Philadelphia Eagles running back Bryce Brown got the team’s fanbase excited when he posted two 150-yard rushing games his rookie year. After these dazzling-yet-fumble-prone performances in 2012, expectations were high entering the 2013 season.
Rather than developing into a regular change-of-pace option for Chip Kelly, Brown’s 2013 was, by all accounts, a disappointment due to circumstances outside his control. LeSean McCoy never missed a start and didn’t take many carries off on his way to an NFL-leading 1,607 rushing yards.
A more detailed analysis of Brown’s production reveals a running back that is anything but disappointing. After appearing in only 13 college games, Brown was one of the least experienced running backs to ever enter the NFL. Since arriving at the Eagles’ facility as an unformed ball of clay, he has compiled 878 yards (at 4.6 yards per attempt) and six touchdowns over the past two seasons.
Brown is still an unfinished project, but he is willing to work hard to fix weaknesses in his game. After frequently carrying the ball out away from his body in 2012, he worked with Eagles’ running backs coach, Ted Williams, during the offseason. After fumbling four times in 2012, he finished 2013 with zero turnovers.
Unable to criticize Bryce Brown’s ball security in 2013, NFL experts turned their attention to Brown’s frustrating tendency to bounce inside runs to the outside. His propensity to bounce runs resulted in 15 carries for a loss out of 75 attempts. Losing yardage 20-percent of the time is an incredibly high ratio. This criticism resonates particularly well because at 223-pounds, Brown has the strength and power to effectively run between the tackles.
After addressing his fumbling issue last offseason, fixing his propensity to bounce runs will be his primary focus in 2014. With another offseason to refine his game with Chip Kelly’s staff, expect Brown to step onto the field next season with a renewed sense of purpose. Look for him to more frequently pivot upfield and get his momentum going downhill to avoid being hit in the backfield.
Though Brown is headed in the right direction, media critics continue to focus on his seemingly disappointing 2013 season. In fact, some Eagles insiders have already predicted that Chris Polk will overtake Brown as the Eagles No. 2 running back heading into next season. That is not going to happen.
Watch Brown, and you will see a running back who desperately wants to be great. His effort on the field has never been questioned since arriving in the NFL, and as previously noted, he has diligently worked to fix the flaws in his game. Brown excites Eagles coaches, because he possesses a very rare combination of second level speed, strength, balance and lateral agility that comes along once every five years. His natural ability simply cannot be coached, and his professional ceiling is as high as any running back in the league.
Brown’s long speed is uncommon, even at the NFL level, for a man of his size. When he gets past the line of scrimmage, defenders often take poor angles as he glides into the open field. Beyond high-end acceleration and nimble feet, Brown also has soft hands in the passing game. He can snatch balls away from his body without losing his forward momentum. Possessing the a “total package” skill-set, Brown is on the verge of being transformed from a developmental running back into one of the league’s most vicious combinations of speed and power.
To keep McCoy fresh and healthy in 2014, Kelly will utilize Brown more aggressively in what will become a watershed year for the speed-power specimen. Rather than fading to the back of the depth chart during his third season, Brown should show improved ball security and better decision-making when choosing which runs to bounce outside.
Brown has the potential to become a violent downhill finisher who can catch defenders off-guard on any play with his breakaway speed – a truly terrifying weapon for opposing teams to defend.