When many people go on job interviews, their default answer when asked to name their biggest weakness is to say they work too hard.
The logic behind this answer is well known. It’s a bogus answer that lists your greatest strength under the guise of a weakness.
But for Brandon Browner, his biggest strength actually is a weakness. His 6-foot-4 size allows him to cover guys and do things at the cornerback position that his smaller counterparts can’t accomplish. However, the same size that is his greatest asset also prohibits him from keeping up with smaller, quicker receivers.
So if the Saints put him through a typical interview and asked him his biggest weakness last week before inking Browner to a three-year, $15 million deal, he would have been telling the truth when listing his greatest strength as his greatest weakness.
“My weaknesses, I would probably say I’m a bigger guy,” Browner said during a conference call. “I’m not as quick twitch, but that could be my strength too, because I’m longer and it’s more difficult for those guys to get off the line. I think there are good things a big cornerback can bring to a team.”
The problem Browner has with small receivers is that they can duck under his jams and he cannot flip his hips quick enough to turn and run with them. But as expected, his size allows him to erase wide receivers other cornerbacks struggle to matchup against.
This shows up in his film the same the way it does in his numbers, which can be quantified by doing some digging through Pro Football Focus’ databases.
Throughout his career, Browner has been thrown at 52 times while covering a wide receiver standing 6-feet or under. He’s given up 35 receptions for 440 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, which adds together for a 104.65 quarterback rating against.
The numbers improve considerably on all other receivers. Against those players, Browner has been targeted 186 times with 87 receptions allowed, five touchdowns, six interceptions, and 26 passes defensed. This adds up for a quarterback rating against of 71.75.
Breaking it down even further, Browner has given up 44 receptions on 86 targets for 550 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions against receivers standing 6-foot-3 or taller. His quarterback rating against: 64.58.
So yes, it is a strength and a weakness. But that weakness can be easily masked by the Saints if they take measures to ensure that Browner’s pairings with smaller receivers are as limited as possible. And that’s likely for the best, since New Orleans allowed a 94 passer rating against last season against receivers standing 6-foot-3 or taller.
Browner comes with another double-edged sword. The reason he was coveted by the Saints is that he’s one of the more physical cornerbacks in the NFL. He brings a fire and an edge to a defense that few can, and his ability to knock out receivers early in their routes should help buy the defensive line more time to get to the quarterback.
But this brand of football runs counter to the direction the league is heading. Several rules have been put in place over recent years to limit the amount of contract between cornerbacks and receivers, and it doesn’t help that Browner has developed a reputation for testing his limited.
Over nine games last season, Browner committed 15 accepted penalties, the most in the NFL.
Has his reputation led to some unfair penalties?
“I don’t know. I think maybe I get called a little more. Guys that play the position, they’ll understand the decisions that go on,” Browner said. “I just happen to be the guy that gets caught the most, but I try not to play that way. Sometimes the way cameras are they reprint stuff. You try to play the game and take it out of the refs’ hands.”
But the penalties are part of the package, and the Saints are OK with that. What they’re also getting in Browner is a player who is a natural leader. After playing for the last two Super Bowl champions, the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots, he’s hoping to bring the competitiveness he picked up from Pete Carroll and the work ethic he learned from Bill Belichick to New Orleans.
Considering the Saints had issues with leadership last season, these attributes were likely viewed as a major plus for Browner. And he says he has no intentions of changing.
“It is in my character and in my nature to be passionate about the game and show that,” Browner said. “Sometimes it is my teammates. It can’t only be me. A lot of times that’s a great way of leading by example.”
That’s a selling point New Orleans can get behind.