Jatavis Brown remembers that October 2017 game when the Eagles traveled to face the Los Angeles Chargers at the then-Stub Hub Center and Eagles fans took over the 25,000-seat venue.
By kickoff, it was basically a home game for the Eagles with about 70 percent of the stands green.
Brown, who joined the Eagles as a free agent this offseason, played 68 defensive snaps for the Chargers in their 26-24 loss that day. While Brown was diplomatic about his time with the Chargers — he said he loved every moment — he’s clearly looking forward to playing for Eagles fans after three years of playing in front of the smallest home crowds in the NFL.
“Actually, looking back on it and how they filled that stadium,” Brown said on a conference call Tuesday, “it is exciting for me.”
The real question is what kind of player are Eagles fans going to see?
Brown, 26, is coming off his four-year rookie contract with the Chargers. In those four years, he had some ups and downs but ended up playing in 56 games with 23 starts. But in 2019, his role was reduced to the point where he played just 94 defensive snaps. His ProFootballFocus grade has dropped in each of his four NFL seasons.
The former fifth-round pick showed promise early on but never really became a consistent starter.
Asked about his play style, Brown wants people to know he’s versatile. He also doesn’t think changing to a new scheme, even amid unusual circumstances, will be a problem for him.
“Just a playmaker, man,” Brown said when asked about what he’ll bring to the Eagles. “Somebody that’s going to go out and compete every day and give it my all. Find my role on this team and achieve that role the best way I can.”
The one important thing that Brown didn’t mention about himself is something you should know: He’s fast. Really fast.
Brown is an undersized linebacker even in an age of undersized linebackers — he’s listed at 5-11, 221 — but his speed makes up for it. There’s a reason the Eagles were interested in him before the 2016 draft when he was coming out of Akron.
While Brown ran a 4.44 at his pro day, that time would have been tops for all linebackers at the 2016 combine.
Back in 2016, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein wrote that Brown’s athleticism had “NFL teams feeling some type of way, which means he's likely to go late Day 2 or early Day 3.” But that didn’t happen. Brown ended up being the last pick in the fifth round in 2016 — the Eagles had two fifth-rounders and still didn’t take him.
So maybe it would be a bit much to expect Brown to become a strong rotational player, let alone a starter in Philadelphia. But there is opportunity here for him. The only returning linebackers are Nathan Gerry, T.J. Edwards, Duke Riley and Alex Singleton.
It seems like Brown still has some potential, but if it doesn’t work out, the Eagles haven’t invested much in him.
Brown’s one-year contract with the Eagles is worth $1.047 million but it’s a Veteran Salary Benefit deal so he’ll count just $887,500 against the cap. With just $500K of his base salary guaranteed, there’s really no guarantee he’ll even make the roster. This is an even cheaper deal than L.J. Fort got last season and is more on par with what the Eagles paid guys like Paul Worrilow and LaRoy Reynolds in recent seasons.
The Eagles have neglected to use top resources on the linebacker position for years now and most of their gambles haven’t paid off. Maybe they’re due. And maybe Brown is the guy who will change all that.
That would make his new fanbase happy.
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