What’s Behind the Brown-Out in Philly?
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - If you want to list the problems the Eagles had in Minnesota on Sunday, it's going to be a while before you get to Zach Brown, the veteran run-stuffing linebacker who was released on Monday days after popping off about Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Before the game Brown, a former teammate of Cousins in Washington was his usual blunt self.
“Cousins, I think every defense is going to want that guy to throw the ball," he said. "For me, that’s probably the weakest part of their offense is him. Everything else is good. They’ve got a good running game, probably one of the best in the league. They’ve got real good receivers. You just want them to pass the ball. You want Kirk Cousins to get it in his hands.”
Bulletin-board material is usually overrated a bit by fans and even the media but the perception after Cousins lit up the Eagles for 33 yards and four touchdowns with a 75.9 percent completion percentage and a 138.4 passer rating in the Vikings’ 38-20 rout was set in stone.
Brown's comments, even though he was telling the truth and completely correct, became a narrative.
That was only furthered late Monday when Brown was released, ironically hours after Doug Pederson went on a Philadelphia-area radio station for his weekly Monday morning contractual spot and gave the Dallas Cowboys some bulletin-board material of their won for Sunday night's game saying: "We're going down to Dallas, and our guys are gonna be ready to play. And we're gonna win that football game, and when we do, we're in first place in the NFC East."
Behind the scenes, the narrative on Brown at the NovaCare Complex seems to be that the Eagles simply wanted more production from the second LB role and Brown, like a lot of Eagles' defenders in Minnesota, didn't have his best game.
"That's probably more of a question for Doug and Howie. But I will say this: We need more production from our linebacker position in general," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said Tuesday.
That said Brown is regarded as a run-stuffing linebacker and Philadelphia entered Week 6 as the top-ranked run defense in the NFL. He also played 82 percent of snaps against the Vikings and was in on five tackles with one for loss as the Eagles held Dalvin Cook, one of the best runners in football, to 41 yards on 16 carries. Overall Minnesota had 122 yards rushing though, nearly doubling the output of others against the Philly defense through five weeks.
Either way, the timing says a lot when it comes to Brown, who is ranked No. 60 of 88 linebackers in the NFL according to ProFootballFocus.com, even though the Eagles may want to open up playing time for younger LBs like Nate Gerry and Kamu Grugier-Hill.
Overall the Eagles' LB plan outside of Nigel Bradham has been strange to say the least with Brown joining L.J. Fort as veteran players released.
With Bradham dealing with an ankle injury form the Minnesota game Philadelphia's only healthy linebackers entering Week 7 are Gerry, Grugier-Hill, undrafted rookie T.J. Edwards, and the recently-acquired Duke Riley. The team could promote Alex Singleton from the practice squad and also kicked the tires on Paul Worrilow last week to see how his knee is doing.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen