Eagles

Another year, another chance for long-shot Eagles linebacker Asantay Brown

Another year, another chance for long-shot Eagles linebacker Asantay Brown

He’s been signed.

He’s been cut.

He’s been signed and cut again. And again. And again.

Asantay Brown is back with the Eagles for the fifth time in 15 months, and while we spend most of our time talking about big-money free agents, high draft picks and players with long-term contracts, the NFL is full of guys like Brown.

Guys who work their butt off just for a chance. And when that chance fizzles out, they work their butt off for another one.

The Eagles signed Brown on Sunday, one day after they lost linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill indefinitely with a knee injury.

He began the weekend on his couch in Muskegon, Michigan, and by Monday morning he was out on the practice field at the NovaCare Complex.

This is what life’s like for those on the NFL fringe, the guys who don’t have guaranteed contracts and are fighting for their career every day.

It’s like a roller-coaster,” Brown said after practice Monday. “It’s tough. You just don’t know what’s going to happen, but you always have to stay prepared and be ready. You can’t let yourself fall behind or fall short or anything, because you never know. You could get called in, you could get let go, brought back, it doesn’t matter. And don’t let the circumstances affect your behavior, so you have to find a way to get through it, fight through it, push through it and continue to move forward and just be thankful and grateful for another opportunity. That’s how you’ve got to look at it. You can’t look at it like, ‘I got released, I don’t know what to do.’ Moreso as, ‘Hey, I got to work even harder, I’ve got to grind even harder. Maybe I didn’t do something before that I can do a lot better now.’

Brown played college football at Western Michigan, where he started out as a wide receiver and finished as a three-time all-conference linebacker on a team that went to the Cotton Bowl, losing to Corey Clement’s Wisconsin Badgers.

He went undrafted before signing with the Eagles soon after the draft, and he spent a good portion of last year on the practice squad.

Here’s a look at his career transactions:

May 11, 2018 - Signed by Eagles as undrafted rookie
Sept. 1, 2018 - Released by Eagles
Sept. 2, 2018 - Signed to Eagles practice squad
Sept. 4, 2018 - Released from Eagles practice squad
Sept. 19, 2018 - Signed to Eagles practice squad
Jan. 14, 2019 - Signed by Eagles to reserve/futures contract
May 1, 2019 - Released by Eagles
Aug. 4, 2019 - Signed by Eagles

While his teammates from 2018 were going through OTAs and starting training camp, Brown was back home in Michigan.

Working out and waiting for the phone to ring.

It’s tough, you know?” he said. “Because I was here last year so I kind of know everybody and not being able to go to camp with the guys — or not going to camp at all — it’s tough. It’s like, ‘Man, I wish I would have done this a little bit better, I wish I would have done that a little bit better,’ but you can’t think like that. You’ve got to stay positive. ‘I’m going to keep working out, I’m going to stay in shape, I’m going to get a call, I’m going to get a call,’ and just wait for the opportunity to come, and when it comes just take full advantage of it.

There are a lot of paths to the NFL and a spot on the 53-man roster and the big money that comes with it.

Brown is trying to take an improbable path, but the fact that the Eagles keep bringing him back is encouraging.

The fact that they keep getting rid of him? He just tries to stay positive.

Which isn’t always easy when you keep getting that call to turn in your playbook.

“Every opportunity that you get you have to take full advantage of,” he said. “You can’t let yourself die down from it, you can’t be negative about it, you just have to stay positive, continue to grind, continue to be coachable and learn from your mistakes and minimize them so you have the best opportunity you can have.”

The Eagles have been decimated at linebacker this summer, with Paul Worrilow sidelined indefinitely with lingering knee issues, Nigel Bradham still not practicing after offseason foot surgery and now Grugier-Hill out into the regular season.

“I’m just thankful to be here and blessed with another opportunity,” Brown said.

So keep an eye on No. 50 in the preseason games. If there’s a linebacker out there playing like his career depends on it, you’ll understand why.



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How the NFL’s perception of Carson Wentz has changed

How the NFL’s perception of Carson Wentz has changed

Two years ago, Carson Wentz came in at No. 3 on NFL Network’s list of the top 100 players in the league.

All he’s done since then is throw 48 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, complete 66 percent of his passes and fashion a 96.7 passer rating.

And drop out of the top 100.

It’s stupid, of course. We all understand Wentz should be in the top 100. He’s a really good player. But instead of complaining about it, let’s consider what it means.

Because it didn’t just happen. Nobody was out to get Carson. His fall out of the top-100 may be ridiculous, but it happened for a very real reason and represents a very real national perspective.

When he got hurt in L.A. late in the 2017 season, Wentz was 24 years old and the best young quarterback in football. Pat Mahomes and Deshaun Watson were rookies and Lamar Jackson was still at Louisville. 

