RENTON, Wash. – Brandon Browner was back in the Seattle Seahawks’ locker room Wednesday, shaking hands and sitting just a few feet away from fellow cornerback Richard Sherman.
For a time last month, no one was sure whether Browner and Sherman would be around at this point of the year with each facing four-game suspensions for using a banned substance. Browner eventually dropped his appeal and sat out the last four games of the regular season, while Sherman won his appeal and had his suspension overturned.
The result is that the Seahawks will go to Washington on Sunday for the opening round of the playoffs at nearly full strength.
“Getting Brandon Browner back is a big deal to us. He’s been a big part of what we’ve done here and a significant factor in the style that we play,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “He comes back and (we’ll) see how he does. It’s been a month; we’ll see how rusty he is. But we’re very fortunate right now.”
There were a few key players whose seasons ended early due to injuries. Offensive lineman James Carpenter, defensive tackle Jason Jones and cornerback Walter Thurmond would all be key players Seattle would like to have available when its faces the Redskins.
For the most part, what Seattle’s starting lineup looked like for most of the season will be on the field against the Redskins. The only player listed on Seattle’s injury report Wednesday was Marshawn Lynch, who continued with his trend of having a light practice early in the week to rest his back.
“Our confidence is sky high and we feel like we can match and scheme with anybody,” Seattle linebacker Leroy Hill said.
The return of Browner is significant because of how the rest of Seattle’s defense plays off the skills of its cornerbacks. Browner’s size at 6-foot-4, combined with adequate speed has made it possible for the Seahawks to play press coverage with its cornerbacks and allow safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas to roam around and make plays in run support and the pass game.
Combined with Sherman on the other side, Seattle’s pass defense ranked sixth in the league, allowing just 203.1 yards per game. The Seahawks were ranked as high as No. 3 in the league against the pass during the regular season.
According to STATS, Inc., Browner and Sherman were among the best in the league at not getting burned. Browner was targeted 65 times and allowed 30 receptions with six passes defensed. Sherman was targeted 94 times and allowed 43 receptions, and led the NFL with 24 passes defensed according to STATS.
“It just adds along to all the ballers we have back there,” Thomas said. “(I) don’t want to take any credit away from the young guys that have been playing back there, but that’s a Pro Bowl player and it’s hard to replace that type of player. He’s a physical guy, can cause fumbles and interceptions. We’re just glad to have him back.”
Along with the return of Browner, Hill practiced Wednesday after missing last Sunday’s regular-season finale because of a hamstring injury. Hill is second on the roster with seven games of postseason experience.
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