This offseason's Na Brown Award is less than a month away from being given to a young player, who exceeds the expectations of the Philly faithful. The annual Bleeding Green Nation honor is an important tradition for our community as it recognizes what is so great about training camp and the beginning of a new season: HOPE. We have gained hundreds of new members since last season, so for those who aren't familiar, here is a breakdown of the guidelines for the nominees of the award:
Every year we try to highlight the guy who arrived on the team with little expectations that went on to become the darling of training camp. There is some loose criteria... The player has to be young, he can't have been a first or second pick, & he really can't have ever done anything in the NFL. -JasonB
In case you are not familiar with the man that the award is named after, here is a good synopsis by our own JasonB:
Na Brown was a WR that the Eagles drafted out of North Carolina the same year they picked Donovan McNabb. In his first training camp with the team he looked like an emerging star. Every day at Lehigh he seemed to make plays and turn heads. Entire columns were being dedicated to his potential greatness...
He went on to catch just over 30 passes in his NFL career.
Like with any internet-based sports award, there are plenty of candidates for the Na Brown and they all have shown great potential those far. Here is a power ranking for the talent and where they stand:
1) Greg Salas
The third-year wide receiver has gone from camp body to a serious candidate for regular season playing time over the last few weeks. Last year's waiver wire pickup has shown great hands and has made extremely impressive catches in the first preseason game and training camp. With Russell Shepard going Patrick Swayze in last week's preseason opener and suffering from a hamstring injury, Salas has been able to take advantage and move up to the top spot in the Na Brown Power Rankings.
2) Chris McCoy
The Na Brown is not just an offensive award. Chris McCoy may be the next solid pass rusher to come out of the CFL. The former Dolphins draft pick has been fantastic in coverage in training camp, but really made an impact against the Patriots when it came getting to the quarterback. McCoy got pressure regularly and was credited with 1.5 sacks against New England.
3) Russell Shepard
Russell Shepard was an enigma coming into camp as he was a highly-rated quarterback recruit coming out of high school and was used in several roles at LSU. The former Tiger was even considered a cornerback prospect heading into the draft. The Eagles are using him as a wide receiver and due to his strong work ethic and impressive athleticism, he has impressed fans, writers and coaches. He didn't really show up in the team's first preseason game, but that could have been due to several circumstances. He is comfortably in the race for the Na Brown.
4) Vinny Curry
Defensive end Vinny Curry entered his second season with the Eagles as a question mark. Moving from a 4-3 to a 3-4, Curry seemed out of place until last Friday. That's because the Marshall alum completely went off against the Patriots. He constantly pressured Ryan Mallett and Tim Tebow, while showing impressive speed and power. If Curry continues to play like he did in Week One of the preseason, he will be in the starting lineup in short order. While he was a second-round pick, his draft pedigree took a hit with a regime change, to which Jimmy felt he was eligible.
5) Chris Polk
Chris Polk is heading into his second year with a bang. However, after a stellar first few weeks of training camp, he started the first preseason game and really didn't show flashes. That said, he really didn't get a ton of opportunity as he shared carries with Bryce Brown throughout the first half and wasn't given a ton of carries. Still, if he can pick his momentum back up, he will be in the running for the Na Brown.
6) Allen Barbre
While it's odd to see an offensive lineman on the Na Brown watchlist, Allen Barbre has had a very impressive camp and even made his way into the starting lineup with Jason Peters sidelined. Evan Mathis put Barbre in the spotlight in an exclusive interview with BGN earlier this offseason, and the journeyman has played himself onto the radar ever since. Barbre, for the most part, held his own against the Patriots pass rushers last week.
As an undrafted free agent, Damion Square has a large mountain to climb to make the roster over guys like Joe Kruger and Dave King. However, his impressive camp and first preseason game will serve as steps in the right direction for the rookie. Square is a two-time national champion and is use to being in the spotlight. If he can continue his great play, he will not only make the roster, but be a serious candidate for the Na Brown.
If you watched last Friday's preseason game, you know that Emmanuel Acho was everywhere. The athletic inside linebacker was a force against the run and pass, while getting heavy penetration. A draft pick of Billy Davis and Pat Shurmur in Cleveland, Acho's familiarity with the defense will serve as an advantage throughout the rest of the roster evaluation process. Several beat writers have noted that Acho has had a good camp and one more strong game performance could lock up a roster spot for the former Longhorn.
9) Jake Knott
Jake Knott is an undrafted free agent competing to provide depth at a position that is wide-open. The inside linebacker likely benefited from the injury to Jason Phillips and has seen time with the first-team defense. Along with Acho, Knott was a serious presence against the Patriots last week. He is a long-shot to win the Na Brown, but he was also a long-shot to make the roster too. Perhaps in a few weeks, he will get both.
10) Earl Wolff
Earl Wolff is facing heavy expectations from fans, but his progression has exceeded a lot of experts' projections. He has had a few interceptions in training camp and has also practiced with the first-team several times. With the way Nate Allen played last week, we may soon see Wolff in a major role on defense.
11) Donnie Jones
We at BGN believe punters are people too. Carry on. And yes, we know the joke was lost on you.
12) Ifeanyi Momah
While his measurables are impressive on paper, sadly his performance in training camp and preseason have not been as sparkling. Brandon and Jimmy have even gone as far as to say he should be ranked in the thousands, despite only having 88 players on the active roster. His chances of winning a roster spot are slimmer and his chances of winning the Na Brown are even worse.
At this point, who do you think will win the Na Brown? What are your power rankings?