Brandon Browner Injury Could Be Huge for the San Francisco 49ers

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | The strength of the Seattle Seahawks over the past couple seasons has been what has to be considered the best secondary in football. From Pro Bowlers Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas to up-and-comers such as Brandon Browner and Kam Chancellor, this unit was downright scary last season.

According to Liz Matthews of ESPN, Browner is questionable for tonight's matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers. The veteran cornerback missed Seattle's opening game against the Carolina Panthers and is dealing with a hamstring issue.

Like last week, Walter Thurmond III will get the start in Browner's stead. The former fourth-round pick has dealt with injuries himself over the past two years, missing 24 of a possible 33 game since the start of the 2011 season. Including last week's start, Thurmond has lined up with Seattle's first team just six times since joining the league out of Oregon State back in 2010.

With Sherman slated to go up against San Francisco's No. 1 receiver in the form of Anquan Boldin, it appears that Thurmond will be lined up against the likes of Kyle Williams, Marlon Moore and even tight ends Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald when those two are lined up wide. This could level the playing field a bit, as Thurmond is nowhere near the same level of a defender as Browner. According to Pro Football Focus, Browner graded out as the 22nd-best cover corner in the National Football League last season. Not bad for a player considered Seattle's second-best cover guy behind Sherman.

Williams caught three passes for 36 yards in San Francisco's Week 1 victory over the Green Bay Packers. He let an opportunity for a long play slip through his hands down the right hash when quarterback Colin Kaepernick underthrew him a tad. With that said, Williams had beaten his defender by a couple steps and was primed to make a big play if Kaepernick had put the ball on target.

We can expect the injury-plagued receiver to be able to beat Thurmond over the top in this one. If so, this could open up the passing game with Boldin likely to be shut down by Sherman.

Seattle may also be forced to line Thurmond up against Davis in the slot and on the outside. The young cornerback is nowhere near as physical as his injured counterpart, who he will be tasked with replacing for a second straight week. This means that Davis should be able to control the matchup when the two are lined up against one another. Needless to say, Seattle simply cannot rely on linebackers K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner to line up against Davis in one-on-one situations. That seems to indicate Thurmond will see more action against the elite tight end than we originally anticipated a few days back.

Postseason included, Davis has dominated the receiving game in San Francisco's last four games. During that span, No. 85 has caught 18 passes for 352 yards and three scores. What was considered somewhat of a mismatch in Seattle's favor, its secondary, may have taken a major hit with the news that Browner is doubtful for this NFC West battle.

It's now up to Kaepernick and Co. to take full advantage. If they do, the 49ers could very well be looking at a 2-0 start.

Vincent Frank has been covering the National Football League for three years. He started out writing for Niners Nation and was a featured columnist at Bleacher Report. His work has been published on CNN, Pro Football Focus and BR, among other sites.

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