Sydney Brown

The challenge for Sydney Brown: Staying ferocious but doing it legally

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He’s never going to slow down. He’s never going to rein in his aggressiveness. He’s never going to stop playing football the only way he ever has.

What Sydney Brown knows he has to learn is how to walk that fine line between being playing to the whistle and playing beyond it.

“My whole thing is I want to play within the framework of the game,” Brown said at his locker Wednesday. “I don't want to play dirty. That's not my intent. But I don't worry about getting fined when I play, either. 

"I'm going to play aggressive and play as fast as I can. But, yeah, you’ve got to balance it.”

And that’s not always easy.

Brown, the Eagles’ rookie 4th-round safety from Illinois, has gradually become a bigger and bigger part of the defense as the season has gone on.

He only played 16 defensive snaps the first three weeks of the season, then missed three games with a hamstring injury. 

But since Week 7, he’s been a big part of the Eagles’ defensive backfield rotation, averaging 32 snaps per game. He’s made five starts and the Eagles are 4-1 in those games, allowing just 21.8 points.

He’s not a finished product. He’s a rookie 12 games into his NFL career. But since he entered the defensive rotation, he’s brought energy, physicality and spirit with his ferocious playing style and thunderous hits.

Yes, there’ve been mistakes. Yes, there’ve been missed tackles. But he’s making them 100 miles per hour.

The challenge for Brown is maintaining his style of play while doing it within the sometimes cloudy confines of the NFL rulebook.

“Some of it comes with experience,” defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said Wednesday. “I think as you grow and especially in the league as you have more time on the field, you learn. We want guys to be aggressive. He has a great style of play, but certainly we can't do anything that puts the team at harm or at risk. And those are good learning moments for everybody in that situation and just trying to get him to get that right tempo of the play for all of those things. 

“Always kind of feel like it's easier to try to put the brakes on than put the gas on, so you like that. You just try to coach through it the best you can. … And there's a transition for the speed of the game, too. Like the other guys are faster and quicker, and they move a little bit different than maybe what he saw last year."

One thing is certain: It's a lot easier to teach an aggressive player who loves to hit how to avoid penalties than it is to teach a player that doesn't commit penalties how to be aggressive.

Brown has a lot of impressive traits for a rookie safety. He's just got to find that sweet spot right at the edge of acceptable.

“I love the sport for what it is,” he said. “If I do get fined for what I do, I'll play for free. That's not what it's about. The money is nice, but I love the game for what it is. I love to compete.”

Brown had a couple bad missed tackles in the Seattle game and then was called for an unnecessary roughness personal foul on Tyrod Taylor in the third quarter that negated a holding penalty by Ben Bredeson.

It’s all part of learning the NFL game. There will be mistakes. Just don’t make the same ones twice.

“I definitely got caught there,” he said of the personal foul. “Kind of in a weird situation where I dove at the same time he slid. I tried to avoid it as much as possible, but it is what it is. I can't change that. It happened, and I understand the circumstances that come with it. 

“But I appreciate Coach P (Matt Patricia) for allowing me to be me and using me in ways that he thinks is best for the defense… I play aggressive. I play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. That’s not going to change.”

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