Didinger: Brown, Harris could pay big dividends

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Didinger: Brown, Harris could pay big dividends
August 3, 2011, 4:29 pm
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Chalk up two more for the front office that never sleeps. On Tuesday, the Eagles acquired running back Ronnie Brown and offensive tackle Ryan Harris, two players who fit nicely into their ever-expanding roster.

The Eagles needed a veteran to back up LeSean McCoy and Brown is ideal for the role. He has shared carries throughout his career, going all the way back to Auburn, where he split time with Cadillac Williams, and more recently with the Miami Dolphins, where he partnered with Ricky Williams. He has no ego issues.

The 29-year-old Brown underwent season-ending surgery twice in the last four years. He suffered a torn ACL in 2007 and a Lisfranc foot fracture in 2009, but he is healthy now and while his Pro Bowl days probably are behind him, he could be very effective in a part-time role with the Eagles.

At 6-0, 230 pounds, Brown combines power and elusiveness with good hands. He catches the ball well, a must for a running back in the Andy Reid offense. He also ran the Wildcat in Miami it was Browns success that popularized the formation in the NFL so Reid and Marty Mornhinweg may be tempted to reopen that chapter of their playbook.

While Brown projects as a role player with the Eagles, Harris could wind up as the starting right tackle. The 26-year-old Harris was a starter in Denver and considered a rising star until injuries and a change in the coaching staff set him back and ultimately made him expendable.

A 6-5, 300-pounder, Harris was Denvers third-round pick in 2007 following his collegiate career at Notre Dame. Harris and Ryan Clady formed a tackle tandem that looked like it would anchor the Broncos line for years. Clady was a Pro Bowler and many scouts felt Harris was his equal.

Harris value was demonstrated in 2009 when the Broncos started the season by winning their first six games under new head coach Josh McDaniels. But when Harris went down with a toe injury, the Broncos were not the same. They lost eight of their last 10 games to finish 8-8.

Last season, the Broncos changed line coaches and the new coach wanted more beef up front. Harris is a speed and technique guy, not a road-grader. He was 275 pounds at one point in college. He didnt fit the new scheme in Denver, but he should find a home with the Eagles where line coach Howard Mudd is in the process of transitioning to a smaller more athletic line.

The Eagles starting right tackle Winston Justice is on the physically unable to perform list with a knee injury. Currently, King Dunlap, a former seventh-round pick, and Austin Howard, an undrafted free agent, are sharing time at that position, a frightening prospect considering they are responsible for protecting quarterback Mike Vicks blindside.

The Eagles needed an upgrade at right tackle and found one in Harris. It would not be a huge upset if he wins the job outright once he settles in and learns the playbook.

Brown was the second overall pick in the 2005 draft. He wowed the scouts at the Combine when he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, the fastest time of any running back. One scout actually clocked Brown in 4.32 seconds. With that sprint, his stock shot through the roof.

Brown had a good career with the Dolphins rushing for 4,615 yards, third most in franchise history behind only Larry Csonka and Ricky Williams. He cant run 4.4 anymore, but he still has better-than-average speed and good vision. If there is daylight somewhere, Brown will find it as he demonstrated running out of the Wildcat.

Brown was one of the most popular players on the Miami team, a leader whose selfless attitude earned the respect of his teammates and coaches. He will help the Eagles on and off the field.

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