Today, I had an opportunity for an exclusive phone interview with former Patriots wide receiver Troy Brown, courtesy of Captain Morgan. Captain Morgan and Troy Brown have teamed up for the One Million Poses Beantown Challenge, which will benefit charity. So, feel free to read my exclusive interview with Troy, as he talks about his career, the 2010 Patriots, playing defensive back, as well as a preview of tonight's Patriots-Jets game.
Greg Knopping: So as you know, Captain Morgan is running a charity campaign that will raise up to one million dollars for the First Mate Fund. For those that aren't familiar with the campaign, maybe you could tell us a little bit about it?
Troy Brown: Yeah, I'm competing with the Captain himself. Basically tonight and tomorrow night at the Bruins and Patriots games, we're going to be looking [for] people to strike the famous Captain's pose. Every time we get somebody to that, we will donate one dollar to the First Mate Fund, which will donate a lot of charities around the area in Boston. And one of the most important ones is that they do support the safe drinking policies to, so that's very important to me. And if you're not able to strike a pose [in person], you can also upload one [photo] to Captain Morgan USA facebook page and we will count that one as a pose also. We're looking to get 25,000 here in the Boston area, but we think that we should be able to do a lot more than that, and take of that. So that's what we're doing here with Captain Morgan.
Greg Knopping: That sounds like a great charity, and I bet you could make a pretty mean captain's pose, right?
Troy Brown: [laughs] I do okay, man.
Greg Knopping: [Laughs] So we'll move straight over into some Patriots stuff. And I suppose we'll get started by me asking you... do you miss playing?
Troy Brown: You know what, maybe at a game like this [laughs]. But [I] really [will miss it] when the playoffs start. I really think that I've been trying to get it out of my system for years but whenever when the playoffs start there's something inside of me that just kind of clicks and I feel a little different, start getting chills, in my gut, just being on the field getting ready to play. But other than that I've been pretty happy with my post-career life.
Greg Knopping: That's good to hear, and you're on Comcast Sports now, right?
Troy Brown: Yeah, yeah. I do Comcast Sports New England and I do WEEI radio here for the Patriots.
Greg Knopping: I guess you're competing with Tedy and Rodney now, for the TV time? [laughs]
Troy Brown: [Laughs] Those guys are national now, so [I'm] just trying to get to where they are.
Greg Knopping: So lets talk about Bill Belichick for a second; how do you think he's evolved as a coach from when, well he was there in '96 when you were there, but from 2000 when he took over as head coach to what he's doing now with all of these young guys. Do you think he's evolved?
Troy Brown: Well, Bill is a very smart and intelligent person and I think he's looked back at some of those things and some of those situations and kind of taken notes from them and learned from them and he was able to now, this year, take this very very very young football team, especially on the defensive side of the ball, and kind of transform them into a group of guys that - they aren't special yet - but they have a lot of talent and he's getting them to play the kind of football that the Patriots used to win with. They give up a bunch of yards on defense, and they're not that great [on that side of the ball], but they come up with big plays when they have to. They force teams into bad plays and they don't make a lot of big mistakes - a lot of huge mistakes, especially on the offensive side of the ball. They play the best situational football of any team in the league, and that's kind of the way they're getting by without having a superior defense but they're an incredibly driven team and that's how they're surviving and 9-2 right now. You know, they're playing well and better than I expected, and [hopefully] will keep playing the same way.
Rest of the interview after the jump!
Greg Knopping: Yeah, and talking about that offense, like you said, it's turnover and mistake free, it's efficient, and a lot of people have actually compared this year's Patriots team - well the offense particularly, with the small, quick receivers - to the Patriots offense that won those Super Bowls in '01, '03, and '04 with you, and David Patten, and Deion Branch - well, do you see this comparison as valid?
