The Cowboys didn’t know just how good Anthony Brown could be until this happened…
Anthony Brown is a good cornerback. Like, reliable outside cornerback good. Like, offer him another extension good. Now, before you immediately dismiss the idea, let’s consider a few things.
The first thing we want to throw out there is that Brown is equipped to be a good corner in the NFL. He’s fast, he possesses good instincts, and he makes plays on the ball. We’ve seen flashes of these moments at different points in his career, beginning in his rookie year, re-emerging during the 2018 season, and then likely one of his best seasons this past year where he logged more defensive snaps (1,-048) than anyone on the team.
Prior to this season, Brown’s best year came in 2018 when he was used in the slot because the team had Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie manning the outside. Collectively, this trio was smothering receivers and actually finished as three of the top four corners who had the highest percentage of targets in tight windows (among CBs who had at least 30 targets that season).
This was the year the Cowboys last won a playoff game as they advanced to the Divisional Round game against the eventual NFC Super Bowl representatives, the Los Angeles Rams. The Cowboys’ defense actually finished in the top seven in both fewest points and fewest yards allowed. It was the first time they ranked that high in each of those categories since 20 years earlier when Bill Parcells first took over the team.
Brown proved himself to be a very good slot corner. He’s physical and likes to get his hands on receivers, but flourished in the slot because he had excellent closing speed. This contributed to a high volume of tight-window targets.
The Cowboys’ cornerback situation changed quite a bit in 2020 as Byron Jones left in free agency and Chidobe Awuzie missed half the season with a hamstring injury. The team’s top free-agent acquisition that year was veteran Daryl Worley, so ultimately that meant Brown had to head back to the outside in coverage, and things didn’t go well. The Cowboys threw out an assortment of corners who were straight-up liabilities in coverage (Rashard Robinson, Steven Parker, Savion Smith, and Deante Burton). Even special teamer C.J. Goodwin saw some reps at cornerback that season. The team’s best corner was rookie Trevon Diggs who battled injuries himself. In the end, the Cowboys’ defense gave up a franchise-worst 473 points. It was a nightmare.
The team took big steps to fix the defense by hiring Dan Quinn and picking eight defensive players in the 2021 NFL Draft, including their first six selections. And it was this series of events that has once again opened the door for Brown to show how good he can be.
The hiring of DQ – There’s a pretty good list of defensive players who had career seasons under the tutelage of their new defensive coordinator. Brown was certainly one of them as he joined teammates like Diggs, Jayron Kearse, and Dorance Armstrong as players who took huge leaps this past year. Of course, let’s not forget what Quinn was able to get from rookie sensation Micah Parsons.
They missed out on Patrick Surtain – Speaking of Parsons, the only reason he’s wreaking havoc as a member of the Cowboys is that the Denver Broncos selected Surtain one spot before the Cowboys were on the clock. The team wanted to address corner in a bad way, but the top two guys were snagged right out from under them.
They got nothing from Boss Man – The team used the 44th overall pick to take Kentucky corner Kelvin Joseph with hopes they could harness his upside and make him the answer to the other outside corner spot opposite Diggs. That has not gone as planned as between health and overall readiness Joseph only had two games last season where he played in at least 20 defensive snaps.
This series of events forced Brown back to the outside, but this time around under Quinn, he actually did pretty well. My colleague and fellow Brown-supporter Tony Catalina-Wine-Mixer (Pa-Pow!) recently shared how Next Gen Stats had Brown sixin their rankings due to several statistical categories where he graded out extremely well, including once again tight window percentage. Is it possible that Brown is better than some are willing to give him credit for? And if he’s only going to get better under Quinn, should the Cowboys entertain securing the services of a reliable no. 2 corner for a few more years on what could be a relatively inexpensive contract extension?
What can Brown do for you? Well, “hold down the outside” might be the answer to that question. With the uncertainty of Joseph combined with only one new corner addition (and he’s a fifth-round pick), it might be wise to re-up on the player so many couldn’t wait to cut loose.