This is the dullest time in the pro football calendar, where the sailing ship of gridiron glory hits windless doldrums and ghosts, as sailors used to say. That’s a verb that means drifting aimlessly, becalmed except for the occasional wisp of a breeze (or a phony controversy manufactured by desperate sports writers). You might be tempted to call these the “dog days” of summer, but that’s a term better avoided if you’re a Philadelphia Eagles fan.
Even if you forget Michael Vick’s conviction for dog fighting, and many people have, a new controversy sprung up last week, when No.2 running back Bryce Brown’s female pit bull Eilis and her seven puppies were seized at a dog kennel in Wisconsin called “Northland Pits.” But while this story inevitably led to a sinking feeling of déjà vu among Eagles fans, it didn’t turn out the way you might expect.
Brown’s dogs were ordered released to him almost immediately, no evidence of anything nefarious by the young running back was ever presented, and Brown released a statement (well, a tweet) saying that “My dog was returned to me quickly because it was obvious that she is not and never has been involved with dog fighting. Northland Pits is a respectable breeder which has unfortunately been the target of anti-breeding groups and ‘animal rights,’ activists who know nothing about what he is doing there, and assume it is related to dog fighting due to the breed of the dogs.”
Emotions run hot on both sides of the pit bull issue, but I’ll tell you this: I have good friends, Quakers no less, who are absolutely nonviolent, not involved in dog fighting, and had two great pit bulls who were sweet, loyal and strong dogs that also incidentally helped secure their home in a tough neighborhood of West Philadelphia. So readers should keep in mind that this issue might be more complicated than they realize.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Brown and his wife sent their dog to this kennel to be bred, and after she produced a litter of puppies, sent them back for weaning, a complicated process that the running back did not know how to manage. They often walk their dog around their house in Philadelphia, and posted a pretty amazing video of the dog’s ability to jump. The couple’s Facebook is full of adoring pictures of this dog.
Brown is not a household name, but he’s a player with a fascinating story who might be a key to Chip Kelly’s fortunes in the NFL.
He’s a powerful running back of Thomas Tyner-like talent who was the consensus number one recruit as a high school senior in 2009 – over Matt Barkley among others — before skittering through one of the strangest college football careers in memory.
Evan Silva at Rotoworld does a great job sketching out this tale: a total of 13 games over three years, only three carries all year at Kansas State in 2011, not invited to the combine, but showing pro-level stats at the KSU pro day. The Eagles scooped him up in the seventh round and he got some starts last year when LeSean McCoy had a concussion. Despite four fumbles, he showed explosiveness with 178 yards against Carolina in Game 12.
Silva points to one weakness in Brown’s game – a tendency to try to bounce outside on runs, which is unlikely to work at NFL speed – as well has his fumbling.
Sheil Kapadia at Birds 24/7 agrees, but argues that but these are fixable with good coaching. Brown’s speed and power will remain. Also, like Marcus Mariota, his limited playing history gives him a strong upside in his pro career, where wear and tear is a potent force.
Much has been said about Kelly’s need to transform the running attack he used at Oregon into more of a passing approach to fit the NFL. With two great running backs – Brown and McCoy – who were drastically underutilized under Andy Reid, though, I expect Chip to at least explore how far the running game can take him with his invigorated front line and some new zone blocking schemes.
– Eagles rookie and former Oregon State star Jordan Poyer raised a lot of eyebrows when he told CSN Philly’s John Gonzalez, in a recent interview, that “I understand the game of football 100 times more than a lot of players do.”
Poyer may have been a touch defensive when he touted his work studying tape and analyzing the opposition. He did poorly at the combine, bench pressing the 225-pound stack only eight times and dashing 4.65 in the 40, and slipped from a projected fourth round draft pick to the last round, where his old nemesis, Kelly picked him up. Poyer acknowledged that “Obviously, everybody knows I’m not the fastest guy on the field. I don’t have that power and strength to jump that 42-inch [vertical leap] that you see from a lot of guys at the combine.”
Kelly loves him some videotape study, certainly, and as with many of his draft picks he honored this player who did well against the Ducks by selecting him. But I doubt he was happy to read about such crowing.
– Sheil Kapadia also writes that coach Kelly has sought the advice of Dick Vermeil on making the transition from college to the NFL. I’m betting that Kelly will get lots of advice on this transition, which is part of the answer to those who peg him as another Steve Spurrier doomed to crash on the rocks of the NFL’s talent and coaching smarts.
Clearly, he hired coordinators (Billy Davis and Pat Shurmur) with lots of NFL experience, and word is that he confers with his old buddy Bill O’Brien, now head coach at Penn State but formerly quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator with the Patriots. In fact, O’Brien interviewed for the job Kelly got as Eagles head coach, and was probably the person who got Kelly out to Attleboro to talk no-huddle with Bill Belichick last year.
Quote of the Week: “Obviously, everybody knows I’m not the fastest guy on the field. I don’t have that power and strength to jump that 42-inch [vertical leap] that you see from a lot of guys at the Combine.” – Jordan Poyer
Mark Saltveit’s book “The Tao of Chip Kelly” was the number two football book on Amazon.com last week. You can find out more about it at http://www.thetaoofchipkelly.com/