Heading into the 2017 NFL Season, the national narrative was that Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was headed for a sophomore slump. People wanted to believe that Prescott could not repeat his stellar rookie season, and that the late-round pick would struggle in year two.
Through the first half of the year it's pretty clear that Prescott is not having that slump of a season, but his fellow sophomore Anthony Brown is.
Cornerback Anthony Brown struggled at times in 2016, but for a sixth round pick he looked to be on his way. Making some key plays down the stretch a year ago, Brown made most fans comfortable with the fact the Cowboys allowed multiple veteran corners to walk during the offseason.
But this year Brown has simply not looked himself, and last week's loss to the Atlanta Falcons provided more examples of this.
Anthony Brown is being asked to play as a starting outside corner, something he did a little bit of his rookie season due to injuries. Given his stature and athletic profile, most pinned him to be a slot corner in the NFL. And, so far, the slot is where he has had his most success.
Here we see Brown on the bottom of the screen, lined up in the slot against Mohamed Sanu. Brown is in man coverage, and with the Cowboys in a single-high look, he only has the one safety to rely on over the top.
Brown allows Sanu the first few steps, maintaining outside leverage. Brown is clearly more worried about out-breaking routes than in-breaking ones, something we see a lot with him. Once Sanu reaches the top of his route, Brown gets physical with him and makes his cut to the outside tougher.
Brown then stays sticky to Sanu's back hip, and stays in a good position to jump in front and deflect the pass away once the ball is thrown. This play is just one of many examples during Brown's young career of why he is at his best when playing in the slot.
An area I have seen Anthony Brown struggle in consistently is with following receivers across the field. Here playing as the boundary corner on the bottom of the screen, Brown ends up in man coverage against Julio Jones.
Brown actually did a nice job when matched up with Jones early in the game, but as the game wore on Brown began to have more and more issues in coverage.
Jones get a clean release off the line of scrimmage here, and then simply out runs Brown across the field. Jones get a little bit of a helping hand from the other crossing route, but Brown just doesn't have the speed to keep up here.
Here is another example of Brown getting beat to the inside. Anthony Brown is matched up in man coverage with Jordy Nelson on this snap on the bottom of the screen. Nelson uses a quick jab step to the outside to freeze Brown and create separation. Brown missteps and quickly loses Nelson in coverage. He is not able to recover and Nelson makes the first down grab.
If asked to play on the outside, I think Anthony Brown is best in zone coverage. He sometimes lacks the required skills in man to cover the wide outs he's being asked to cover, and also tends to get handsy at the top of routes. While his physicality is something I love about his game, it also puts him at risk for penalties more often.
I don't think all is lost for Anthony Brown. He seems to have lost some confidence in both his technique and coverage, at times getting caught peaking into the backfield or getting lost in the back-end. If he can string together a few good games and keep his confidence up, these issues could be fixed.
For the time being, however, I do think rookie cornerback Jourdan Lewis deserves more snaps on the outside. Lewis has simply been better than Brown this year, and if we are giving out playing time based on merits, then Jourdan Lewis deserves to play. Still, as I said, Brown is better than he has been playing this season.