FOXBORO – They may not be big names but they are big dudes.
The Jacksonville Jaguars clearly put a premium on size when they were collecting wideouts. Their leading receiver through two games, Allen Hurns (nine catches, 128 yards) goes 6-3, 205. Allen Robinson leads them in receiving yards (182 on seven catches) and he’s 6-3, 215.
How does a corner who stands half-a-head shorter than the guy he’s covering go about his business?
“You just gotta mix ‘em up,” said Patriots’ corner Tarell Brown, who is settling in nicely opposite Malcolm Butler. “It’s like a pitcher, you can’t give the same pitch every time. You mess around and throw fastball 10 times in a row, they’re gonna connect with at least two of them. You have to change it up and give them different pitches, be creative and play the scheme, play the tendencies and watch a lot of film.”
So far, the 5-foot-11 Brown has held up well in coverage. He’s playing a little more than 80 percent of the Patriots defensive snaps and hasn’t had any busts.
An experienced player who’s been in the league for eight seasons (seven with San Francisco and one with the Raiders), Brown has gone from fifth-round pick to longtime starter through study.
“It’s a craft,” Brown said of understanding how to cover. “You gotta be able to study and be a student of the game. It’s not just about athletic ability anymore. You can get away with that in college, but once you get to the NFL, being able to study, being able to enjoy and understand your craft and when to use things, that’s what’s important.”
Jacksonville is going to require extra study because it’s a young team with myriad players the Patriots haven’t faced.
“We got a jump on these guys [in preparation],” said Brown “They had a big win last week. They’re spreading the ball around and have a very balanced offense. They have a lot of young guys who are doing really well and showing up on film making plays. Big guys, fast guys, versatile guys, guys who can play inside and outside so we definitely have to match up really well. For a game like this, it all comes down to 1-on-1 matchups and how they compete.”
Brown’s studious side fits in well with the Patriots. New England mixes coverages and combinations with frequency. Not just going from “man” coverage to “zone” coverage but also switching roles and sides for players depending on situation and opposition personnel.
They ask a lot. Devin McCourty says Brown knows a lot.
“We talk a lot of defense in general and just about players around the league,” McCourty said. “You can tell he knows a lot of football and he’s been other places so he knows a lot of different schemes. He knew a lot coming in, you could tell that, now it’s just a matter of time and him getting a feel for it.”
Brown didn’t join the Patriots until just before training camp – July 23. That meant he didn’t get the same amount of OTA, minicamp and classroom work the other DBs received.
Brown said the coaching staff, in addition to players like McCourty, has helped ease the transition to a system some players can be confounded by.
“Spending extra time with the coaches and figuring out what we’re trying to do, how we like to attack certain formations that’s definitely been a big help,” Brown related.
With Bradley Fletcher not wowing anyone in the first two games and Logan Ryan still unable to carve a full-time niche in the defense, it seems like Brown is the player that may wind up being the answer to the oft-asked offseason question: Who starts on the other side of Malcolm Butler.
Nobody had that. We shoulda studied more.