Bryce Brown had barely reached the end zone on his 65-yard second-quarter touchdown run Monday night when the first of several emails from the Eagles' legion of armchair general managers arrived in my inbox.
"Hey," the guy wanted to know, "how much do you think we could get for LeSean McCoy in an offseason trade?"
The Eagles won't trade McCoy, for a couple of reasons. For starters, they would take a $6.8 million cap hit next season because the remaining 4 years of his pro-rated signing bonus would be accelerated into next year. More important, though, he's one of the best running backs in the NFL, and he and Brown have the potential to be a helluva one-two punch for whoever ends up being the next Eagles coach.
Yes, they need to find themselves a quarterback, whether it's Nick Foles or someone who's not currently on the NovaCare premises. But if they end up bringing in a coach who is a little more amenable to running the ball than Andy Reid's been, McCoy and Brown will be two very valuable assets and will make the road back to respectability much easier.
"If you have a two-back system, I think you want two backs that are different, like they are," said center Jason Kelce, who is on injured reserve after tearing his ACL in Week 2.
"It makes it more difficult for defenses to key on them when you've got two guys with different styles. Shady's more like a Barry Sanders. He's going to make things happen that aren't supposed to happen on a play. He's going to make guys miss.
"Whereas Bryce, as soon as that hole opens, he's in there. He's powerful. Having those two different contrasts makes a different dynamic for a defense to prepare for. So I think they complement each other very well."
Last year, behind a healthy offensive line, McCoy rushed for 1,309 yards, scored a league-high 17 rushing touchdowns, including nine of 2 yards or less, and was a first-team All-Pro selection.
Last week, running behind the Eagles' current patchwork line, Brown caused jaws to drops with his 178-yard, two-touchdown performance.
Next year, the Eagles will get All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters (Achilles') back. They will get Kelce back. And they will get right tackle Todd Herremans (broken foot) back. Put them in front of McCoy and Brown, and suddenly, this offense looks a lot more imposing.
Brown's performance against the Panthers was no fluke. The kid is for real. He brings a blend of size (6-foot and 225) and speed (ran a 4.37 40 at his Pro Day) that you seldom see in the league.
Think Bo Jackson. Think Herschel Walker. Yes, he needs to learn how to protect the football (he fumbled twice). But he can play.
Imagine him and McCoy averaging about 30 to 35 carries a game. After 14 years of Reid's pass-happy ways, wouldn't they be a refreshing change?
In the Eagles' defense, they were smart enough to take a flier on Brown in the seventh round of the draft, even though he had only 104 college rushing attempts. And they were smart enough to start getting the rookie some playing time early in the season.
"You saw how we tried to play that thing early [in the season]," offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. "Bryce didn't have quite the success numbers-wise. But we always had great confidence in him because the few opportunities he got, we just didn't block it very well for him. Then [he and] the quarterback [Michael Vick] put the ball on the ground in the red zone against Baltimore [in Week 2].
"It's a classic example of a young man getting an opportunity and making the most of it."
McCoy has fumbled four times this season after putting the ball on the ground only four times in his first 3 years in the league.
Brown had 19 carries against Carolina and fumbled twice, losing both of them. The first one, at the Carolina 32, killed a potential scoring drive. The second one, at the Philadelphia 45, kick-started a Panthers' scoring drive.
"You anticipate it with a young runner or receiver or anybody who may have their hands on the football," Mornhinweg said of dealing with the fumbles. "You anticipate it. You discuss it, you drill it, you discuss it more and then you drill it more. There is no substitute for games, however. It's just different that way. Most backs learn the hard way. He's learned and we're moving on. I suspect that he'll do a good job taking care of the ball."
Because of his size, Brown isn't easy to bring down. That's good and bad. It's good, because he's able to gain more yards. It's bad, because defenders get more shots at knocking the ball loose.
"Bryce does not go down easy," Mornhinweg said. "Much of it is an attitude. He's a very physical, hard runner. It's a little bit more risk with the ball, which is why he has to understand that and take care of that thing when he's grinding it for extra yards."
Figuring the Eagles
Sixty-three of the Eagles' 129 offensive possessions this season have started at their 20 or worse. They've begun only seven drives on the other side of the 50, only two in the last nine games.
