In a five-part series from Monday to Friday, Eagles insider Geoff Mosher and columnist Reuben Frank preview five Eagles flying “under the radar” as the team heads into training camp and the 2014 season. These unsung Eagles have a chance to make a bigger impact this season than people may expect.
Position: Outside linebacker
Height/weight: 6-5, 241
Acquired: Rookie free agent (2013)
Signed by the Texans in 2009 as a rookie free agent out of West Texas, Braman emerged into a special teams maven known for his relentless motor and reckless style of body sacrifice. In 2012, he was named a Pro Bowl alternate after leading Houston with 16 special teams tackles along with blocking two punts, one of which he ran back eight yards for a touchdown.
This guy has a few screws loose, which should be a good thing for special teams and potentially the pass rush. People think the Eagles were bad on defense last year. Check out their kickoff and punt return and coverage units. They ranked 25th and 27th, respectively, on kickoff and punt returns. They ranked 19th in kickoff coverage. If you don’t think special teams is important, consider that the Eagles probably would have beaten New Orleans in their first-round playoff game if they didn’t give up a long return to Darren Sproles. They would have destroyed the Lions in the snowstorm game if they hadn’t allowed two return touchdowns. I’ve got a feeling Chip Kelly saw more than just a special teams upgrade in Braman when he signed him to a two-year deal. Knowing how much Chip loves versatility, it wouldn’t stun me if he and Billy Davis get him on the field for a few snaps on defense. Braman’s high motor and size make him a good candidate for situational pass-rush schemes
The Eagles didn’t have a beast on special teams last year, and we all saw how much it cost them. As Mosh points out above, the Eagles’ coverage teams were terrible last year, and it cost them dearly. The Eagles believe they’ve upgraded special teams dramatically this year, with veteran additions like Nolan Carroll, Chris Maragos and Bryan “Don’t Call Me Norman” Braman, and Braman could really turn out to be a fan favorite. “Our fans are going to love Bryan Braman,” Chip Kelly said earlier this offseason. “Bryan Braman, and I say this with all due respect, is out of his mind.” The Eagles need somebody who’s out of his mind to lead this special teams group back to respectability. On defense? Braman isn’t going to be a huge factor. He’s not going to be a significant part of the rotation. But he’s one of those guys who is such a ferocious competitor that it won’t be a surprise to anybody if he shows up for a snap here and there just to provide energy and some pass rush on third down. Going to be fun to watch Braman. The kind of guy the Eagles have been missing.