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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How Robert Kelley took the lead in Redskins backup RB race

How Robert Kelley took the lead in Redskins backup RB race

FEDEX FIELD -- The Redskins got what they wanted in the running game against the Bills on Friday. But perhaps they didn’t get it from the expected source.

It was Robert Kelley, not fellow rookie Keith Marshall, who ran the ball consistently well in the absence of injured starter Matt Jones. Kelly had 12 carries for 51 yards. His longest run was nine yards indicating that he kept on grinding out years and not piling up a lot of them in one or two pops.

“I thought he ran hard,” said head coach Jay Gruden. Protected the football, had a couple of good blitz pickups that I saw. I have to make sure I look at the film and see how he did in protection overall. But for the most part I’m happy with the way he played.”

MORE REDSKINS: RECAPPING WASHINGTON'S WIN OVER BUFFALO

Unfortunately for Marshall, he did not get the time with the with the first offense that he was expected to get. He had one carry for three yards. On that attempt he suffered a sprained elbow and left the game. He did not return.

It’s possible that both Marshall and Kelley will make the 53-man roster as Jones’ backups. But if only one of them makes it, Kelley has to be the one. So far in the preseason he has 22 carries for 99 yards, an average of 4.5 per carry. Marshall has 16 carries for 28 yards, a 1.8-yard average.

Yes, they have been playing with different blockers in front of them and against defenses of varying qualities. But the difference in production is stark and if Jay Gruden meant what he said a few weeks ago when he stated that preseason games matter a lot when it comes to shaping the 53-man roster it’s hard to make any case for Marshall making it over Kelley.

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Several players injured in win over Bills

Several players injured in win over Bills

The Redskins had plenty of players leave their preseason game against the Bills early but it doesn’t appear that any of the injuries are too serious.

Two players will undergo MRI’s, according to head coach Jay Gruden. Ryan Kerrigan, who left with a groin strain, and RB Keith Marshall, who has an elbow strain, both will get MRI’s on Saturday.

According to Brian McNally of 106.7 The Fan, Kerrigan said that he came into the game with soreness in his groin, felt it tighten up in the early going, and decided to call it a night.

Also leaving the game early were OT Morgan Moses, who has a sprained ankle, and CB Quinton Dunbar, with a shin bruise. Gruden said both are day-to-day.

The injured players have plenty of time to heal up. Players at the lower end of the depth chart will play the fourth and final preseason game in Tampa Bay next Thursday. The front-line players will have until the Redskins open the regular season against the Steelers on September 12 to heal up.

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Gonzalez on earning career win No. 100 : 'I’m just happy it came'

Gonzalez on earning career win No. 100 : 'I’m just happy it came'

Gio Gonzalez isn’t the type to harp on his accomplishments. After quality outings, he typically deflects praise to his Nationals teammates in postgame interviews when asked to describe his personal performance.

But as much as he tends to downplay, earning his career 100th win in Friday's victory over the Colorado Rockies clearly meant something to him. 

“I’m just happy it came,” Gonzalez said. “I finally showed up and I’m happy I did it here with this organization. Oakland gave me an opportunity and Washington helped me continue that opportunity and I couldn’t be happier to do it with these colors and represent the Washington Nationals.”

The feat came after two no-decisions in his previous two starts, so the third time proved to be the charm. After the game, he had a gathering of family and friends waiting outside the Nats’ clubhouse to congratulate him, some holding gold “100” balloons and others wearing hats featuring the oft-used Twitter emoji of the same number.

“I'm sure it was [on his mind],” manager Dusty Baker said. “…He didn’t want to come out of this game. He was going to get it eventually and we needed it.”

The 30-year-old left hander accomplished the milestone thanks to six innings of two-run ball on just 85 pitches against the hard-hitting Rockies lineup. Gonzalez displayed a lot of what his skipper wanted to see from him: a low pitch count, avoiding the big inning and, as he did later in the game, deliver shutdown frames immediately after the Nats offense scores.

“He threw great tonight," added Bryce Harper. Kept a very good Rockies lineup off balance and did what he needed to do. Stuck with his approach and threw like Gio knows how. Huge for him, that hundredth win. Couldn't be happier for him and his family.”

Historic achievement aside, Gonzalez has quietly turned his season around after a rough patch. In his last nine outings, he’s 5-1 with a 3.20 ERA over 50 2/3 innings. His resurgence couldn’t have come at a better time, as he’s charged with stabilizing the back-end of a rotation that’s in flux due to injuries to Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross.

“That's the key to his success,” Baker said. “Not getting runners on base or not walking people and he had a very good game tonight, excellent game. His last couple games, few games have been good. I'm just glad we were able to get him his 100th victory.”