With free agency looming in March, roster turnover isn't far away. However, the majority of the 2019 roster is already in place. In the coming weeks, DallasCowboys.com will feature players who are currently under contract for next season, analyzing their past season and their future prospects.
Today, we continue the series with cornerback Anthony Brown.
What's Been Good: Anthony Brown clearly didn't care about the expectations in 2018. Conventional wisdom said he was going to lose his nickel back job to Jourdan Lewis, who appeared to come on strong at the end of his rookie year. The one problem was that Brown bucked conventional wisdom, holding on to the third cornerback job throughout OTAs and training camp. In his third season, he started 10 games — and those he didn't start came when the Cowboys opened their games in base defense. In 15 appearances, he managed 46 tackles with two sacks and an interception. His eight pass breakups ranked third on the team, trailing only Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie. For a guy who was supposed to lose his job at the outset of the season, it was a strong effort from the former sixth-round pick.
What's Been Bad: Cornerback will always be a relatively thankless job, and Brown has his moments. He cut down on the penalties in 2018, only drawing three on the year. But it seemed like a lot of his mistakes came from over-aggressive play. Nothing better exemplifies this than his coverage of DeAndre Hopkins in overtime against Houston. Trailing Hopkins on an outroute, Brown appeared to undercut the Pro Bowl received to attempt an interception. Instead, he missed on the play and Hopkins powered his way upfield for a 49-yard reception that would set up a game-winning field goal. That's an interesting dilemma, because you typically want cornerbacks to have an aggressive mindset, but it has bitten Brown at times in the past.
2018 Highlight: There are a couple options to choose from. Brown made the fourth down breakup that won the Week 17 game at New York, but his efforts in the statement game against the Saints can't be forgotten. Brown was lights out against the best offense be Cowboys faced all season, registering three tackles, a sack and two pass breakups. The sack came on a crucial fourth quarter possession, disrupting a Saints drive that had entered Cowboys territory. Brown also surrendered the Saints' only touchdown of the night, though it'd be easy to argue that play featured offensive pass interference. Still, it wasn't enough to put a damper on a fantastic outing, as the Cowboys' coaching staff named Brown their MVP of the game.
What's Next: It's hard to believe Brown already finds himself in a contract year. It seems like just yesterday he was picking off Tony Romo in his first-ever training camp practice. Regardless, 2019 will be an interesting year for the young nickel back. Brown has enjoyed a productive career to this point, but the Cowboys have a lot of contracts to get signed over the coming year. Can he play his way into their list of priorities. This front office hasn't been afraid to sign role players to long-term deals, as Orlando Scandrick managed a 10-year career as the Cowboys' third corner. Perhaps Brown will follow that path, or perhaps the Cowboys will continue to look toward the draft as they use their cap space elsewhere. That probably depends on how well Brown plays next fall.
After a forgettable finish to 2017, Anthony Brown bounced back to put together a strong third NFL season.
Bryan Broaddus' Bottom Line: Anthony Brown had every reason to go into the tank when the coaching staff took him out of the starting lineup in 2017 and replaced him with Chidobe Awuzie. To Brown's credit, he did the opposite and played himself into a role as a useful sub-package player. Where I thought Brown showed the most improvement this year was with his physicality. There were snaps while he was a starter where he honestly played soft and cared little about tackling. Maybe there was an attitude change within Brown or the addition of Kris Richard had something to do with the transformation — but it was there. I really like this new version of Anthony Brown and will be interested to see if he pushes Awuzie this year to get back the job he once held. He has the ability to pull it off.