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Time to take the shrink wrap off Sydney Brown


Photo Credit by John McMullen/JAKIB Sports

BALTIMORE – The Eagles have been slow-playing things with rookie safety Sydney Brown in the early portion of training camp and through a 20-19 preseason-opening loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night.

Brown, one of the Eagles’ two third-round picks in the 2023 draft, matched undrafted rookies Ben VanSumeren and Mekhi Garner for the most playing time on defense against the Ravens with 41 snaps, the common denominator being that all three players played the third-teamers meaning extended looks.

And that’s fine for VanSumeren, a very athletic but raw linebacker, and Garner, a big, physical presence at cornerback, as players likely earmarked for the practice squad as developmental options with upside. Brown, however, was supposed to compete to be a potential starter at a position of need in Week 1.

The situation on the back end has somewhat solidified in that Reed Blankenship has locked down one of the spots while Terrell Edmunds and K’Von Wallace have both been getting significant reps opposite the second-year Middle Tennessee State product in practice. Meanwhile, all three are on the field in defensive coordinator Sean Desai’s big-nickel looks.

With Blankenship sitting as a deference player against the Ravens, Edmunds and Wallace started with Justin Evans mixing in first before Brown finally got his chance, opposite Tristin McCollum and Josiah Scott for the most part.

That’s got to change moving forward and perhaps Jim Schwartz returning as the Cleveland Browns’ defensive coordinator this week for joint practices will jog the organization’s memory.

Schwartz, the former Eagles’ DC during the Doug Pederson era, coined the term “start-up costs” with young players, and everyone from Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith on down will need to acclimate to the NFL level to some degree.

In the case of Brown, what stands out is his burst and speed to the football, something that needs to be harnessed but is also eye-opening when measured against his peers in the Eagles’ safety room.

Brown was a tackling machine against the Ravens, consistently flashing his ability to close significant distances in rapid fashion, and finished with a team-high nine stops.

“I play really fast,” Brown after the game.

He’s also very physical.

“I like to take my shot. It’s kind of hard to show that in practice but making that tackle and wrapping up on contact is important,” Brown said. “I’m working with the coaches, {secondary coach) D.K. (McDonald) and Taver Johnson to dial in my technique.”

The pads are what opened the Eagles’ eyes to Blankenship last season and perhaps the same thing happens with Brown now that the coaches have gotten to see him in a live environment.

The upside is just too significant to ignore and when you look at the Eagles’ schedule on paper, the softer part of it is early so perhaps getting the start-up cost hiccups out of the way immediately is the proper move from a strategy standpoint as well.

When it comes to Brown his burst is a catch-22 for the coaches, who would like a little bit of a damper put in the rookie’s million-miles-an-hour approach.

“I’m trying to process things mentally as fast as I can,” Brown said. “If you think a minute before you play and miss that minute, you’re going to miss that opportunity. I try to pull the trigger on the gun and leave no regret and just move on to the next play.

“If something doesn’t go my way, I just move on to the next play and the next time.”

Getting a better feel for when and where to strike is the final exam between Brown settling in on the back end with Blankenship and it’s coming along more slowly than expected because Edmunds, Wallace, and even Evans have been solid if unspectacular.

“There are a lot of guys who have played a lot of good football. I’m still unproven,” Brown admitted. “I haven’t done anything, yet. I have to prove myself in these preseason games and take it week by week.”

The next step is the Browns and perhaps Brown did enough in Baltimore to earn more second-team reps and even the occasional look with the starters.

“We have Cleveland this week for practice then we play then. … Reed (Blankenship) is playing great, K’Von (Wallace) is playing great, Terrell (Edmunds) is playing great, Justin (Evans) is playing great, so I have to be part of that standard and keep chopping at it,” Brown assessed.

“My mindset going into this is if I’m better by the end of camp then that’s where I need to be, so just being the best version of myself every single day. It’s about enjoying the grind. You have to enjoy this.”

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