With all the undrafted defensive backs passing through the Lambeau Field gates in the waning Ted Thompson days, I pretty much stopped paying attention to who they were. It was just a blur: Hawkins, Dorleant, Gunter, Evans, Pipkins, Whitehead, Brice, and so on.
Maybe Brian Gutekunst, hired as the team’s general manager in January 2018, just got lucky, but already his poking around among unwanted collegians has had some positive results. You might have barely noticed a couple such players flying around in the Packers’ secondary against the Bears on Thursday. Cornerback Tony Brown deserves a closer inspection.
Tony Brown has long been an acclaimed athlete – but as a track and field competitor. He won a silver medal in the 110-meter hurdles at the 2013 Pan American Junior Championships back in 2013, and he was named to the USA Today All-American Boys Track and Field Team that same year. Still as a Texas high-schooler, he had the fastest boys’ time in the nation in the indoor 60-meter hurdles, as well as the having the top time in the 110-meter hurdles.
A five-star football recruit out of high school, he went to the University of Alabama, where he competed in both track and football. After appearing in 13 games as a freshman, and starting in two, as a sophomore he started a fight while preparing for the Cotton Bowl, and was suspended for four games. His subsequent football career at Alabama never lived up to expectations.
Tony, however, was invited to the 2018 NFL Combine. He didn’t disappoint, as he registered a 4.35 40-yard dash time, and was solid in the agility drills and broad jump. At that time he measured 5’11 7/8” and weighed 199 pounds – above average for a cornerback. Then at the Alabama Pro Day event he met with representatives of almost ten NFL teams, and he was projected as an early Day 3 selection. Instead, he went undrafted.
Enter Brian Gutekunst. After being briefly on the Chargers’ practice squad in 2018, Tony was signed up by Gutekunst and the Packers just days before the 2018 regular season. He was promoted to the active roster on September 29, and wound up playing in eleven games last year, and starting in three of the final four contests as injuries mounted among the team’s DBs.
His stats in that limited capacity indicated some promise: 30 tackles, five passes defended, and two forced fumbles. Additionally, he finished tied for third on the team in special teams tackles, with six.
He also made some notable mistakes. After being thrust into action against the Lions in Game 5, and with the Packers making a comeback, he nicely broke up a pass to Kenny Golladay – but then was flagged for taunting. He followed that up the next week by being called for unnecessary roughness during a San Francisco kickoff return late in the fourth quarter of the tie game – though the Packers held on for a 33-30 win.
Fighting for a roster spot at this year’s training camp, Tony earned this praise from GM Gutekunst:
“He competes and I feel comfortable with him when he’s out there. He loves to play football and he hasn’t really backed down from any challenges since he’s been here.”
At the Packers’ Family Night practice, Tony got notice when he picked off DeShone Kizer’s sideline pass to Equanimeous St. Brown and ran it back for a pick-six, the defensive highlight of the workout.
Brown doesn’t lack for confidence. At practice, Aaron Rodgers said he likes to complete passes against Brown just to shut him up. As reported on packers.com, here was Brown’s take on how he approached training camp:
“So I know every day I have to prove to myself and beat out that person in my mind, whoever that person is. Yeah, every (instant) I’m trying to prove it to myself that I’m good enough to be in this league, that I am supposed to be here.”
By the time the roster was pared down to 53, Brown was sitting comfortably, alongside Tramon Williams, another undrafted cornerback who made good, as the backups to Jaire Alexander or Kevin King on the team’s depth chart.
The Packers, however, didn’t hesitate to insert Brown into the opener of the NFL’s 100th season. Tony was credited with 27 defensive snap counts, and he made the most of them, with five tackles.
If the current Green Bay team were to hold a sprint race, based on 40-yard dash times, here would be the likely results: 5th place, CB Ka’Dar Hollman (4.39); 4th place, CB Jaire Alexander (4.38); 3rd place, WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling (4.37); 2nd place, S Darnell Savage (4.36); and champion, CB Tony Brown (4.35).
