Inactive for the 2011 season opener against Buffalo and held without a statistic through the first month of his professional career, Brown’s NFL start began slower than he originally anticipated.
Slow, but steady. Brown eventually became a special teams stalwart and finished second on the team with eight special teams tackles last year. By season’s end, he’d developed into one of the Chiefs most active and reliable special teams performers.
“I would say that playing special teams a lot in college definitely helped me,” said Brown, who earned the reputation as a top-notch special teams performer while playing at the University of Colorado.
“It’s tough to get the right mindset if you don’t have any special teams experience. Sometimes you think of special teams as a minor role and you don’t realize until you get into the NFL how important it is. You see all kinds of game-changing events occur on special teams and that when you realize it and see that the coaches realize how important you have to treat it.”
By the end of the year, Brown’s special teams play had become so impressive that then-interim head coach Romeo Crennel took a moment to single out the young cornerback following Kansas City’s Week 16 loss to Oakland.
“I can tell you that Brown had a really good special teams game,” Crennel said following the Chiefs 16-13 overtime loss that ultimately ended the team’s playoff chances. “He made a tremendous effort on that kickoff return to save the touchdown. He had a plus-two downing, downing the ball at the two-yard line. He was blocking on kickoff return and he did a really good job.”
Crennel wanted to reward Brown with more defensive snaps in the season finale, but Denver’s run-based attack behind QB Tim Tebow didn’t present many opportunities for using the reserve defensive back.
“If an opportunity arose, then he might be able to get some playing time, but going into this game, knowing what we have to face offensively, our defense has to face a running quarterback in Tebow and the option and all those things, so I don’t know that Brown’s abilities, how much they will impact what we need to do defensively,” Crennel explained as the Chiefs prepped for Denver.
Brown wouldn’t see any defensive action in the season finale, but did produce a solo special teams tackle.
Special teams have been good to Brown. It’s what gives him a sense of job security as the Chiefs sort through 18 defensive backs competing for roster spots this offseason.
There’s little doubt the Chiefs have Brown penciled in to be a special teams ace again in 2012, but can the former fourth-round draft pick do more?
Brown believes he can contribute defensively next season and is bringing that mindset with him into the team’s offseason practices.
“I obviously want to do more this upcoming season,” Brown said following Organized Team Activities (OTAs) earlier this week. “I want to show improvement on special teams and I want to show improvement in the defensive backfield. I want to be able to get on the field this year, play on defense and contribute to the team’s success a little bit more not only on special teams, but on the defense as well.”
Thus far, Brown has let his play do the talking.
Through four OTA sessions, Brown has been a standout among the reserve cornerbacks competing for time behind starters
Prior to Tuesday’s interception Brown had made several impressive pass breakups throughout OTAs.
“It’s like night and day for me compared to training camp last season,” Brown said. “I came in a little heavy last year because we had the lockout and I was unable to workout with the intensity that I have this year. Without a contract at this time last year there was a risk of injury and that kind of prevented me from going everyday and working out full-go. This year, I got started early and was ready to go once we got out here.
“Also, having a year under your belt is probably the most helpful of anything because I have a real idea of what it takes to play in the NFL and what the receivers are like. You realize really quickly that your technique has to be better and I feel so much more comfortable this year.”
Brown’s most extensive defensive action came in Week 10 last season when the Chiefs used a heavy dose of five and six defensive back sets against the New England Patriots. Safety Jon McGraw was inactive with a shoulder injury and Crennel used Brown’s 6’1,” 204-pound frame to help defend New England’s potent tight end tandem of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.
Barring injury, Brown’s best opportunity for increased play-time will come as a nickel or dime cornerback. With veteran
“When you are working your way up from a reserve position, you have to be on point in every single practice, in every single drill, in every single meeting we have and know what you’re talking about when the coaches quiz you. That kind of builds success right there. Competition is something that helps fuel my play on the field.”