CHANDLER, Ariz. Cornerback Brandon Browner sees a lot of his old team in his new team.
Now a member of the New England Patriots’ secondary, Browner spent much of Super Bowl week comparing and contrasting it with Seattle’s Legion of Boom, of which he was a member from 2011-13.
However, Browner also looks one level down and sees similarities in the linebacking corps.
“They really remind me of each other,” he said. “K.J. Wright and (New England linebacker) Jamie Collins: both are the same build, long length, both from Mississippi, quiet guys, to themselves,” he said. “(New England’s) Dont’a Hightower and Bobby Wagner: fast guys, little thick, bulky guys.”
Neither New England linebacker seemed fully on board with Browner’s comparisons. Hightower came closer, noting that he trained with Wagner during their pre-draft combines.
“Bobby’s a great guy, a great football player,” Hightower said. “And I can see it, you can definitely tell just watching Bobby, the way he plays. He leads that defense the way he needs to. I can see some comparison: most of all just the passion for the game.”
Collins wouldn’t go even that far – although he did live up to Brower’s assessment of not being particularly wordy.
“I don’t compare myself to other guys,” he said. “I don’t watch other defensive guys. I watch offenses and continue to work on my craft.”
Over the regular season, Collins led the Patriots with 109 tackles, while Hightower was next with 92. They also rank 1-2 on the team in the postseason, with Collins providing 15 tackles so far, and Hightower 11.
Both figure to be key players again Sunday when the Patriots meet the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl 49.
Collins’ first Super Bowl appearance extends a cycle of highs and lows that began with a 12- win season as a junior at Southern Miss in 2011, followed by a 12-loss season in his senior year – the biggest one-season turnabout in NCAA history.
“We didn’t really see it coming,” Collins said. “It had never happened, so once it got rolling, I just knew what I had to do to get what I had to do done. I just had to focus on myself at that point … It feels really good to be back at the top.”
For Hightower, the Patriots’ success has just been a continuation of business as usual after being a first-round pick out of Alabama in 2012. Both teams win regularly, and Hightower sees Nick Saban as a college version of Bill Belichick.
“I literally think that they’re exactly the same, from the way that they run their meetings to the way that we run practice, just the way they address the team,” Hightower said. “You can definitely tell that Nick learned something from Bill whenever they were at Cleveland, and I mean they’re still pretty close friends. ... I literally think they are two peas in a pod.”
Now young linebackers are united in slowing with the Seattle running game and Marshawn Lynch, which Hightower considers the top priority.
“I feel like Green Bay did a really good job of that in the NFC Championship in the first quarter or two,” he said. “They really slowed him down. They forced Seattle to throw the ball a lot earlier, more than they wanted to. I feel like they had the right idea, they just didn’t finish the way they wanted to, obviously. Couldn’t close the deal, but I feel like they had the right idea.”