RB Bryce Brown off to incredible start for Eagles

RB Bryce Brown off to incredible start for Eagles

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Bryce Brown watched 228 players get selected in the 2012 NFL draft before the Philadelphia Eagles took a chance on him in the seventh round.

There are 31 other teams wishing they chose Brown much earlier.

The rookie running back has been outstanding in his first two starts filling in for injured All-Pro LeSean McCoy. Brown has 347 yards rushing - the second-highest two-game total in team history - and four touchdowns.

``I was high on him when I first put the film on with the few plays that he had while in college,'' Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said Thursday. ``With natural ability, he's a big, strong man that has speed. You put that natural ability and natural feel and instincts to it, and you generally have a good player there.

``He has done well in the pass protection, and the pass protections are the most concerning thing with those young rookies playing. He has done a very good job playing that way as well.''

Brown had 178 yards and two scores in a loss to Carolina on Nov. 26 in his first start since his senior year in high school in 2008. He followed that up with 169 yards and two more TDs against Dallas. Both games were on national television, so Brown really showcased his skills to a wide audience.

To put those numbers in perspective, Brown already has more 160-yard rushing games than Bo Jackson had in his career. Former Eagles greats Brian Westbrook and Duce Staley had one. Wilbert Montgomery had two. McCoy also has one so far.

But Brown hasn't been flawless by any stretch. He's lost three fumbles in the two games, helping run the Eagles' losing streak to eight.

``We're doing a lot of stuff at practice, scout guys are going after it a lot more, trying to game-simulate it because we don't really do contact,'' Brown said. ``It's making me work a lot harder, too.''

McCoy, who has been sidelined by a concussion, wasn't a fumbler his first three seasons. He lost just two fumbles before losing one in each of the first two games this season. Brown received some advice from McCoy about ball-security this week.

``He told me, `Don't change a thing, keep playing with confidence and don't pay attention to what everybody else is saying. Play your game and keep doing what you're doing,''' Brown said. ``Protecting the ball and things like that, that'll come.''

When McCoy returns, the Eagles will have a welcome problem. Two high-quality running backs are no longer a luxury given injuries. It's uncertain whether McCoy will be back this season since the Eagles are playing out the string and he hasn't passed the required concussion tests yet.

``There is a lot of exciting things, and certainly for the future it's one of them,'' Mornhinweg said of two elite-level backs. ``Our focus right now is this next game. The past is important to learn from and the future is important for playing in, and that's an exciting thing no question about it. Our focus right here and right now is on Tampa and the players that we have on the field.''

The Eagles (3-9) visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-6) on Sunday, hoping to get their first win since Sept. 20. The Bucs present a challenge for Brown. They have the top rushing defense in the NFL, allowing 82.3 yards per game.

``I think it's a great challenge for us as a unit offensively and we're excited for it,'' Brown said.

Brown was the nation's highest-ranked running back coming out of Wichita East High School four years ago. He chose Tennessee and had an impressive freshman year backing up Montario Hardesty. Brown rushed for 104 yards in his first game with the Volunteers and finished with 460 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 101 carries.

When coach Lane Kiffin left for USC after that year, Brown transferred to Kansas State. He sat out 2010, and carried the ball only three more times in college. Brown suffered an ankle injury early in the season and played in just one game before leaving the program.

Scouts recognized Brown's potential, but had little film on him and perhaps questioned his desire to play. For the Eagles, Brown was worth the final pick. General manager Howie Roseman had scouted Brown and coach Andy Reid talked to his former coaches. Then running backs coach Ted Williams gave the green light after working him out.

``I had a chance to talk to Lane Kiffin who coached him and he was positive about him,'' Reid said. ``A coach at Kansas State that I knew (said that) before he was injured, he was positive. Howie had done a ton of work on him, just background work, and then worked him out and so on and felt very comfortable. Ted Williams felt very comfortable with him; a big kid who can run fast and had good feet. Once I had a chance to meet him and Howie and Ted had a chance to meet him, you understand that he was a smart kid. Those were the things.''

Eighteen other running backs were drafted ahead of Brown. Only three - Tampa Bay's Doug Martin (1,106), Washington's Alfred Morris (1,106) and Cleveland's Trent Richardson (827) have more yards rushing than Brown (488). Each has three times the number of carries that Brown has.

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NOTES: DT Mike Patterson (illness) joined S Kurt Coleman (chest) on the sideline for practice. DT Fletcher Cox (tailbone) returned to the field. ... McCoy and QB Michael Vick (concussion) are again expected to sit out the game.

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Enemy Intel: Sunday games have playoff implications galore for Redskins

Enemy Intel: Sunday games have playoff implications galore for Redskins

As the Cowboys take their long week off after consecutive Thursday games the Redskins, Giants, Eagles, and other wild card contenders are in action. Here is Tandler’s weekly Redskins-centric spin around the NFL.

—The Giants are on a six-game winning streak and while that’s not easy to do against any level of competition it needs to be pointed out that their slate was squishy-soft with the last five wins coming against teams that currently have losing records. Now things get real with a trip to play the Steelers and a home date against the Cowboys. I’m not really sure how good the Giants are but if they split these two games I’ll be more impressed with them than I am now.

