Eagles Film Study: Marveling at Bryce Brown's speed
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Bryce Brown turned the corner and ran away from the Carolina defense. Sixty-five yards down the sideline to an Eagles touchdown. It was the longest run of a bleak season, so it is not surprising that Brian Baldinger and Brian Westbrook wanted to see it again.
And again … and again …
Baldinger, who controls the remote during the weekly tape review at NFL Films in Mt. Laurel, N.J., ran the play back and forth several times. Each time he marveled at Brown’s acceleration as he left the Panthers' secondary in the dust.
“That’s Bo Jackson-like,” the NFL Network analyst said.
“I’m not putting him in that class, not after one [NFL] start,” Baldinger said. “I’m just saying that kind of speed is rare. Not many running backs can do this.”
Baldinger ran the play again, pointing out how the 6-0, 225-pound Brown pulled away from defensive backs Sherrod Martin and Charles Godfrey.
“He runs away from the leverage (Martin) and the pursuit (Godfrey),” Baldinger said. “Bryce outweighs those DBs by 30 pounds and he still outruns them.”
“That is serious speed,” said Westbrook, who burned a few defensive backs in his eight seasons as a running back with the Eagles. “I knew he was fast, but I didn’t know he had that extra gear. I’m watching him accelerate and saying, ‘Wow.’”
Brown had a memorable first start Monday night at the Linc. He gained 178 yards on 19 carries, a 9.4 yard average, and scored two touchdowns. It was the most rushing yards in one game by an Eagles rookie. Brown also had four pass receptions for 11 yards. He had the four longest plays (all runs) in the game for the Eagles.
That was the good part. The bad part was the two fumbles he lost in the second half, which figured prominently in the 30-22 loss, the Eagles' seventh loss in a row.
Baldinger and Westbrook went through each of Brown’s carries and were dazzled by the rookie’s skill set. He is a rare package of speed and power. Even on his five-yard TD run, Baldinger noted how easily he turned the corner. The Panthers had a defender on the edge but he underestimated Brown’s speed. Brown ran around him without being touched.
Again, that was the good part. The bad part was the careless way Brown carried the ball. In the first quarter, Brown took a pass from Nick Foles and gained five yards, but on the film you could see that he was carrying the ball loosely. The Panthers seemed to spot it, too, because the next time Brown carried the ball, Martin, the safety, tried to rip it from his arms.
Brown held on that time, but the Panthers had a strategy that would work for them later in the game.
In the third quarter, Brown took a handoff and made a nice move on Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly. Kuechly was in perfect position to make the tackle, but Brown put a fake on him and left the rookie grasping at air. Brown picked up six yards, but tackle Sione Fua hit him from behind. The ball popped loose and Kuechly recovered the fumble.
Later in the quarter, Brown fumbled again as defensive end Charles Johnson, clearly going for the ball, stripped it from his arms and linebacker Tommy Davis recovered, setting up a field goal that put Carolina ahead, 24-22.
That is where Brown’s lack of experience shows. Brown played just a handful of games in college, transferring from Tennessee to Kansas State before entering the NFL draft in April. He is an explosive instinctive runner, but he still has a lot to learn about protecting the football.
“He thinks just holding the ball against his body is enough,” Westbrook said. “This is the NFL. You’ve got to tuck it away tight. When you get in traffic, you have to cover it with both hands. Guys in this league are always going for the ball.”
“Especially when you lose a couple [fumbles],” Baldinger said. “It’s on tape now, so every team the Eagles play will stress going for the ball. The Cowboys (the Eagles' opponent Sunday night) are probably talking about it in their defensive meeting room right now.”
What really concerned Baldinger and Westbrook was the fact that it did not appear Brown learned his lesson after the two fumbles. On his first carry in the fourth quarter, Brown ripped off a nice 24-yard gain, but he was carrying the ball in the wrong arm and almost inviting the Panthers to strip it again.
“This is his next carry (after the second fumble) and it’s like he hasn’t learned anything,” Baldinger said. “He’s swinging the ball right at the defense. You’d think with the way turnovers have killed this team they’d be more conscious of this stuff.
“But that’s why they are 3-8.”E-mail Ray Didinger at email@example.com.