(David Pokress/Sportsday Wire)
One full season, another that was completely missed due to an ACL tear and a stop in Houston have taken place for safety Stevie Brown since his career year for the New York Giants in 2012.
But this week, Brown has already provided a glimpse of how he might be able to assist an injury-riddled Giants defense sorely in need of some reliable secondary help.
Re-signed by New York on Monday after he requested his release from the Houston Texans (who weren’t planning to use Brown on more than a very limited basis), Brown quickly made an immediate impact with an interception during his first Giants practice of 2015.
And in his only preseason game with New York this year, Brown showed some good focus and that same 2012-esque knack for being in the right place at the right time when in the rain, on 3rd-and-9, he stayed with a ball that was tipped twice and came up with a key interception inside the Giants’ 10-yard line, with just over three minutes left on Thursday night to help preserve New York’s 12-9 road victory over the New England Patriots.
Okay, so as Allen Iverson used to say, “We’re talkin’ ‘bout practice.’ And the pick against Patriots third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley wasn’t against Tom Brady, nor did it involve a deflated football in Foxborough.
But the very small sample size of what Brown has already displayed in less than one week back with his old club gives hope for a Giants squad that for a variety of reasons, could benefit greatly if Brown can approach the type of unexpected production he provided three years ago.
That was the year when Brown (who was drafted by Oakland in 2010 before playing eight games for Indianapolis the following year and spending a mere three days with Carolina prior to playing 16 games each in 2012 and 2014 for the Giants) had all eight of his career interceptions, 11 of his 14 career pass deflections and more than half (64) of his 149 career tackles.
While New York missed the playoffs at 9-7 in 2012, the Giants were 6-0 in games when Brown recorded a pick, and just 3-7 in games when he didn’t have an interception that season, as Brown posted a single-season team record of 307 total interception return yards.
With injuries up and down New York’s roster this summer and star players — like defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (sans his right index finger following a July 4 fireworks accident) and wide receiver Victor Cruz (who still has a nagging calf injury) — likely to play in the Giants’ season opener in Dallas on Sept. 13, but only after missing the entire preseason, there are many question marks as Brown’s new/old team enters the regular season.
Even if Cruz steps in and doesn’t miss a beat, it remains to be seen if his sidekick, ultra-talented wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (who will now be targeted, bumped and chipped by opposing defenses a lot more than last year), can build off of his impressive, breakout rookie campaign last season, or if third wide receiver Reuben Randle can continue to progress in his fourth season, especially with a crap shoot of a retooled offensive line protecting quarterback Eli Manning.
If that group struggles, it will put even more pressure on a defensive unit which is already a huge unknown, particularly with Pierre-Paul’s ability to put pressure up front on opposing quarterbacks the way he used to, indeterminable at best, at this point.
Of course, Brown may not even figure to start, as he is competing with veteran Brandon Meriweather for the starting safety spot next to rookie Landon Collins. But if he does see significant playing time, the penchant he had three years ago, and already within the past several days, for positioning himself well for interceptions, could make help the Giants mask a lot of potential problems.
The NFL is always a turnover differential league. So if New York’s talented offense takes some time to get on the same page (after not being together enough in the preseason) and if its defense allows chunks of yardage at times (which it’s expected to do), a player like Brown might be able to once again grab key picks in big spots to help the Giants’ defense bend but not completely break, while giving Manning and company some extra opportunities to do put points on the scoreboard.
Of course, getting his own chances won’t be easy for Brown. There isn’t just Meriweather with which to contend for a starting position.
There’s also a vastly different defensive system for Brown to learn since the last time he was with New York, as Steve Spagnuolo — who helped turn a 2007 Giants defense from one that was torched in the first two weeks of that season, into a unit that shockingly shut down the high-powered, 18-0 Patriots in Super Bowl XLII by the end of that same year — is beginning his second stint as New York’s defensive coordinator.
“It’s completely different,” Brown admitted. “Spags just runs a completely different system.”
Still, Brown is thrilled to once again be a Giant and was happy to make the same type of impact on Thursday night as used to do in the same uniform.
“It definitely hit me this morning,” he said before the game. “I woke up this morning and I looked at my schedule, and it had that big “NY” on there, I was kind of like, ‘It feels right.’”
On his latest pick as a Giant, he added, “It was definitely a good feeling. My main thing was [to] just make sure I got all the checks right out there. Coming in on Monday, I just wanted to make sure I knew the defense and everything, but being able to make a play, it doesn’t hurt either.”
Neither would the 2012 version of Brown being just as disruptive this year for the Giants’ opposing offenses.