In a normal week, rookie running back Bryce Brown would see around five carries a game, and may see 10 to 20 snaps in total. But with running back LeSean McCoy recovering from a concussion and return specialist Brandon Boykin pulled from kickoff duties, Brown is a player solidly in the spotlight.
Brown surprised Eagles fans when he lined up deep to return last Sunday's opening kickoff. Boykin had been handling the kick returning duties until last week. While he had shown flashes, Boykin's 22 yards per return is ranked 49th in the league. The decision to remove him from returning duties, special teams coordinator Bobby April said, had less to do with Boykin and more to do with trying to mix things up.
"We really wanted to shuffle the deck," April said. "There's nothing wrong with the dealer, but if the house is getting beat all the time let's get a new guy in there and see if there's a different chemistry, a little different reaction and the house can start winning again, if you know what I mean."
Brown had little experience handling kickoffs in college, though Sunday's tape suggested otherwise. As a freshman at Tennessee he returned two kicks for 19 yards – hardly a noteworthy contribution. But the rookie had three kick returns for 66 yards against the Redskins, including a long of 25. April was impressed with Brown's performance.
"I thought he had a couple chances to do something," April said Friday. "He's not familiar with doing it, although he's been practicing it every since Training Camp. He'd never done it in college; he hadn't done it any other time. I thought he did really well. He's a good running back."
With running back LeSean McCoy likely out for Monday's game with a concussion, Brown is in line to start in place of the All-Pro. So while Brown would like to return kicks again Monday night, the coaches don't like to start players on both offense and special teams. If he decides against using Brown, April has options.
"We have a couple guys we're looking at, including Boykin, to maybe see what we can do in there," April said. "I think (Boykin) is doing all he can do. We have to block for him better, as I've said before. But Damaris (Johnson) can return, (Mardy) Gilyard can return, and of course, we have Bryce.
"We generally get a little more specialized with some of that stuff, and if guys are totin' the mail every play, generally we don't use him on special teams."
As for Brown himself, the rookie understands that he likely won't be returning this week. But he is definitely up for the challenge going forward.
"I enjoyed it," he said Wednesday. "I asked Coach if I could be on it this week, but with the situation we're in now, they have to take me off. But it's definitely a job I look forward to doing in the future."
Make sure to follow us on Twitter @EaglesInsider