—The 5-6 Eagles travel to play the Bengals, who are just about out of contention for a sixth straight playoff appearance at 3-7-1. In fact, the Eagles might be just about out of it, too. Their big problem is 3-6 conference record, which puts them behind several other wild card contenders in this tiebreaker. It’s important because that is the second tiebreaker behind head to head. It’s better for the Redskins if the Bengals win but it probably won’t matter much. The consensus in Philadelphia seems to be that the Eagles are a rebuilding team that got off to a hot start, kindling some unrealistic hopes and expectations for the rest of 2016.

—The team is the hottest pursuit of the Redskins is the Buccaneers, who travel to San Diego to play a game that starts at the same time as Washington-Arizona. The Chargers are 5-6 but they are buried in last in the tough AFC West. This game is a coin flip. Redskins fans should root for the Chargers. If the Bucs lose, the Redskins would still hold the second wild card at the end of the day even if they should lose to the Cardinals.

—The 5-6 Saints are on the fringes of the wild card picture. They host the Lions, who are leading the NFC North by a game and a half over the Vikings and two games over the Packers. It’s probably best if the Lions win, which would just about eliminate the Saints. Still, there is a scenario where the Lions go into a minor tailspin, lose the division to either the Packers or Vikings but have a good enough record to take the second wild card. So like with most games within the NFC until the dust settles some more, there is some upside and some downside no matter which team wins.

—That scenario where the Lions fade from the division lead become a whole lot less likely if the Texans can go to Green Bay and beat the Packers. This is an interconference game so it’s an easy call to pull for Houston.

—Seattle, with a three-game lead in the NFC West, hosts the Panthers, who are on the outer fringe of the wild card race at 4-7. Another loss likely would ensure that Carolina won’t be able to defend its NFC title. This isn’t a pivotal game but probably better if the Seahawks win to end it for the wounded but potentially dangerous Panthers.

—My one loss last week was the Seahawks giving 5.5 on the road to the Bucs. I won with the Saints over the Rams and the Falcons over the Cardinals. This week I’m giving the Seahawks another go, giving 7 to the Panthers, and I’m taking the Patriots -13.5 against the Rams (the loss of Gronk doesn’t do much to equalize these teams) and the Saints giving 6 to the Lions.

MORE REDSKINS: Betting on the Redskins' playoff chances

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Five factors to predict Dolphins at Ravens this Sunday

Five factors to predict Dolphins at Ravens this Sunday

What: Dolphins (7-4) at Ravens (6-5)

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

Where: M&T Bank Stadium

Ravens injuries:

OUT – TE Crockett Gillmore (thigh), G Alex Lewis (ankle), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh).

DOUBTFUL – RB Buck Allen (non-football issue).

QUESTIONABLE – WR Kamar Aiken (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (ankle).

Dolphins injuries:

OUT – C Maurkice Pouncey (hip).

DOUBTFUL – CB Xavien Howard (knee).

QUESTIONABLE – OT Branden Albert (wrist), LB Kiko Alonso (hamstring), G Jermon Bushrod (calf), RB Kenyen Drake (knee); LB Jelani Jenkins (knee/hand); DT Earl Mitchell (back); WR DeVante Parker (back); G/T Laremy Tunsil (shoulder).

Five questions you should ask:

1. Are the Dolphins ready to win a big road game in December?

Despite their six-game winning streak, the Dolphins are just 2-3 away from home. Now you’re asking them to win at M&T Bank Stadium, where the Dolphins are 0-2 all-time? We’ll see. The Dolphins will gain credibility as an AFC playoff threat if they win this game.

2. Can the Ravens put together a complete offensive performance?

Quarterback Joe Flacco wasn’t satisfied with the Ravens’ 19-14 win over the Bengals in Week 12. Actually, he hasn’t been satisfied with the offense all season.

“When you have a team 16-3, you would like to choke them out and get it over with,” Flacco said.

He knows the Ravens have to play better offensively to go on a December run. And part of that improvement starts with Flacco.

3. Can the Ravens’ offensive line handle Cameron Wake (8½ sacks) and Ndamukong Suh (five sacks)?

The Dolphins’ defensive line has the ability to make Flacco’s day miserable. The Ravens’ offensive line will need one of its better performances.

4. Which team’s running game will be most effective?

This could be the key to victory, because both teams want to run and utilize play-action passing. Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi (847 yards, 5.3 yards per carry) is a load, but the Ravens have the NFL’s top-ranked run defense. Ravens rookie running back Kenneth Dixon is coming off his best game (13 carries, 49 yards), and looks ready to share more carries with Terrance West (600 yards).

5. Can the Ravens get enough pressure on Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill?

Tannehill has nine touchdown passes and just one interception during the Dolphins’ six-game winning streak. The Dolphins like to get Tannehill outside the pocket and take advantage of his ability to throw accurately on the move. Tannehill’s game has grown under new head coach Adam Gase. If the Ravens don’t throw Tannehill off his rhythm, he will make plays.

Prediction: Expect a typical close Ravens game, but I see them squeezing out a critical victory, on the strength of Justin Tucker’s leg.

Ravens 20, Dolphins 17 

MORE RAVENS: How Ravens could still win AFC North