrington was having an incredible start to the season.
Logan Ryan took over for Browner and allowed two catches on three targets.
Devin McCourty did a nice job patrolling the back end of the field. The Patriots only allowed one pass that traveled over 15 yards.
Patrick Chung allowed a touchdown in man coverage, but he continues to be solid against the run, and brought pressure on a safety blitz. Chung has been a nice surprise for the Patriots this season.
Photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images
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