Offensive lineman Levi Brown has been the whipping boy of Arizona Cardinals fans for years. He has represented everything that has gone wrong for the team, and yet, when the ridiculous fifth year of his contract came up and the team could have cut ties forever, they cut him and brought him back, fully intending him to be the starting left tackle.
While he has taken a lot of flack for his play, the talk has been how much he improved and how solid he was the second half of the 2011 season.
Football Outsiders, who breaks down film and does pretty solid statistical analyses of the NFL, decided to take a look at Week 17, when the Cardinals hosted and beat the Seattle Seahawks in overtime to end their season, and look at Brown's play in particular.
What they found was that he had improved.
Much to my surprise, Brown looked better in this game than in any game I broke down in 2010. He played with much better balance in the running game and wasn't getting thrown off blocks as much. He also did a nice job sitting down on bull rushes throughout the game, a feat that was even more impressive considering he was matched up against Red Bryant for the majority of it. Of course, he still can't pass off twists because he has no lateral quickness. He did allow a sack, although it was off a linebacker stunt and not a straight twist. Brown also gave back 20 yards in penalties. Still, this was best performance I've ever seen Levi Brown give. So there's that.
It is easy to just say that an offensive lineman is doing well or poorly just based on what you see. It isn't always the case. The fact that Arizona was willing to re-sign Brown for five years shows the confidence they have in him and their view that there really was no one better available.
Has he in fact turned the corner? The team thinks so. Fans are skeptical. The play of the line in 2012 will show if the move was a good or a bad one.
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