The Packers have never had such a bounty of blazing fast players, or at least never so many who are holding down starting jobs. If the Bears game is any indications, the injection of raw speed into the defensive lineup is paying dividends.
Off topic: Right or wrong. This is the first season i will be rooting for the Patriots to lose. I always looked at them as the template of excellence in running their franchise. But this whole A.B. deal seemed orchestrated, it went down way to fast..
But even if it was on the up, i’d still root against them for rewarding that cancer.
No shit, 3 hours after getting cut there is a deal in place? Call the GM a cracker and get rewarded for that behavior. Gruden might be a tool but Raiders fans deserve better than what they’ve been dealt. The Jets/Browns/Bills/Raiders/Dolphins seem like they all have all been cursed. After seeing how Steelers got mauled last night, and the 3 divisional teams for the Patriots are in that vortex of sucktitude, the only hope for the AFC is if Andy Reid quits doing his best Marty Schottenheimer impression when it comes to the playoffs.
Rob, I’m with you in that I want to see this young man do well for the sake of the Packers. Certainly he has the athleticism and good measurable data to be good football player.
The slightly worrisome things you pointed out are: starting the fight in college, the flag for taunting, and the flag for unnecessary roughness. These are all tells of – say it with me – low impulse control. Sounds like he likes to run his mouth and that he is prone to react with too much emotion at times. Not end of the world type stuff by any means. Just things for coaches to help control. When the team is doing well, these things are usually kept in check. It is when there is a bad game, a playing from behind situation, that these things can rear their head. The inopportune 15 yard penalty for something completely avoidable and stupid. Worse yet, ejection worthy mistakes in judgment. Those are the factors I’d watch for in a player who has demonstrated those certain behaviors. Hopefully all in the past and maturity can now take over.
PF4L- I’m with you regarding the Patriots. It smells like (stinks like) a Drew Rosenhaus set up all along. Oh what a convenient coincidence.
I don’t like saying it, but i hope it bites the Patriots in the ass.
The only player Gutekunst signed to the initial practice squads (2 years) that was not part of the Packers 90 man off season roster is Tony Brown. The Packers must have had an eye on Brown, but not so much that they put in a claim when Brown was cut by The Chargers.
Rob asked previously if any of the Packers corners will jam receivers. Brown will do so. Brown is also a willing tackler. One of only 2 DBs (Alexander) last year that were willing. After game 1 it looks like some of the DBs have got the word be willing tacklers or sit. Hopefully that attitude continues.
It was good experience last year for Brown. It appears that Brown is willing to learn and correct mistakes, but as Mitch said Brown can get to amped up and that may hurt the team at the wrong time.
I’ve said before if I was a GM I would not have anything to do with a Rosenhaus client. Antonio Brown would even make it worse. I thought Gruden was trying to punk LaFleur in the Canadian preseason game so I don’t mind Gruden getting punked by Brown and Rosenhaus. The Raiders gave up a third and fifth round pick to the Steelers for Brown. Those picks were wasted, however, in some ways Mayock may have saved the Raiders from having to pay a lot of money to Brown, once he played in the first game. I think Brown would have screwed with the Raiders/Gruden after he secured a pile of money, so he would get released or traded again. Getting rid of Brown may have been the best move Mayock made so far as the Raiders GM.
“I took what the defense gives me” – Superman
Hint: Buys a $2,500 suit and tells the tailor to make the jacket short sleeve.
Wears a head bonnet tied under the chin. Looks like a damn fool.
Fuck it, here: https://www.panthers.com/video/cam-newton-talks-about-shaking-off-rust-in-first-game
I watched a good portion of the Dallas game, How nice must it be for a QB, to almost be guaranteed a nice clean pocket on every pass play? WOW! Even Hundley could look like an ALL Pro behind that line.
Good article. It is time to be concerned about Aaron Rodgers. People can blame the offensive line all they want, but he also had a poor offensive line his first few years. Houston has a poor offensive line and look at what Watson did today. I hate to say it, but it’s time to grapple with reality that Rodgers best days are behind him and he won’t have Brady longevity