NOBODY ANTICIPATED this, certainly not Reggie Brown, not 4 years into his NFL career.
The Eagles wide receiver had such a great start. As a rookie in 2005, he had 43 catches for 571 yards with four touchdowns. His 12 catches for 20 or more yards made it look as if the Birds had stolen a big-play receiver in the second round of the draft.
After his second season, when he had 46 catches for 816 yards with eight touchdowns, management was confident that the 6-1 receiver out of the University of Georgia was just scratching the surface of his potential. He was signed to a long-term deal.
But things began to change in 2007.
Brown had a career-high 61 catches, but his total yards dropped 780 and his yards-
per-catch went from 17.7 to 12.8. He only had four touchdowns.
And just like that, questions started to be asked and doubts surfaced.
At this time a year ago, Brown was being asked about the pressure to rebound during the 2008 season and make the statement that he could be a No. 1 receiver.
"Not really," Brown said at the conclusion of the Eagles' organized team activities last year. "I don't come into this season with any pressure, no chip on my shoulder. I'm totally relaxed and ready to have fun with the game."
How quickly things have changed.
Today, as the Eagles conclude their 2009 OTA in preparation for training camp, Brown is not relaxed.
There is a career's worth of pressure on him. It's unlikely that he's having much fun.
A disastrous 2008 season has left Brown in limbo as the Eagles prepare for '09.
"Well, I'm not starting this year, so that's something that's different," Brown said. "But I feel good. I feel healthy. I feel sharp right now.
"I'm just going to continue to keep working on things I need to and come into training camp even better."
This is not how it was supposed to be.
Brown's Eagle career was supposed to be ascending, not potentially flaming his way out of Philadelphia.
There will be no job security for Brown when the Eagles open training camp in August.
If he is still an Eagle then, he'll report to Lehigh University uncertain of where he stands, not sure if he'll even have a legitimate shot to make the roster.
"I really can't say for sure right now," Brown said. "It's minicamp, and how things were last year are pretty much how they are going to be in minicamps.
"During training camp, I have a better idea of whether or not I'm going to have an opportunity to climb the ladder."
The fall to the bottom rung started when Brown missed the first two games last season with a groin injury.
Rookie DeSean Jackson, who moved into the starting rotation when veteran Kevin Curtis was hurt, started fast and never slowed. He had a spectacular rookie season, grabbing 62 catches for 912 yards.
The buzz that once belonged to Brown shifted to Jackson.
Brown fell out of favor as the season progressed. He was even deactivated for three games late in the season.
He finished the season with career lows of 18 catches, 252 yards and one touchdown. He had only had two catches in the Birds' three playoff games.
He was officially an afterthought.
His unsettled status was reaffirmed in the 2009 draft when Eagles moved up to select University of Missouri receiver Jeremy Maclin with the 19th overall pick.
Maclin has been impressive in minicamp and OTA and, like Jackson, is expected to be an impact player as a rookie.
He will be given as many opportunities as his talent and progress warrant. That might come at Brown's expense.
The unofficial depth chart has Jackson and Curtis as the first-team receivers with Brown and Jason Avant as second team.
That's just for now.
Barring injury, Jackson, Curtis and Maclin will be in the rotation.
That leaves Brown in a battle with Avant and Hank Baskett - who both had more receiving yards than him last season - for the other remaining receiving slots.
To be blunt, if Avant and Baskett can offer the same things that Brown does, they'll be doing it at a considerably cheaper price.
Unless Brown clearly distinguishes himself, there might not be a place for him and his contract on this roster.
"It's a surprise," Brown said of his uneasy status with the Birds. "But you have to deal with those things.
"Everything is not always going to be as smooth as you want it to be. There's always going to be that adversity that comes along, and you are going to have to get over it to get to where you want to be.
"Hopefully, I'll have a good training camp and I can get back to a starting position. Maybe not, but at least having an opportunity to go out there and play." *
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