Troy Brown: Um, I think it's somewhat of a [similar] comparison, especially with the [Deion] Branch and [Wes] Welker in the lineup right now. But I think when think that they have that we didn't have was the tight end play. They have some superior tight ends that have been good in this league and some rookies that are just outstanding guys that don't play like rookies on the field. Gronkowski and Hernandez - two of the best guys they could have come up with in the draft. And then you add Alge Crumpler into the mix, and what he brings to the table, with his experience and his knowledge of the game, and he's been able to play at a pretty good level, and he's an outstanding blocker in the run game, and just a great leader for your football team. So they have some pieces that we didn't have back then, but they're some places you can make comparisons to what we had in the early 2000's.
Greg Knopping: And I don't want to make a stretch in this comparison - but obviously you came into this league as an eighth round pick which is, I believe that was the last round in the draft in '93?
Troy Brown: Yes it was.
Greg Knopping: Yeah, and then there's a guy like Julian Edelman. And at this point, you can tell that he's talented, but right now he's sort of been relegated to more of a special teams role, which you sort of wore in your first couple years before you broke through, so what advice would you have for a player like him?
Troy Brown: You just have to keep on plugging away. And his career, it's looking pretty similar to mine. He's had some opportunities to get in there and make some plays and he just hasn't been able to finish them off when he has a chance to make them. You know, he's kinda doing his thing on special teams and keeping himself around by being able to a pretty good special teams player. He's a good punt returner - he helps the team in that part of the game. And he just has to keep on fighting and trying to find his way and learn to make those plays. But you have to remember, this guy was a college quarterback - he's only two years removed from that. He's never played receiver. He's coming in, watching everybody else do it and he has to get more comfortable with being a wide receiver and just relax and remember - "I can catch the football"- he knows when it's thrown to him and [can't] drop it, he's had some pretty bad ones lately. But I think the sky's the limit for this kid and he works hard at it and I think Bill appreciates that and I think he sees something in this guy that where somewhere down the road he's going to be a real big plus to this football team.
Greg Knopping: Yeah, and that versatility that he has is really something and that transition - it just takes a while to learn a completely new position, especially going in the NFL.
Troy Brown: Especially for a quarterback to come in and go to receiver like that.
Greg Knopping: Yeah, and actually, I remember a few years back, I was talking to the linebacker Don Davis and I think it was back in '03 or '04 - he started a game at safety I don't know if you remember...
Troy Brown: I'm thinking it might have been '04-
Greg Knopping: Yeah, with all of those injuries in the secondary.
Troy Brown: Yeah, it was myself, Don, the guy we got off the street - Earthwind Moreland - I kinda had to come in there and hold it down because we had so many guys banged up in the secondary back there.
Greg Knopping: So I've got to ask you though, when I asked him he said he had a ton of fun playing back there he said he enjoyed every minute of it. So I've got to ask you, what was more fun, in 2004 specifically, playing corner or wide receiver?
Troy Brown: Ah, man, I'd have to say it was probably more fun doing the defensive back stuff. It was stuff I hadn't done in many, many years. 11 years, I think 12 years - and to be able to go back and do that - and not only to be able to just to be doing because it was a [cool thing]. It was something I had to do to help my football team, and you know, play a role for them. And that's what made it feel so good to me because I was actually helping my team get through some tough, tough games and tough situations and giving us a chance to play for a Super Bowl, and that's why it really felt so good coming in and being able to do that for my team.
Greg Knopping: And was it ever nerve-wrecking?
Troy Brown: Yeah, it was, it was. I think the longer I went out there the bigger the bulls-eye I had on my shirt and you never want to be that guy that's the weak link - the one that gives up the game winner, whatever it may be, and have your football team lose because of me. So that was pretty important for me to go out there and play well.
Greg Knopping: And you certainly did. So lets move over to the Patriots and the Jets and tonight's Monday Night Football matchup. So for the Patriots offense, what do you think is going to be the key going against Rex Ryan's attacking defense?
