FOXBOROUGH — The New England Patriots signed cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner to improve their secondary.
As a result, they could also see some improvement at wide receiver. The experience of practicing against two talented cornerbacks is giving the Patriots receivers a crash course in facing some of the best cover men the NFL has to offer.
"Revis, he's a guy that's seen it all, so none of your tricks that you do are going to work on him," said Brandon LaFell, who signed with the Patriots this offseason as a free agent. "Browner, he's a larger guy, long arms, real physical. Going against those guys everyday — I can speak for me and a couple of the other guys man — they are making us better. I think if we can go face these guys and continue to get better, we'll be able to do it against anybody in the league."
The two former Pro Bowl cornerbacks joined New England this offseason to form what could be regarded as one of the best duos in the league. Browner, 29, enters his fourth season in the NFL; Revis, 28, enters his eighth season.
Their experience is evident, even in the limited time they have been on the field.
"With a guy like Revis, Browner, [Devin McCourty], [Alfonzo] Dennard, Logan [Ryan] — you know, all of them — these guys are instinctive guys that know football," said veteran wide receiver Julian Edelman. "If you don't stick to your fundamentals, your concepts, your coaching points, they're gonna take advantage of it."
Both Revis and Browner excel in man coverage, but they each bring something different to the table.
At 6-foot-4 and 221 pounds with 32 7/8-inch arms, Browner has the size and length to create matchup problems for wide receivers trying to get off the line of scrimmage. Revis is not small at 5-foot-11 and 198 pounds, but his best attributes are his strength to bump receivers at the line and his quickness to match up with them when they run their routes.
The blend of skill sets has given the Patriots receivers an opportunity to test their own skills in different ways.
"They both have similar qualities but they're also a little different, too," said wide receiver Danny Amendola. "Browner has long arms so you've got to use your quickness, and Revis is just so smart and quick, and obviously has a knack for playing good football, so it's been great for our receiving corps and we're all getting better out there, so it's been fun."
One receiver who has not had the opportunity to test his skills against Revis and Browner: Aaron Dobson, who has yet to make his debut at practice coming off offseason foot surgery.
The Patriots receivers struggled at times in 2013, but with another full offseason in the Patriots program — and working against talented corners like Revis and Browner — this year could have a whole new look.