Jun 302014
 
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Stevie Brown (27), Antrel Rolle (26), New York Giants (August 4, 2013)

Can Stevie Brown (left) fill the void left by Will Hill? – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The Big Blue Breakdown enters into week No. 3 as today our panel takes a look at safety Stevie Brown.

HEALTHY AND MOTIVATED, STEVIE BROWN READY TO MAKE IMPACT ON GIANTS

Remember, if you’d like to submit a question to be put into consideration for the next BBB, simply email it to Connor Hughes (Connor_Hughes@bigblueinteractive.com).

QUESTION (From James in Morristown): With addition, after addition after addition made to the Giants’ secondary, the return of Stevie Brown has flown a bit under the radar. Do you believe the Giants’ safety can return to the form he displayed in 2012 when he hauled in a league-high eight interceptions? How important is it that he appears healthy and ready to go?

CONNOR HUGHES/ Big Blue Interactive

Stevie Brown, New York Giants (August 24, 2013)

Stevie Brown injured his knee in the third preseason game of 2013 – © USA TODAY Sports Images

It’s really tough to gauge exactly what should be expected from a player returning from a serious knee injury, especially the season directly after. While most players return the next year after they are injured, it usually takes two full seasosn to see the ‘old’ version of the player back on the field. With that being said, the fact Brown was injured in the preseason certainly favors him returning to form.

But that ‘form’ is what is in question. Before joining the Giants, Brown played a combined 23 games for the Oakland Raiders and Indianapolis Colts… he never recorded a single interception. Brown then burst onto the scene for the Giants with eight, tying for a league-lead.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m pulling for Brown, think he’s a player with a great attitude who does everything the right way…but I’m not sold just yet. In 2012, Brown filled in quite often for an injured Kenny Phillips. When Phillips was with the Giants, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell adjusted his scheme to let Phillips roam 15-20 yards beyond the defense tracking down deep balls. When Phillips was injured, Brown took his place.

Brown’s eight interceptions were impressive, but more of a result of offensive coordinators testing him. Quarterbacks  forced some his way, Brown made them pay.

Theoretically, the Giants’ ‘best case scenario’ would have been a safety tandem of Antrel Rolle and Will Hill with Brown roaming deep. With Hill gone, can Brown become a complete safety? Can he play in the box?

The fact Brown is healthy is big, very big, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves as it’s not Charles or Rod Woodson stepping back on the field. I hope Brown proves he’s a top-tier safety in the NFL, I just don’t know exactly who Brown is yet..healthy or not.

JORDAN RAANAN/NJ.com

Having Brown back is huge for the Giants now that Will Hill has been exiled to unemployment. Brown gives them a starting-caliber safety to play alongside Antrel Rolle, if he returns to previous form.

Stevie Brown, New York Giants (May 29, 2014)

Stevie Brown – Photo by Connor Hughes

But that’s a big if. It often takes until the second season off injury for most players (Adrian Peterson not included) to really get back. Brown is only nine months removed from surgery and was still slightly limited at OTAs and minicamp.

Even when Brown is at full strength, Hill is the better, more complete, player. Hill did it all last season, and was the perfect complement to Rolle with his impressive range. To expect Brown, off a serious knee injury, to provide similar sideline-to-sideline coverage is unrealistic. To expect him to have that good a year is wishful thinking.

And then there is the question of whether Brown really was that good in the first place. He had a nice 2012 season with the Giants, no doubt. But that was his fourth team in three years in the NFL. In four professional seasons, Brown has 12 career starts. He’s far from a given even if he’s healthy.

Considering the Giants situation, they’re hoping Brown is back. They’re praying he was for real. I have my doubts.

ART STAPLETON/The Record

The best development out of the spring for the Giants is without question the health of Stevie Brown. The fact he’s where he is must be considered a huge positive step, but cautiously it remains just the first one. Toss in Will Hill’s release and Brown’s pairing with Antrel Rolle could emerge as a potential strength on a transitioning team in search of them rather than what would be a weakness without him.

Go back to Brown’s interception against the Jets last August and prior to that, when he fell to the turf with that ACL injury: he was locked in as a starter and Will Hill was an afterthought because of his pending suspension, relegated to working with the third and fourth string in training camp. Brown broke out in 2012 and in some ways I believe some still view his performance was a fluke. We’re not talking about Brown returning to an All-Pro level, because despite those interceptions, there were clearly some flaws in his game (coverage especially).

