Philadelphia Eagles News

Big Name Aside, RB Brown Fits In

All of this "Dream Team" nonsense and "hype" hyperbole is great for headlines and banter among the fans, but the football guys here -- the coaches and the personnel department -- are focused on good football players. And far, far beyond the glitzy headlines and the early stages of trash talk is this: The Eagles are bringing in veterans who fit into the big picture here.

Running back Ronnie Brown is the latest example. Not too long ago he was a 1,000-yard rusher in Miami and talked about as an elite player in this league. His numbers have diminished over the years as the Dolphins' offense has lost its passing attack and defenses have stacked the box, limiting the running lanes, and Brown took some big hits and suffered some injuries and lost, in the eyes of some, the luster he once had.

The Eagles, though, think he's the right player for the right situation here. Third-year man LeSean McCoy is the man here, and nobody disputes that. McCoy led the NFC in total yards from scrimmage last year and ranked fourth in the NFL in that category. He has big, big games ahead of him.

But there is also a need on every team to have a good, experienced second running back. The Eagles had one last year in Jerome Harrison, who became an unrestricted free agent and who, in fact, remains on the market. The Eagles wanted to go in a different direction here. They wanted to add some size and some versatility, and in Brown they brought in both with a one-year contract.

At 6-feet, 230 pounds, Brown has the size to get tough inside yards, especially in goal-to-go situations. He is a capable receiver -- he has averaged 30 catches per season in his six NFL years -- and Brown will give it up as a blocker.

Brown didn't find the big contract in free agency -- the running back market was a strange one, wasn't it? -- but he is fired up to be an Eagle and to join a team that continues to aggressively look for ways to upgrade its roster in the early stages of training camp.

All of a sudden, the running backs here have a lot of depth. Behind McCoy and Brown is veteran Eldra Buckley, who begins practice on Thursday after signing his exclusive-rights contract last week. Then there are a bunch of rookies for coach Ted Williams to bring up to speed, including fifth-round draft pick Dion Lewis, who has already shown at Lehigh his explosiveness with the football in his hands.

The idea here, then, is this, and it has nothing to do with all of the big names that have the fans so excited and opposing coaches, apparently, so hot and bothered: You can never have enough good football players. The Eagles are working their salary cap, using excellent judgment to gauge the free-agent market and finding the right pieces to add to this puzzle.

How much does Brown have left? Well, he had 734 rushing yards (3.7 yards per carry) and 5 touchdowns last year, and added another 242 yards on 33 receptions. It was tough sledding for Brown last year, no question about it. Miami's offense stunk, quite frankly, with no consistency in the passing game from quarterback Chad Henne.

The most success Brown had in the past couple of years came out of the Wildcat formation when he could find some true running lanes. Otherwise, he spent his time running into brick walls.

The Eagles clearly think he can pitch in as a situational player with McCoy as the lead dog. There is a definite role here for Brown, just as there is for each of the players the Eagles have added to a roster that is, let's face it, stacked on paper.

They don't play the games on paper in the NFL, though, so this team understands how much work it has every day of the month leading into the September 11 opener. The Eagles are a marked team, which is always a fun thing. They are going to get the best shot from every opponent as the media continues to drum up the "Dream Team" chatter.

Truth is, the Eagles have brilliantly gone out and added good football players who fit into important roles here. Brown is the latest example. Don't be surprised if the Eagles continue to tinker and add a piece here and there to get the roster right for the marathon season ahead.

Sure enough, shortly after the Brown announcement, the Eagles added veteran offensive lineman Ryan Harris to the mix. He will compete for playing time and, yes, a starting job at right tackle. With Winston Justice on the Physically Unable to Perform list, the Eagles have taken a look at King Dunlap and Austin Howard at right tackle. Both are young prospects and both have ability. But they don't have a lot of experience, and Michael Vick's blind side is worth keeping clean.

Enter Harris. The Notre Dame product has had some injury problems the last couple of years, but he was a starter in Denver. He is an athlete. When healthy, he can ball. So the Eagles again make the right fit. At the very least, Harris will come to training camp and show Howard Mudd what he can do. The Eagles needed something there. The offensive line was in a state of flux in the first week of camp, but now with Harris, guard Evan Mathis and first-round pick Danny Watkins in the fold, Mudd has some pieces. He now has to make it all work.

That's the theme here. Give this great coaching staff as much talent to work with and let them make it all fit together. With Brown, and later with Harris, the Eagles had themselves a whale of an under-the-radar Tuesday.

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