RENTON — It’s not that Brandon Browner has anything against Canada. Well, maybe the weather. It’s just that the former Canadian Football League star is ready to leave that life behind and make a name for himself at the game’s highest level.
“I’m 27 years old and I won’t get any younger,” said Browner, who is hoping to make the Seahawks’ roster as a cornerback. “So I feel this is my last go-around at it.”
And so far, Browner is making the most of this last go-around. An abnormally large corner — he stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 221 pounds — Browner possesses the size Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider like in order to play press-coverage defense. Browner’s size is what got him a look from the Seahawks, that and the fact Carroll saw the former Oregon State standout when they faced off in the college ranks.
With Walter Thurmond, the leading candidate to start at right cornerback, sidelined with a sprained ankle, Browner took reps with the first team early in training camp, and has since moved to the No. 2 defense following the signing of Kelly Jennings. In Seattle’s preseason opener, however, Browner looked far more impressive than Jennings, though it has to be pointed out that Jennings faced San Diego’s No. 1 offense, including star receiver Vincent Jackson, while Browner competed against backups.
“I have been really impressed,” Carroll said. “This is a kid that I knew in high school coming out. We didn’t go after him at USC, but played against him for years at Oregon State. He was a dominant player there. As soon as I had heard that he was playing in Canada for a few years … I said let’s bring him in and let’s see what we’ve got. I always knew he was very effective at the line of scrimmage and so tall.”
Carroll and Schneider have talked repeatedly of getting bigger, faster and stronger, and also about finding unique players who fill specific roles. Browner is certainly all of those things.
“An unusually tall body, which is exactly what I’ve always dreamed of getting, those kinds,” Carroll said. “If you make them a corner, then they match up with everybody. Well, he’s come out here and he’s competed like crazy. He’s had very good days, one after another. He’s a four-year professional veteran if you look at it like that. He’s played a ton of football games. He’s got a great chance to help us.”
Before Seahawk fans gets too excited about the prospects of a 6-foot-4 cornerback, it’s worth considering that there are few huge corners in the NFL for a reason. In general terms, there is an inverse relationship between size and quickness. The ability to change directions — not just run fast — is paramount for cornerbacks. But so far, Browner has shown he can move despite his lengthy frame. He was impressive in coverage against the Chargers, particularly when he broke up a potential touchdown pass late in the second quarter.
“Most people would say you can’t play if you’re that tall, but he’s doing it, so we’ll give him a real good chance,” Carroll said.
Browner left Oregon State hoping an NFL career would immediately follow, and after going undrafted he signed with Denver as a free agent. The Broncos looked at Browner’s size and saw a safety, and he made the switch, but says he never felt comfortable at the new position. Even so, he showed promise in training camp, only to break his forearm late in camp, ending his rookie season. The following summer Browner was waived by the Broncos, and he ended up in Calgary, where he went on to earn multiple all-star honors in the CFL.
Browner had a tryout with Seattle each of the past two seasons and was not signed. Following last season, Carroll and Schneider decided to bring him in for a longer look. So far he’s making the most of it. And don’t get Browner wrong, he very much enjoyed his time in Canada. He just never became complacent with his place on the football hierarchy.
“I never got comfortable in the sense that I didn’t want to get back here,” he said. “But it was pretty easy going. It wasn’t as up-tempo, it wasn’t the level of competition that we have here.”
And while Browner has made a strong case for making the team, he knows he’s far from a lock. Aside from Marcus Trufant and Jennings, the battle for roster spots is wide open and tightly contested. Rookie Richard Sherman, a fifth-round pick who is 6-3, is another big-bodied prospect like Browner. Sixth-round pick Byron Maxwell also has stepped up his game of late, while holdovers from last year such as Kennard Cox and Roy Lewis — when he gets healthy — are going to fight to keep their jobs.
So Browner knows there is work to do still, but if he keeps playing like he has been, Canada will be a fond memory, not a place of employment.
“I feel like I’ve got a good chance to make the team and help the team out,” he said. “These preseason games will prove what I’ve got, and we’ll see.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog.