Second and Third Year Player Development: Week Three


In this weekly column, I typically explore some young players who haven’t made much of a consistent impact to date. Some players may be available on your waiver wire, some may be available via a cheap or moderate trade. Acquiring or not acquiring one of these players could decide how well your dynasty or keeper team does for the next few years. This week I will be taking a look at two second year Eagles in running back Bryce Brown and linebacker Mychal Kendricks. I will focus on their most recent matchup to draw the majority of my insight.

Bryce Brown, RB PHI

bryce_brownIt’s been a long and winding road for Mr. Brown. He was mentioned in the same breath as Trent Richardson when they were both still in high school. Unlike Richardson, Brown never got it going in college as the young running back bounced to different universities trying to find a home. The Eagles liked what they saw in his high school tape and college workouts, drafting him late in the seventh round of the 2012 draft.

When LeSean McCoy went down with a concussion last season, Brown exploded in his first two starts for the Eagles with 43 carries for 347 yards and four touchdowns. Brown is a strong, elusive runner who reads his initial blocks well. All was not rosy though as the young running back had three fumbles in those first two starts. Defenses began to close the door on his outside runs and made him run between the tackles. Brown did not adjust well to the changes and tried to do too much. So much so that this year in the preseason, Brown had to compete with 2012 undrafted free agent Chris Polk for the backup spot behind McCoy.

Unfortunately for Brown, the lack of the sustainability of the 2013 Eagles “fantastic offense” has been his undoing. During the Thursday night game against the Chiefs, Philadelphia quickly went down by ten points, disrupting their offensive rhythm. When the second year running back was on the field, he was a decot on a few fake handoffs, springing running lanes for Michael Vick. Brown attempted to block downfield for his quarterback, but merely got in the way of a few defenders while Vick darted 61 yards.

In the three 2013 games, the Brown has touched the ball 16 times, simply not enough to be effective. Brown does not create his own space. He takes what the defense and his offensive line create for him. The running back has improved his pass blocking skills, as he now steps up and attacks the blitzing defenders. There have been a few missed opportunities – on play the running back ran unabated on a wheel route which could have gone for a touchdown, but a pressured Vick did not see him. It appeared that Brown would get a chance when McCoy went down with a lower leg injury in the second quarter. Unfortunately for Brown, it turned out that McCoy did not suffer a significant injury after all and quickly returned to the game.

Dynasty owners need to realize that Chip Kelly’s offense cannot support three runners in McCoy, Vick, and Brown. If something were to happen to either of the first two players, then a role might be available. Otherwise, only hold Brown as a handcuff. If I owned Brown, his value is too low to trade. If I owned McCoy, I would try to acquire Brown cheaply, but would not give up much to make sure I had him as a backup.

Mychal Kendricks, LB PHI

Many people were excited when the Eagles drafted Kendricks out of California in the second round of the 2012 draft. Unfortunately expectations were not met as the young defender was placed at the strong side linebacker position in a 4-3 defense, a position which did not play to his strengths. The strong side backer takes on blockers head-on and disrupts the play, while leaving the middle and weak side linebackers an easier path to the ball carrier. Despite the situation, Kendricks still accounted for 75 tackles, but was not an exciting IDP asset in 2012.

With the switch to a 3-4 defense in 2013, Kendricks was moved to the weak inside linebacker spot. This move has increased his IDP value. Kendricks has good vision, can blitz, is a decent tackler, and covers receivers out of the backfield. The linebacker takes advantage of the creases in the offensive line to flow to the ball. He is a very hard-hitter – he knocked Chargers receiver Malcolm Floyd out of the game in week two.

The young linebacker had a very sloppy game against the Chiefs with both great plays and unbelievable whiffs. Kendricks attacks the line of scrimmage when he sees the play is a run. He did a great job early on, shadowing Dexter McCluster, sniffing out the option and tackling him for a loss. Kendricks has a tendency to over shoot the hole, which makes it easy for blockers to take him even further away from the play. When Kendricks sets his feet and squares up against a blocker, the linebacker can quickly disengage and make the play.

Unfortunately, Kendricks tends to hit ball carriers off-balance and does not wrap up well, which causes him to miss a lot of tackles. He also struggles at tmes breaking down and getting outside the tackle box quickly. Kendricks leads the Eagles in missed tackles after three games with a total of eight. He simply cannot continue to attempt to arm tackle NFL players. Jamaal Charles juked him out of his pants a few times in the flat, leaving him staring at the lights.

When the linebacker wasn’t covering Charles, he was quite effective with the other Chiefs pass targets especially near the end zone. Most of the time Kendricks covered a fourth string tight end. Hopefully the game will slow down for him so the young linebacker won’t overreact to what the offense is doing, but instead impose his will on them. Since the Eagles do not have any linebackers in the wings as talented as Kendricks, he will continue to be a centerpiece of their defense. This is enough to make him a strong LB3 to weak LB2. I would be looking to hold him where I had him, but I would not over-pay to acquire him.

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