Now Wentz is 27 and going into Year 5, and he’s just as talented as ever. His numbers considering his lack of receivers are crazy. That 96.7 passer rating throwing to Nelly, Mack Hollins and Alshon is 9th-highest in the NFL over the last two years. Yet he’s dropped from No. 3 entirely off the list.

It's all about perception.

Carson is no longer seen as this hot young quarterback taking the league by storm. He’s now perceived as injury prone and incapable of carrying a football team from opening day through a deep playoff run.

It’s amazing how perception can change so quickly, but that’s what happens. This year’s Next Biggest Thing is next year’s Washed-Up Has-Been.

The reality for Wentz is somewhere in between. When he’s been healthy, he’s been really good. But he’s going into Year 5 and the sum total of his postseason career is a 3-yard completion to Boston Scott.

So it’s really hard to fairly rank Wentz because he’s 27 and hasn’t won a playoff game. Hasn’t even finished one.

And this is a fickle business. 

Kyler Murray had a nice rookie year and I think he’s going to be really good, but he has no business being ranked ahead of Wentz. Josh Allen did some exciting things last year, but he has no business being ranked ahead of Wentz.

But people look at those guys now the same way they looked at Wentz two years ago. Young, exciting, improving, full of potential. Part of a new wave of NFL quarterbacks.

And when you look at the big picture, there’s a sense that young QBs are leaving Wentz by the wayside.

Mahomes and Watson are three years younger than Wentz. Jackson is four years younger. 

They’re now the hot young QBs. Now they're the future.  

That’s just natural.  Maybe it’s not fair that while you’re out there throwing 48 TDs and 14 INTs your reputation takes a hit, but that’s life.

I liked Carson’s answer when I asked him last week about not being in the top 100

“You can always use anything and everything as just a little bit of extra motivation,” he said. “I'm not going to let that cause me to lose any sleep or anything, but I do look forward to going out this year and showing what I can do.”

I’m glad he’s pissed. Or as close to pissed as Carson gets. I want angry Carson. 

Because you can hang your head and feel bad about being snubbed by somebody’s list or you can shrug it off and go do something about it and win some games and get to the playoffs and prove you really are one of the 100 best players in the league or maybe one of the 10 best.

In the end, only Carson truly controls how he's perceived. In the end, Carson's vote is the only one that counts. 

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Fletcher Cox spills details from Eagles D-line getaway at his ranch

Fletcher Cox spills details from Eagles D-line getaway at his ranch

Eagles defensive tackle Bruce Hector grew up in Tampa, Florida, and went to college at South Florida. Bruce Hector is 6-foot-2, 296 pounds. 

Bruce Hector had never ridden a horse. Of course he hadn’t. 

That changed in May when Fletcher Cox hosted most of his defensive line teammates at his ranch in Texas. 

Hector and Derek Barnett rode horses for the first time. The guy shot skeet — “everybody sucked at first until about 20 minutes into it,” Cox said — and Malik Jackson, whom Cox affectionately referred to as a “Cali Kid” got to spend some quality time with mosquitos and flies. 

It was one of those things, it was very important to me that I did that, to let those guys know ‘hey, I’m here for you, let’s all get together and get it done,’” Cox said. “Once the guys got there, we had everything laid out, food, places to stay. And guys enjoyed it.

In addition to all the activities Cox’s ranch has to offer, the Eagles’ defensive linemen also worked out together while trying to stay safe during COVID-19. 

Aside from the horses who had to support 300-pound linemen, the real MVPs of the getaway were Stephanie and Sue, two women who work on Cox’s ranch and were in charge of making sure everything was clean for the Eagles as they got together during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Eagles’ Pro Bowl defensive lineman said Stephanie and Sue “really stayed on top of it.” 

“I asked them, ‘hey when guys wake up go in their room, make sure you’re spraying everything down, make sure you’re washing the bedspread, making sure that everything is getting sprayed every day,’” Cox said. 

And they did. 

Aside from that, the only people working out on the fields were Cox and his teammates. In an offseason where the Eagles lost all of OTAs and minicamps, Cox felt like he had to step up and get the group together. Without those workouts, the Eagles’ defensive line wouldn’t have been together until training camp this month.  

“I knew I had the place to get all the guys down to my place in Texas,” Cox said. “I reached out to all the guys. I told the guys, ‘hey if you feel safe coming down, let’s all get together as a group, as a D-line unit and try to knock some things out.’ Let’s get a couple days where we can get some work in and just kind of hang out and be around each other.”

Cox, 29, has really grown into his role as a leader on the team, similarly to Carson Wentz, who got a group of receivers together this offseason in Houston. 

On Wednesday, Cox said the defensive line will need to lead the Eagles in 2020 and he’s probably right. That makes his role even more important. He’s the leader of the group that has to lead the team. 

Give him a lot of credit for getting his teammates together during a difficult and unusual offseason. Give that horse a ton of credit too. 

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