ASHBURN, Virginia -- Washington Redskins running back Mack Brown's popularity is akin to that of a backup quarterback: He's a guy the fans want because, well, they haven't seen enough of him. That's why his name dominated the mailbag this week.
#Jkmailbag what hasn't Mack Brown shown to the coaches to make him a starter, or at least active on Sundays?— CLT Redskins Fans (@CLTRedskinsFans) October 13, 2017
John Keim: First, I asked Brown if he realized how much fans were calling for him. He laughed and said no; he genuinely had no idea. But he also admitted he mostly stays off social media during the season.
But there are a couple reasons why he remains behind the others.
He needs to do a better job of being consistent with knowing his assignments; I think this is a big part. It's hard to play a guy if coaches aren't sure how he'll handle everything a running back must do. It's not just about having a nice 10-yard run (those do help). A running back must be able to handle protections as well, especially if you're full-time.
Yes, Chris Thompson is the third-down back so he's their main pass protector, but the Redskins obviously need to throw the ball with their starting backs. So if there's any doubt about a player's ability to handle all of their assignments, then it's hard to play them -- unless they're so good. Brown is not at that level (don't forget: he was on the Redskins' practice squad for half the season in 2016. Any team could have signed him. Had Keith Marshall stayed healthy, Brown would not have made the final 53).
And he understands about his need to improve in protection. Experience helps, but he also needed to show it more when he's had the chance.
"Just patience as far as in pass protection being careful with your eyes," Brown said. "If you see a guy make sure you get him and if you don't see him, just get out of your protection."
Brown has some ability without a doubt. But the Redskins had other backs they liked more, whether it was Matt Jones the previous two years or now Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine. The latter was a fourth-round pick; they will try to develop him first.
Also, Kelley and Perine are more power backs and the Redskins want to be that style of a run team. Their preferred run of "duo" -- a double team inside -- requires power; it's a foundation play for them. Brown's best attribute is running more outside. He has good burst, but they don't view him as strong an inside runner as the other two. Doesn't mean he can't.
In an ideal situation Sunday, Perine would get 15 carries to Brown's six (and Thompson's six). Brown's speed can provide a good change-of-pace. But to get more than that, Brown will have to improve in all areas.
Like everyone else, I'm curious what Brown would do given a full game. But I do understand why that chance hasn't yet occurred.
One thing to note on him: He's one of the nicer players to deal with and fits well in the room because of his upbeat attitude. If he gets a chance and succeeds? Hard to imagine anyone in that locker room not being thrilled for him.
"I'm just doing my role, man," he said, "whether it's on special teams or offense, I'm thankful to be part of this team. When I do get the opportunities, I do the best I can. I'm thankful if I get two carries or 10 carries."