Eagles look for Brown to keep running

Bryce Brown is showing more north-south running form, taking the heat off Shady McCoy. RON CORTES / Staff Photographer
Bryce Brown is showing more north-south running form, taking the heat off Shady McCoy. RON CORTES / Staff Photographer
Posted: November 10, 2013

It took nine games for Bryce Brown to look like the 2012 version of himself.

After averaging only 2.6 yards a carry in the first half of the season, the Eagles running back broke out for 54 yards on seven tries in last week's victory over the Raiders.

The Eagles will face the fifth-ranked run defense in the league when they travel to play the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. If Brown can sustain the performance he had against the Raiders - however small the sample - it would only give opponents one more weapon to worry about.

Last season, Brown had his best performances in the two games following LeSean McCoy's concussion when he took the majority of handoffs and rushed 43 times for 347 yards (8.1 avg.) and four touchdowns.

"To me, that's been my biggest struggle this year - really getting as many reps as I did last year," Brown said this week. "But I just try to stay focused and remember to do the little things, and just be patient until my number is called."

Brown's numbers when he started and when he didn't start last season were up and down, though. In the first 10 games as a little-used change of pace to McCoy, he ran 32 times for 141 yards (4.4 avg.). He then exploded against the Panthers and Cowboys in his first two starts, but did also have three fumbles.

The story was much different in Brown's next two starts. He was held to 40 yards on 28 carries (1.4 avg.). In the final two games of the season, after McCoy returned, Brown ran 12 times for 36 yards (3.0 avg.).

Before his explosion in Oakland he averaged 4.8 carries a game and 2.6 yards a carry.

While coach Chip Kelly and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur have preached patience with Brown and said they believed he would return to form, they've obviously spent considerable time trying to get him to run more north to south.

"I think he did a really good job of squaring his shoulders up, not really trying to create something that wasn't there," Kelly said. "And he's a big, physical guy. I think when we can get him to run up inside the tackles, which is really his strength."

Defenses have done a fine job bottling McCoy up in recent weeks. After averaging 6 yards a carry in the first four games, the NFL's leading rusher has been held to a 3.4 average over the last five games.

Brown's 32-yard carry in the first quarter against Oakland was the Eagles' longest rush in six games. He ran through a wide lane up the middle, slipped one tackler and cut outside up the sideline.

"Part of it was we got the edge sealed the right way, and he saw it and he got . . . vertical and that was good," Shurmur said. "He's a big, physical runner, and if we can get him to the corner and get his paths turned toward the goal line, I think that's good for all of us."

It should be noted that Brown has yet to fumble this season. He lost one during the preseason, but has done a better job of protecting the football. Now if only he can consistently square his shoulders rather than bump runs outside.

"We do a lot of teach periods during our practices. So that's a good time to focus on it because it's not as fast and you can slow it down," Brown said. "You've just got to have repetition - over and over and over till you get comfortable with it."

Fletcher questionable

Bradley Fletcher was listed as questionable for Sunday's game. The cornerback was limited at practice most of the week because of a pectoral strain, but he said Thursday that he expected to play.

If he can't, Brandon Boykin will likely start in his place as he did in Week 2.

Michael Vick was listed as doubtful. The Eagles quarterback didn't sound optimistic about a speedy recovery from his reaggravated hamstring strain when he spoke to 94-WIP on Thursday. Matt Barkley is expected to back up starter Nick Foles.

Linebacker Jake Knott (hamstring) was also listed as doubtful.

The following Eagles were listed as probable: tackle Jason Peters (pectoral, shoulder), defensive end Cedric Thornton (knee), safety Patrick Chung (shoulder), wide receiver Damaris Johnson (ankle), running back Chris Polk (shoulder, knee), guard Julian Vandervelde (knee) and Roc Carmichael (groin).


jmclane@phillynews.com

@Jeff_McLane

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