Troy Brown: They're going to have to pick up the blitz pretty well and they're going to have to try to establish some kind of running game in order for them to be able to use their play action effectively against the Jet defense. I do think the Jets' linebackers don't cover the tight ends very well and the Patriots have a couple of the best guys in the league that can get up and catch the football. If they can get to a point where they can protect the quarterback and use that play-action fake to their advantage I think the Patriots have a good chance at moving the football against the Jets and scoring a bunch of points against them. And to me, that's the biggest thing they need to do to beat [the Jets] tonight.
Greg Knopping: Especially like we saw, actually the last three weeks in particular, against the Steelers and others. BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been running well and Brady's been able to use that play action and he's done really well off of that.
Troy Brown: Yeah, I think it's a vital part of their game and I think that he has to get rid of the football pretty quick, on some of those quick play-actions that he runs and get the ball into the hands of Wes Welker and Deion Branch and seeing what they can do with it and even Brandon Tate - see what he can do with the football when he gets it in his hands and make those guys in the Jets secondary come up and tackle them.
Greg Knopping: Yeah, and do you think Tom is going to do well against the blitz? Because one of the things the Jets do is they bring those defensive backs - and Tom, he's not done as well when the Jets, or any team bring the safety or the corner.
Troy Brown: Yeah, well they haven't been able to do it that much against the Patriots when they had Randy Moss because they were always backing up that corner whoever was on that side. With Jim Leonhard back there, over the top. So this time around, I think you probably will see some more pressure from the Jets this week and I think they should be ready for it and they should be expecting that because that's where a lot of their success comes not just against the Patriots but against everybody. Teams aren't able to pick it up and they suffer the consequences from that. So we'll see what the Patriots can account for those blitzes with. You know, it starts with the protection and they have one of the best offensive line coaches in the league in Dante Scarnecchia, and he usually comes up with some pretty good plans to neutralize what [the Jets] are trying to bring and limit the Patriots mistakes.
Greg Knopping: And what about the Patriots defense against the Jets offense. Are you a believer in Mark Sanchez?
Troy Brown: Oh, yeah, he's won me over this year. I had some big questions about him coming into this season and whether or not he'd be able to not turn the football over as much as he did last year. So far this year, he's been one of the reasons why [the Jets] are 9-2 right now. He hasn't turned the football over that much - very rarely as a matter of fact - and he's just been able to direct his team and make some big plays when he can. His thing is being able to get to the corner and throw on the run. He's probably one of the only guys that can throw on the run the way he does, going either direction, and it hurts a lot of teams. The Patriots need to keep him in the pocket and put the pressure on him up the middle and make him throw over the top of a lot of those big guys in the middle of the defense - it's a good thing he's not that big of a guy. So make him throw over the top of some of those big guys in the middle of the field and see if you can force him into some bad throws.
Greg Knopping: And I remember earlier you mentioned the Patriots giving up a lot of passing yards - yes, they come up with the big plays - and I don't want to say fans have been irate, but I think they've been a little bit restless about some of the soft zone coverages the Patriots have used on defense. You know, they avoid the big play, but you give up the yards. Do you think the system works?
Troy Brown: Ah, it's working so far. So far they're 9-2. They had a very bad loss to the Cleveland Browns. But for the most part, it's been working for them. They've been giving up a ton of yards and a ton of third down conversions but they just seem to be able to make plays when they need to make them and they've been forcing opponents, with the little bit of pressure that they've been able to get - with a few guys - force them into bad throws and capitalizing on them [interceptions]. So you've got to give them a lot of the credit for being able to force [opponents] into bad plays when they need them.
Greg Knopping: Alright, so lets go for the last question, lets get a prediction for tonight. Who do you think wins and why?
Troy Brown: Well, I picked the Patriots to win and I picked them to win by a couple of scores. I think the score will be 28-14. A lot of the big factors are - the Patriots are playing at home. Tom Brady has won 25 straight games in that stadium - it's just hard to beat him there and I think the Jets are missing their safety there in Jim Leonhard who's going to be the playcaller for that defense - getting them into the right defenses and the right coverages they need to defend against the Patriots. I think a lot of it, and not having Jim Leonhard will be a big step back [for the Jets] for them also, so I'm picking the Patriots to win by a couple of scores.