Bryce Brown's first seven runs against Carolina went for first downs. He finished with 10 rushing first downs. That's two more than LeSean McCoy had in any game this season (eight vs. Browns in Week 1).
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg called Nick Foles an excellent deep thrower this week. We'll have to take his word for it. Foles' longest pass against the Panthers Monday night was the 51-yard incompletion to Jeremy Maclin that drew a pass-interference call on Haruki Nakamura. His longest unpenalized attempt traveled 17 yards. Only seven of his 21 passes covered more than 9 yards in the air.
Last year, the Eagles notched 16 fourth-quarter sacks. Through 11 games this year, they have four.
Opposing quarterbacks have a 101.7 third-down passer rating against the Eagles this season. Most of the third-down damage has come in the last five games, since Todd Bowles replaced Juan Castillo as defensive coordinator. In those five games, opponents have a 146.8 third-down passer rating. A game-by-game breakdown of the Eagles' third down pass defense this season:
FIRST SIX GAMES (3-3)
CLE (W): 3-for-12, 23 yds., 0 TD, 1 INT
BAL (W): 7-for13, 85 yds., 1 TD, 1 INT
ARZ (L): 7-for-7, 78 yds., 1 TD, 0 INT
NYG (W): 4-for-9, 43 yds., 1 TD, 0 INT
PIT (L): 7-for-12, 70 yds. 0 TD, 0 INT
DET (L): 4-for-11, 22 yds., 1 TD, 0 INT
First six: 32-for-64, 321 yds. 4 TD, 2 INT
LAST FIVE GAMES (0-5)
ATL (L): 8-for-9, 78 yds., 1 TD, 0 INT
NO (L): 4-for-6, 91 yds. 0 TD, 0 INT
DAL (L): 7-for-10, 83 yds., 1 TD, 0 INT
WAS (L): 4-for-4, 93 yds. 2 TD, 0 INT
CAR (L): 4-for-8, 48 yds., 1 TD, 0 INT
Last five: 27-for-37, 394 yds., 5 TD, 0 INT
Unless he chooses to sit out a year, Andy Reid shouldn't have much trouble finding another head-coaching job in the league next year. But Howard Mudd won't be going with him. Mudd, 70, who was coaxed out of retirement by Reid 2 years ago to coach the Eagles' offensive line after Reid made the controversial decision to promote Juan Castillo to defensive coordinator, plans to retire after the season, this time for good. "I gotta go be a grandpa," Mudd said. Mudd and his wife, Shirley, have three children - Ami, Adam and Darren - and four grandchildren - Nick, Luke, Max and Isabella. "I told my wife last night, I really like coaching. But it's time," he said.
The NFL sent out a release earlier in the week hailing the boffo ratings it got for last week's nationally televised games, including the three Thanksgiving Day tilts and the Sunday night game between the Giants and Packers. Curiously, there was no mention of the Eagles-Panthers game. Maybe because it had fewer viewers than the Animal Planet's "Pit Bulls and Parolees."
Jason Babin won't have to worry about dealing with the media's bad breath and poor fashion choices down in Jacksonville. Only a handful of people cover the team. Hey, Jas, if a defensive end gets a sack in the woods, does anybody hear or see it?
If I were the Eagles and somebody offered me a second-round pick for DeSean Jackson during the offseason, which probably won't happen, I'd do the deal in a heartbeat, even though I'd have to take an $8 million cap hit. And enough with the "he opens things up for everybody else" argument. The guy has only five 100-yard receiving performances in his last 34 starts, and seven touchdown catches in his last 33 starts. Get rid of him and bring in a grown-up wide receiver like, say, Dwayne Bowe. Of course, in Bowe's case, I mean physically grown up, not necessarily emotionally.
Tweeting With Big Red
The worst part of getting fired is I'm not going to be around for the Taylor Swift concert at the Linc in July.
The way my luck's going, that jackass d-end we released probably will get 3 sacks Sunday.
LaMonte said 6 teams already have sent out feelers. Told him to disregard the five from high schools.
How 'bout that Rich Kotite. Sent me a box of Cubans for losing my seventh straight game.
