We used to be in there, now we’re out here
In the first half of the season, Browner clearly was adjusting to the speed and rules of the NFL – and often got caught trying to make up for mistakes by holding (thus his league-leading 13 penalties). He also was a major culprit in that blown lead against Washington, giving up a long touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
But he has been on quite a run since then. In Chicago on Sunday, he picked off a pass for the fourth straight game and now has six interceptions, tied for fourth in the NFL. It also was his second Pick Six, which ties for the league lead. And he leads the league in passes defensed (thanks largely to his 6-4 height and even longer wingspan).
He also broke the late, great Dave Brown’s franchise record for interception return yardage in a season – Browner has 220 yards, exceeding the 179 yards (on eight picks) Brown had in his 1984 Pro Bowl season.
At this point, you could argue that Browner deserves to make the Pro Bowl himself based on all of those numbers. But it’s hard to see him breaking into the “name game” over known guys like Charles Woodson, Carlos Rogers, Corey Webster and Terence Newman. And with his Jekyll and Hyde season, it’s hard to say he deserves it anyway.
We called Browner a liability a few weeks ago, and two of our loyal readers strongly disagreed (hey, no better way to incite an argument than to criticize a guy after what looks like a good game).
AgentJ (Browner’s agent?) argued that Browner is better than Kelly Jennings (who isn’t?) and most other players the Hawks could have brought in (debatable), has a great advantage with his size (that works both ways), has improved vastly since the beginning of the season (true) and is worth the negatives because he offsets them with so many positives (remains to be seen). The Dink piled on, saying size matters on the corner these days.
Our take: A big corner like Browner has natural advantages and disadvantages. His size gives him an edge in jump balls and red-zone fade routes, and his long arms can compensate for his legs getting beat or they can make the quarterback pay for an errant throw. But it also is hard for him to change directions quickly or to keep up with speedy receivers in the open field. And that’s why we think he will always have his ups and downs.
But, hey, the last few weeks, it has been mostly ups, and Browner deserves props for that.
Yeah, some of the picks have been lucky – like the tipped ball against Philadelphia or the bad throw by Caleb Hanie on Sunday. But there’s no denying that Browner has made the plays (he was kind of due for some lucky bounces after all of the bad luck in the first half of the season.)
Browner, 27, probably will always tend to get beat in space, but he also takes up a lot of space, and sometimes — like the last few games — that will be enough.
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