Many fans in Steelers Nation finished watching the first preseason game and came away with a negative conclusion about second year cornerback Curtis Brown. It wasn't just the fans either. Steelers Depot released its Defensive Coverage Stats and showed that Curtis Brown allowed two completion of five attempts thrown at, for 114 yards and TD, which only gave the unknowing fan more evidence that Brown is not ready to be even the third CB. Usually I would leave the break down of the DB play to a more knowledgeable person (SteelCage comes to mind) but I can't stand what I am hearing throughout the Internet and in the various Steelers vs Eagles boxscores about Brown's play. The purpose of this post is an attempt to reveal to you the lie the stats have told you, because in fact Curtis Brown look pretty good in his coverage.
Pass Attempt #1
3rd &5, 0:39 left in the 2nd Quarter.
Presnap Curtis Brown lineup at RCB (bottom of screen) in Man coverage against Eagles #83 Marvin McNutt. Offense is in a shotgun 3 WR 1 TE formation. Brown is lined up seven yards off the ball and has essentially a man responsibility.
Presnap Curtis Brown lineup at RCB (bottom of screen) in Man coverage against Eagles #83 Marvin McNutt. Offense is in a Shotgun 3 WR 1 TE (left), 1 RB formation. Brown is lined up seven yards off the ball and has essentially a man responsibility.
Second view of Curtis Brown (CB #31) against Marvin McNutt (WR #83)
McNutt breaks on a comeback route and Brown is in good position to make a play had the ball been thrown on target.
Eagles OB Mike Kafka tries to not only fit the ball into tight coverage but throws the pass too high and too the right.
Result: Incomplete pass
Pass Attempt #2
1st & 10, 10:27 left in the 3rd Quarter
The offense is lined up in a shotgun 3 WR,1 TE (left), 1 RB set. Curtis Brown was the RCB (bottom of the screen) lined up seven yards off the line of scrimmage against Marvin McNutt WR #83. The defense is running a variation of a Cover 2 zone and Brown has short route responsibilities.
McNutt a five yard slant pattern as the ball is thrown, Curtis Brown is not in the screen.
Less than a half second later Brown is seen making a play on the ball. Usually these types of routes are good against off coverage, but Brown's quick recognition and even quicker movement prevents a play. Had this been William Gay who is not as quick it would have been completed.
Results: Incomplete, C. Brown 1 pass defensed.
Pass Attempt #3
This is the play where Brown is created with allowing his first TD. However this is a misconception and I will explain why. The defense is going to run a Cover 3 zone. Let's look at the Cover 3 first so you can understand why I am sure this play was not on Curtis Brown but instead on Damon Cromartie-Smith.
In the Cover 3 Zone you will have three players covering the deep route. Each player in the deep coverage is responsible for one third of the field. For the purpose of understanding Curtis Brown (CB #31) is the corner. "C" on the left hand side of the image, Damon Cromartie-Smith (DB #42) is essentially the "FS" in this image and Walter McFadden (CB #39) is the corner, "C". Now lets look at the play.
Just after the snap we see Curtis Brown (on the left) on Darmarius Johnson (WR #13) and Cortez Allen in the slot on Eagles WR #19.
Seconds later we can see Cortez Allen covering the short route from the half way point between the left hash and the numbers to the sideline, essentially the "S" players coverage in the Cover 3 image and Damon Cromartie-Smith (S #42 top right corner) essentially the "FS" player in the diagram. We can also see two LBs covering the short middle routes essentially the "B" and "F" responsibilities on the diagram respectively. Curtis Brown bites on the outside move of the route because his responsibilities are from the sideline to the half way point from left number to the left hash and he expects to have a FS covering the deep middle third of the field.
Seconds later we can see that Damon Cromartie-Smith follows the first post route through his zone into Walter McFadden responsibility. Because he is watching the QB #9 scramble right he never looks to see Darmarius Johnson who is now in his zone responsibility.
Only after the throw is made does Cromartie-Smith realize who the intended target was Darmarius Thomas who is now ten yards behind him and open down the middle of the field.
Result: 70 yard TD that should have been credited against Cromartie-Smith not Curtis Brown.
Pass Attempt #4
1st & 10, 6:23 left in the 3rd Quarter
The offense is lined up in the In a 2TE balanced I formation and Curtis Brown is the RCB (bottom of the screen) lined up seven yards off the line of scrimmage against Mardy Gillard WR #19. In this play he will essentially have man coverage and I believe the defense is running a Cover 1 so the safety is responsibly for the deep middle while the corners have man. The could be running a Cover 3 again but Gillard is running a "9 route" route so it would still essentially be man-to-man coverage.
As the ball gets closer it only exemplifies just how tight of coverage Brown has. However you noticed that he has fail to find the ball in the air fast enough to react to it. Had he turned his head sooner he would have likely been able to find the ball and make a play on it. This is a coach-able mistake, and should be easy to fix.
Result: 44 yard TD
Pass Attempt #5
2nd & 9, 1:43 left in the 3rd Quarter
The offense lines up in a Singleback 4WR formation. On this play Brown has straight press man-to man coverage. He is the RCB (at the bottom of the screen) against Eagles WR #88.
Here we can see, Curtis Brown presnap, in press coverage sit in his chair a stance that is used so that the DB can react to the WR at the line no matter what route they run.
The WR attempts to run a "9 route" but Curtus Brown is step for step with him in tight coverage.
The quarterback attempts to fit the ball in back shoulder but does not give the WR enough room to make a play.
Results: Incomplete pass
Hopefully now you can see that Curtis Brown did show very good coverage skills. he finished the night with 4 pass attempts allowing one contested completion for 44 yards and a TD. That is a completion percentage against of 25%. He also had one pass defensed. As a corner you do not want to allow a big play for a touchdown, but as a coach you are encourage that the WR was contested and the player was in position to make a play. With some minor corrections Brown should make that play. he is in by no mean perfect but I was very pleased with Curtis Browns ability to stay with the receiver and recognize routes.
Disclaimer: These photographs were taken by me from the televised re-air of the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Philadelphia Eagle preseason game shown on the NFL Network, originally aired on Thursday August 9th, 2012 to a region specific market on the Eagles Television Network. The photos and descriptions of the game are used for non-profit educational purposes only and therefore fall under "Fair Use" section 107-118 of the copyright law (Title-17 of the U.S. code)