Dallas Cowboys cornerback Anthony Brown has been overlooked much of his football life, and it’s carried into his professional career.
All of the rookie praise is going to offensive stars Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, understandably so since both are MVP candidates.
But Brown is making an equally surprising impact on the defensive side of the ball as a rookie. Brown was among the best defensive players in the Cowboys’ 17-15 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, getting an 83.7 grade by Pro Football Focus and one of four players to play all 74 defensive snaps.
I’ve been playing with a chip on my shoulder since high school. And now I’m carrying it through to the NFL.
Cowboys cornerback Anthony Brown
For Brown, it’s just part of “doing his job.” This is a guy who is used to flying under the radar.
“I’ve been playing with a chip on my shoulder since high school,” Brown said. “And now I’m carrying it through to the NFL.”
Brown had only one major school show interest early in his recruiting process out of Hillsborough High School in Tampa, Fla. — Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind. Brown had never been to Indiana, let alone fly on a plane until his recruiting visit, and stuck to his early commitment to the Boilermakers.
He started his final three seasons at Purdue, intercepting four passes as a senior, but fell to the sixth round on draft day. But the Cowboys always liked his ability and secondary coach Joe Baker raved about landing Brown after the draft.
“To me, he had all the tools,” Baker said. “He’s got size. He can run. He’s really smart. I saw evidence on tape of him being tough and we put a real premium on that in our defense. I saw all the key ingredients.
“At the end of the day, you have to watch the tape and believe your eyes. We did on him. Thank goodness.”
In a short period, Brown has developed into a solid piece in the Cowboys’ secondary. He filled in nicely when nickel corner Orlando Scandrick missed games with strains in both hamstrings, and has moved outside to fill the void left by the injured Morris Claiborne.
I’ve really been impressed with his ability to tackle and hit. He’s got nice ball skills and no panic to him.
Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli on Anthony Brown
The only real blemish on Brown’s résumé to date is a 67-yard touchdown pass he gave up to the Redskins’ DeSean Jackson during the Thanksgiving Day game.
Still, the week before that in the Cowboys’ 27-17 victory over the Baltimore Ravens, Brown received the second-highest defensive grade (74.1) by Pro Football Focus.
“He’s done a heck of a job for a young player, playing nickel and then going outside now and playing outside at the corner,” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. “And he hits. I’ve really been impressed with his ability to tackle and hit. He’s got nice ball skills and no panic to him.”
Coach Jason Garrett said Brown’s best trait might be his ability to move on to the next play regardless of what happened on the previous play.
Anthony Brown earned an 83.7 grade by Pro Football Focus during the 17-15 victory over Minnesota and was one of four players to play all 74 defensive snaps.
On Thanksgiving, the Washington Redskins tried to hit another deep ball against him after he gave up the Jackson touchdown, but Brown won that battle.
For Brown, it’s just part of his mentality and mindset every time he steps on the field.
“You can’t dwell on the past whether it was a good play or bad play ’cause you still have to finish the game,” Brown said. “So you can’t make a play and think you’re good, ’cause you made a play in the beginning. You’ve got to let it go and just move on to the next because you’ve got a game to play.”
Brown is set to face one of his most difficult challenges against the New York Giants. He played only 13 of 56 snaps in the opener against the Giants, but will see his workload increase on Sunday night.
Part of his responsibility will be containing Pro Bowl receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who is fifth in the NFL with 1,015 receiving yards and tied for fourth with eight receiving touchdowns.
“He’s a great, dynamic player,” Brown said of Beckham. “Try to keep him in front of us. Just try to contain him as much as we can.”
Beckham had kind words about Brown, too, in a conference call with Cowboys beat reporters earlier in the week, saying: “I love seeing young guys come in the league and be able to do their thing. It’s much respect. I’m sure he is a guy who just wants to compete and wants to win at the highest level.
“It should be a great matchup. I’ve been watching and he’s been playing exceptionally well.”
Cowboys at Giants
7:30 p.m. Sunday, KXAS/5