FROM THE LIP:
"We have that relationship, that me-to-you, you-to-me relationship. We have that trust. That's why he is able to, in a fourth-and-29 situation, throw me a check-down. Because he trusts me. Just to see where he is right now, I want to play with the guy for a long time. I know it's a contract year, so I hope everything gets worked out and I can play with Joe Flacco for a long time." - Ravens RB Ray Rice
"I can't stop in midair like magic. The NFL, they need some goggles." - Seahawks S Earl Thomas, who was penalized for roughing the passer last week after landing on Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill following a leap to deflect a pass
"I would dare you to find somebody that does [use one] these days. I think those are kind of one-in-a-million shots." - Lions QB Matthew Stafford on use of protective cups in NFL
"Everyone's aware of that. You'd have to be living in a closet not to know that that's part of this business. The coaches have been in it, I've been in it, players have been in it. So you're aware of it. It's not something that you have to talk about." - Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt on his job security
"I don't think he's a dirty player. I'd love to have him on my team. I like the way he plays aggressive, hard, fast and physical." - Colts coach Bruce Arians on Lions DT Ndamukong Suh
BY THE NUMBERS:
The Patriots' three losses have been by a combined four points. In their eight wins, they have outscored opponents by 167 points.
The Chiefs have scored three offensive touchdowns in the last 28 quarters.
The Patriots have won 11 consecutive games in December. With a win Sunday against the Dolphins, they would become only the fourth team in league history to win 12 straight regular-season games in December. The Chargers hold the record with 18 straight December wins (2006-09).
49ers LB Aldon Smith, who has a league-high 16 1/2 sacks, became the fastest player to reach 30 career sacks last week, doing it in his 27th game. He currently has 30 1/2 sacks and needs only one more sack to pass ex-Eagle Reggie White for the most sacks by a player in his first two seasons. Sacks didn't become an official statistic until 1982.
David Akers is struggling this season. He has converted only 19 of 27 field goal attempts. He's 7-for-14 from 40-plus yards and has missed multiple FG attempts in a game three times.
Since the current playoff format was instituted in 1990, 15 teams have qualified for the postseason despite having a losing record after 11 games. Three have bounced back from 4-7 starts to make it. Alas, no one ever has made a leap from 3-8 to the playoffs.
That's sayin' thumbthing
THUMBS UP: To 49ers quarterback Alex Smith for the classy way he has handled his benching. Smith was having the best season of his career when coach Jim Harbaugh replaced him with second-year man Colin Kaepernick. Was fifth in the league in passing and first in completion percentage. Completed 18 of 19 passes in his last full start before suffering a concussion that set his benching in motion. "It sucks," he said. "I don't know what else to say. It's such a great team, a great group of guys in the locker room, and something special is going on here. It's a tough pill to swallow."
THUMBS DOWN: To former NFL linebacker Bill Romanowski for suggesting that Smith should have hid his concussion from the team if he didn't want to get replaced Kaepernick. This comes from a man who already has acknowledged that he has suffered brain damage from playing with concussions. "If Alex Smith would've played through the ding, the concussion, like a lot of guys still do . . . ," the ex-Eagle said. "Careful in the NFL means losing your job. And that's what this did for him." Careful also means still being able to speak in complete sentences when you're 50. What a dope.
1. Texans 10-1 (1 last week)
2. Ravens 9-2 (2)
3. Falcons 11-1 (3)
4. 49ers 8-2-1 (4)
5. Patriots 8-3 (5)
6. Broncos 8-3 (7)
7. Bears 8-3 (9)
8. Giants 7-4 (11)
9. Packers 7-4 (6)
10. Bucs 6-5 (8)
11. Bengals 6-5 (15)
12. Steelers 6-5 (10)
13. Colts 7-4 (16)
14. Redskins 5-6 (17)
15. Seahawks 6-5 (12)
16. Saints 5-6 (14)
17. Vikings 6-5 (13)
18. Dolphins 5-6 (22)
19. Cowboys 5-6 (18)
20. Chargers 4-7 (19)
21. Rams 4-6-1 (24)
22. Bills 4-7 (21)
23. Cardinals 4-7 (20)
24. Lions 4-7 (23)
25. Browns 3-8 (28)
26. Panthers 3-8 (29)
27. Eagles 3-8 (26)
28. Jets 4-7 (27)
29. Titans 4-7 (25)
30. Jaguars 2-9 (31)
31. Raiders 3-8 (30)
32. Chiefs 1-10 (32)