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Curtis Brown's Path to Jets Roster Goes Through Special Teams

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Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Back on February 10, the Jets made a signing that did not generate a ton of buzz. They inked former Steelers cornerback Curtis Brown to a contract. Brown was a 2011 third round pick who had not panned out for Pittsburgh. He tore his ACL during the 2013 season and was out of the league in 2014.

You could be forgiven for forgetting the Jets signed Brown. The team subsequently went out and made substantial investments in three free agent cornerbacks, Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, and Buster Skrine. They also have recent high Draft picks Dee Milliner and Dexter McDougle returning from injury. Heck, they even have Marcus Williams who did not look like a catastrophe getting extensive playing time last season as an undrafted rookie.

Brown does have a chance to make the team, though, and to be a small contributor. Given Todd Bowles' propensity for defensive backs, it would not be a surprise to see the Jets keep more corners than the typical team. A guy like Brown would be unlikely to see the field much. Even though Bowles plays a ton of defensive backs, a player with Curtis' profile would likely be an extra body who would step in to take a few snaps in case of injury.

The opportunity to make the roster would be in finding another way to contribute. Brown's track record suggests he might find a niche with the Jets.

During his time with the Steelers, Brown was a gunner on the punt team in addition to serving other special teams roles. In 34 games, Pro Football Focus credited Brown with 30 tackles. That is an average 14 special teams tackles over 16 games. PFF says Brown led the Steelers in special teams tackles in 2011 (when he only appeared in 12 games) and 2012. For reference, Zach Sudfeld led the Jets last season with 12 tackles on special teams.

I'm not going to tell you that a gunner on the punt team is going to make a monumental difference, but the Jets are a team that seems likely to lean on defense and field positioning to win games. In addition to Brown, second round pick Devin Smith has an excellent reputation as a gunner on the punt team. With those guys getting down the field on punts, it could really help the net punting average and field position. Around half of NFL games are decided by a score or less so a tackle here to gain field position or prevent a big return can sometimes make a difference.