But in reality, Brown and Rolle can be as effective as Rolle and Hill, and the Giants need that kind of play from their safeties to solidify a secondary whose greatest strength – at least on paper – will be in its ability to cover. Brown and Rolle can roam if Amukamara, DRC and Thurmond do their jobs at CB.

With all the uncertainty involved with the rehab of injuries for Will Beatty, Chris Snee and Mario Manningham, not to mention Jon Beason’s foot, the presence of Brown is just as important and maybe more so than any of them. Brown’s absence would leave a gaping hole that the Giants would have an even harder time filing a year later.

CONOR ORR/The Star-Ledger

I think it’s completely reasonable to expect Stevie Brown to be on a pitch count this summer. He started jogging toward the end of last season and could cut and sprint by the Super Bowl, but the first year following an ACL tear is always the toughest. Just ask Terrell Thomas. Brown was lucky that his happened when it did, which allowed him a full season under team supervision to rehab, but it’s still less than a year removed from the injury.

Brown is extremely important to what the Giants are trying to do on defense this season. The three safety look will be in heavy rotation to make up for the loss of Will Hill. That’s why they will be careful with Brown and will space out his workload during training camp and in the preseason. Behind him are a pair of safeties, Nat Berhe and Cooper Taylor, who aren’t likely ready for that much responsibility.

PATRICIA TRAINA/Inside Football, Bleacher Report, Sports Exchange

Stevie Brown appears to have made amazing progress in his return from ACL surgery. I’ll admit that I was surprised to see him do as much as he did this spring given the nature of his injury. I thought he might be limited until training camp.

With that said, it’s important that he not try to overdo things as that’s how you can reinjure yourself. I think the training staff is going to closely monitor Brown’s progress and put him on a “pitch count” for the summer so that he doesn’t overdo it.

Can Brown return to his 2012 form? The optimist in me says, “Yes,” but the realist in me says that’s a tough question to answer right now considering the spring practices were run at half speed.

Personally, I’m of the opinion that you’re never quite the same once you’ve had surgery, so I don’t quite know how to answer that question right now. I would need to see how he does when the practice tempo cranks up and we see how he responds to that.

Regarding the importance of him being ready to go, I think that can be said of all players. If Brown passes the litmus test, that would be huge because it would allow Perry Fewell to run the three-safety set that he so enjoys using.

If Brown suffers a setback, then they’re left with just Antrel Rolle and Quintin Demps as their veterans with any significant experience, which means the three-safety set probably gets put on the back burner (unless Cooper Taylor has a strong showing).

So yes, it’s definitely important for Brown to be on the field, and for that to happen, I suspect they’ll be managing his reps very carefully because they are counting on him this year.

ED VALENTINE/Big Blue View

For the Giants’ secondary to be as good as advertised, the answer to this question has to be yes. The Giants absolutely need Brown to play full-time and to play well, in 2014. That doesn’t mean we have any clue how healthy Brown will be, or how well he will play.

Stevie Brown, New York Giants (December 9, 2012)

Stevie Brown – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Fact is, we really don’t know how good Brown is. He had a nice run in 2012, with those eight interceptions in just 11 starts. He was, however, also part of a defense that surrendered 13 plays of 40 yards or more through the air, second-worst in the league. How much of that was on Brown? We don’t know, but the primary job of the safety is to prevent the big play. The Giants did not do that well in 2012.

There is also the fact that Brown was released by the Oakland Raiders and Indianapolis Colts after single seasons during which he never really received an opportunity.

The question really shouldn’t be will Brown return to his 2012 form? Aside from his health, the question really is what kind of player Brown actually is.The Giants will find out. For their sake, Brown’s 2012 performance better not have been a mirage.

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Connor Hughes/BBI

Connor Hughes has been working in both the broadcasting and journalism fields for the last seven years. His work has been heard on WMCX, WBZC and Lenape District Television, while read on the pages of The Star-Ledger and The Burlington County Times. Connor can be reached via email (Connor_Hughes@bigblueinteractive.com) or on twitter (@Connor_J_Hughes)

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