Capitals

RB Bryce Brown off to incredible start for Eagles

RB Bryce Brown off to incredible start for Eagles

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Bryce Brown watched 228 players get selected in the 2012 NFL draft before the Philadelphia Eagles took a chance on him in the seventh round.

There are 31 other teams wishing they chose Brown much earlier.

The rookie running back has been outstanding in his first two starts filling in for injured All-Pro LeSean McCoy. Brown has 347 yards rushing - the second-highest two-game total in team history - and four touchdowns.

``I was high on him when I first put the film on with the few plays that he had while in college,'' Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said Thursday. ``With natural ability, he's a big, strong man that has speed. You put that natural ability and natural feel and instincts to it, and you generally have a good player there.

``He has done well in the pass protection, and the pass protections are the most concerning thing with those young rookies playing. He has done a very good job playing that way as well.''

Brown had 178 yards and two scores in a loss to Carolina on Nov. 26 in his first start since his senior year in high school in 2008. He followed that up with 169 yards and two more TDs against Dallas. Both games were on national television, so Brown really showcased his skills to a wide audience.

To put those numbers in perspective, Brown already has more 160-yard rushing games than Bo Jackson had in his career. Former Eagles greats Brian Westbrook and Duce Staley had one. Wilbert Montgomery had two. McCoy also has one so far.

But Brown hasn't been flawless by any stretch. He's lost three fumbles in the two games, helping run the Eagles' losing streak to eight.

``We're doing a lot of stuff at practice, scout guys are going after it a lot more, trying to game-simulate it because we don't really do contact,'' Brown said. ``It's making me work a lot harder, too.''

McCoy, who has been sidelined by a concussion, wasn't a fumbler his first three seasons. He lost just two fumbles before losing one in each of the first two games this season. Brown received some advice from McCoy about ball-security this week.

``He told me, `Don't change a thing, keep playing with confidence and don't pay attention to what everybody else is saying. Play your game and keep doing what you're doing,''' Brown said. ``Protecting the ball and things like that, that'll come.''

When McCoy returns, the Eagles will have a welcome problem. Two high-quality running backs are no longer a luxury given injuries. It's uncertain whether McCoy will be back this season since the Eagles are playing out the string and he hasn't passed the required concussion tests yet.

``There is a lot of exciting things, and certainly for the future it's one of them,'' Mornhinweg said of two elite-level backs. ``Our focus right now is this next game. The past is important to learn from and the future is important for playing in, and that's an exciting thing no question about it. Our focus right here and right now is on Tampa and the players that we have on the field.''

The Eagles (3-9) visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-6) on Sunday, hoping to get their first win since Sept. 20. The Bucs present a challenge for Brown. They have the top rushing defense in the NFL, allowing 82.3 yards per game.

``I think it's a great challenge for us as a unit offensively and we're excited for it,'' Brown said.

Brown was the nation's highest-ranked running back coming out of Wichita East High School four years ago. He chose Tennessee and had an impressive freshman year backing up Montario Hardesty. Brown rushed for 104 yards in his first game with the Volunteers and finished with 460 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 101 carries.

When coach Lane Kiffin left for USC after that year, Brown transferred to Kansas State. He sat out 2010, and carried the ball only three more times in college. Brown suffered an ankle injury early in the season and played in just one game before leaving the program.

Scouts recognized Brown's potential, but had little film on him and perhaps questioned his desire to play. For the Eagles, Brown was worth the final pick. General manager Howie Roseman had scouted Brown and coach Andy Reid talked to his former coaches. Then running backs coach Ted Williams gave the green light after working him out.

``I had a chance to talk to Lane Kiffin who coached him and he was positive about him,'' Reid said. ``A coach at Kansas State that I knew (said that) before he was injured, he was positive. Howie had done a ton of work on him, just background work, and then worked him out and so on and felt very comfortable. Ted Williams felt very comfortable with him; a big kid who can run fast and had good feet. Once I had a chance to meet him and Howie and Ted had a chance to meet him, you understand that he was a smart kid. Those were the things.''

Eighteen other running backs were drafted ahead of Brown. Only three - Tampa Bay's Doug Martin (1,106), Washington's Alfred Morris (1,106) and Cleveland's Trent Richardson (827) have more yards rushing than Brown (488). Each has three times the number of carries that Brown has.

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NOTES: DT Mike Patterson (illness) joined S Kurt Coleman (chest) on the sideline for practice. DT Fletcher Cox (tailbone) returned to the field. ... McCoy and QB Michael Vick (concussion) are again expected to sit out the game.

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Caps' rookie defensemen make rookie mistakes against Panthers

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USA TODAY Sports

Caps' rookie defensemen make rookie mistakes against Panthers

Rookie players make rookie mistakes. It happens. When it does, you hope it doesn’t cost the team too much, you learn from it and then you move on.

When you have two rookie defensemen in your lineup, however, those rookie mistakes can turn very, very costly. That was evident in Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Florida Panthers.

Less than two minutes into the game, Christian Djoos chased after a puck behind his own net while under pressure from two Florida forecheckers. He attempted a backhanded pass that hit off the back of the net and was collected by Jarred McCann who set up Connor Brickley for the easy goal.

“Not the best start, obviously,” Djoos said after the game. “Not a good play.”

RELATED: THE CAPS ARE TAKING TOO MANY PENALTIES AND THEY KNOW IT

It looks like Djoos tried to chip the puck past the forecheckers into the middle, probably to Lars Eller who was trailing the play. That puck needs to be along the boards. When you try to clear up the middle while under pressure, you risk giving up the puck in a very dangerous area of the ice which is exactly what happened.

