BALTIMORE — It looked like somebody shot Sydney Brown out of a cannon.
After playing special teams and watching his teammates play on defense for the first half of the Eagles’ preseason opener in Baltimore, Brown finally got a chance to play in the second half and he made the most of it.
“I was eager to get in at the end of the game,” Brown said.
Brown, the rookie safety from Illinois, played 41 defensive snaps on Saturday night and finished his night with a game-high nine solo tackles. The next closest Eagles was K’Von Wallace, who had five solo tackles. The Eagles haven’t had a player with nine solo tackles in a preseason game in at least the last decade.
What really stood out about Brown on Saturday night was his play style. He was flying all over the field, running downhill, covering ground, delivering big hits, or at least attempting to.
“I always play fast. 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.”
Brown, 23, talked on Saturday night about doing all he can to make the Eagles’ 53-man roster.
He’s obviously going to be on the team. The Eagles used a third-round pick on Brown and he was named a “red star” player by the organization. They love him.
The bigger question is about what kind of role Brown will have with the Eagles as a rookie. Can he earn a starting gig?
“My goal is to contribute, do whatever I can for the Eagles,” Brown said. “That’s why I came here, that’s what I want to do. The bar isn’t just making the 53-man, it’s being productive. It’s being a player that’s going to help this team win games.”
It’s clear that one of the two starting safety spots in Sean Desai’s defense is locked in. Second-year safety Reed Blankenship got starter treatment on Saturday night; he wasn’t in uniform, along with the other no-doubt starters.
After that, though, the competition for the other job appears to be between Terrell Edmunds, K’Von Wallace and Brown. On Saturday night, Wallace played 17 snaps, Edmunds played 10 and Brown played 41. Those other guys are clearly ahead of him right now.
But it’s worth wondering if Brown did enough on Saturday night to earn more first-team reps as the team hosts joint practices against the Browns beginning on Monday.
The way Brown plays can be hard to show up in practice. But once he got game reps, we really saw what he can do.
“I play really fast,” Brown said. “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. I’m working with the coaches, D.K. [McDonald] and Taver Johnson, to dial in my technique.”
With that play style, there are obvious concerns. If Brown plays a lot early, there might be moments where he gives up big plays. But the growing pains might be worth it because his ceiling appears to be much higher than the other guys fighting for that gig.
“There’s a lot of competition, a lot of guys that played some really good football,” Brown said. “I’m still improving. I haven’t done anything here. I gotta prove myself in these preseason games and take it week by week.”
Brown said he had a moment of realization that he was in the NFL as the team took the bus down to Baltimore. Then he got another dose of reality in warmups when he looked across the field and saw Ravens star Odell Beckham Jr.
He finally made it to the NFL.
And then he showed exactly why he’s here.