With two players on his tail, Djoos should have fired that puck along the boards, preferably with his forehand which is much stronger than the backhand. He may not have had enough time to go to the forehand given the pressure, but that puck still needs to go along the boards with as much power behind it as possible. If it’s a turnover, fine, at least it is in the corner or along the perimeter rather than directly behind the net. If it’s icing, fine. Icing is better than a goal.

But Djoos wasn’t the only player guilty of having a rookie moment. Madison Bowey's inexperience was on display late in the first period as he tried to defend Florida forward Vincent Trochek.

Trocheck skated the puck into the Caps’ defensive zone. Bowey forced him to the outside which is the right way to play it, but he couldn’t rub him out along the boards. Instead, Trocheck was able to shake Bowey off and turn the corner on him to get in alone on Philipp Grubauer prompting the desperation hook from Bowey.

When Bowey is able to force him to the boards, he needs to finish off Trocheck and snuff out the rush.

Florida would score on the resulting power play to take a 2-0 lead at the end of the first, a deficit the Capitals were not able to overcome.

The good news is that both Djoos and Bowery are going to continue to get better with every passing game. They are both young players at 23 and 22 respectively and mistakes are expected for players in their first NHL season. They will develop and improve which we already saw through Saturday's game.

Djoos scored the Capitals’ lone goal on the night and Bowey played strong defensively the rest of the way. The coaches seemed to reward their play as well with more minutes. Djoos played 3:02 in the first, 3:16 in the second and 6:06 in the third while Bowey played 4:04, 6:09 and 6:18.

“The young guys have been fine,” Barry Trotz told reporters. “They're going to make mistakes. They make the same mistakes some of the older guys are making.”

MORE CAPITALS: ONE PLAYER STOOD OUT FOR THE CAPS IN SATURDAY'S LOSS

The question is do the Caps have enough time to wait for them to continue to develop this season or do they need to improve the defense now?

There’s no question having two rookies in the team's top six is not an ideal scenario. It is hard for the coaches to shelter them as they normally would like. It is also having a strain on the other veteran defensemen who are taking on a heavier workload as a result. The 37-year-old veteran Brooks Orpik played 16:56 through two periods and John Carlson finished the game with a season-high 29:48 on Saturday.

You can’t win a Stanley Cup in October and November, but you can lose it if you get buried too far in the standings. The Caps are 4-4-1 through nine games and have six games between now and when Matt Niskanen is eligible to return from LTIR, assuming he is ready at that point.

Can the defense as it’s currently constructed keep the Caps afloat until Niskanen’s return? Is it good enough with Niskanen in the lineup? Those are questions Trotz and general manager Brian MacLellan are going to have to answer quickly.

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Need to Know: Five Redskins under pressure vs. the Eagles

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Need to Know: Five Redskins under pressure vs. the Eagles

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, October 22, one day before the Washington Redskins visit the Philadelphia Eagles for Monday night football.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Travel to Philadelphia, no media availability

Days until:

—Cowboys @ Redskins (10/29) 7
—Redskins @ Seahawks (11/5) 14
—Giants @ Redskins Thanksgiving (11/23) 32

Final report on injures of note:
Out
: CB Josh Norman (rib)
Questionable: OT Trent Williams (knee), CB Bashaud Breeland (knee), S Deshazor Everett (hamstring), RB Rob Kelley (ankle),

FULL INJURY REPORT AND ANALYSIS

Five Redskins who are under pressure vs. the Eagles

Every NFL player is under pressure and the stress increased in games that are in the prime-time spotlight like the Redskins have on Monday night. But the spotlight is brighter on some players than it is on others.

—With a banged up defense, the Redskins are going to have to put up some points to win this game. That means that QB Kirk Cousins is going to have to help the Redskins get some points on the board. In the opener against the Eagles he threw a key interception, posted a season-low 72.9 passer rating, and got sacked four times. He has been playing better since then and he may need his best game of the year for the Redskins to pull out the win.

—DT Fletcher Cox is an All-Pro caliber defender and the battle between him and G Brandon Scherff will be important. But the Eagles other defensive tackle, Timmy Jernigan, is also a handful and it will largely be up to G Shawn Lauvao to keep him under control. Jernigan isn’t a great pass rusher (1.5 sacks, 10 pressures) but he tough against the run. The Redskins needs to establish a running game to win and Lauvao vs. Jernigan will be a key battle to get the ground game going.

—There still is plenty of time for WR Terrelle Pryor to have a breakout game and turn around his disappointing season. Monday would be an ideal time to start. He has 16 receptions on the season and with the exception of a couple of plays, his impact has been minimal. When the line gives Cousins time to throw the ball he will need a big target and Pryor is the ideal candidate.

—With Jonathan Allen on injured reserve, it will be up to DE Matt Ioannidis to continue to get pass pressure up the middle. Playing with Allen, the second-year player has 3.5 sacks and 16 pressures. He will need to keep that up in Allen’s absence. On Monday, Ioannidis and the rest of the pass rushers need to get Carson Wentz on the ground when they have the opportunity.

—As much as the Redskins would like to see Wentz take a bunch of sacks, chances are he will get away from the pressure on occasion and scramble to make a play. At times like that, S D.J. Swearinger and the rest of the defensive backs need to stay in coverage and not lose their men. It’s hard to cover a receiver for five seconds or more while the quarterback scrambles around but Swearinger needs to maintain his position as the last line of defense.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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To update this tweet from the beginning of practice, Williams did practice on a limited basis and he is questionable for the game, although it is likely that he will play.

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