Washington Redskins second-year running back Mack Brown used the offseason to learn from one of the NFL's best running backs while also improving his diet to help him cut body fat.
In early January following the Washington Redskins' bitter loss to the New York Giants, running back Mack Brown returned to Atlanta to begin offseason workouts with two goals in mind.
The 25-year-old linked up with fellow NFL running back LeSean McCoy and Tevin Coleman to improve on his on-field technique while also adjusting his physical shape.
"Those running backs made me quicker," Brown told Redskins.com. "I had a track coach back home to work on my long distance speed. I got my diet back and lost about four percent body fat and gained about eight pounds of muscle. Every year is hard to make the team, but you have to make sure you give the coach another view. I have to be faster this year. I have to be quicker. I have to be better in the blocking scheme. Back home I did everything."
While McCoy is knowing for his shifty moves, sometimes making his cuts look almost took easy, Brown learned from the five-time Pro Bowler that every facet of his game should be worked on.
"He would just tell me think about Kobe Bryant," Brown said. "Kobe worked on his shot every day, his dribble every day, post moves, so why not work on your cuts every day? He was right. I lift and run but I don't do footwork every day. He said he works on his balance and footwork every day so he can come out his cuts better. So ever since then I have been working on coming out my cuts and balance drills."
Brown began the preseason last summer behind fellow veterans Chris Thompson and Matt Jones on the unofficial depth chart and competing with the likes of rookies Robert Kelley and Keith Marshall for a roster spot.
His numbers didn't exactly pop out through Washington's first three preseason games, as he gained 78 yards on 20 carries.
But in the preseason finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Brown had a breakout performance with 149 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
Sixty of those yards came on a touchdown run in which the University of Florida product took a handoff from quarterback Nate Sudfeld and ran to his left before planting his right foot into the ground and cutting up the field for the score.
It was arguably the highlight play for the Redskins during the preseason, but when Brown looked back on game film he thought he was a little too upright when he changed his direction.
"I just have to make sure I get lower in my cuts and use more leverage," Brown said. "Route running, I want to make sure I really can run routes. It can't be like it's a running back that is running routes but I want to be a running back that looks like a receiver running routes. I am still not 100 percent at it yet but by training camp I will be. You can tell the difference in OTAs coming up that I was working on my routes."
Even with the breakout performance in Tampa Bay, Brown started the regular season on the practice squad before getting called up to the active roster for Washington's Week 8 matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals at Wembley Stadium in London.
Eight weeks after his NFL regular season debut, Brown once again found the end zone on a long run, this time a 61-yard carry against the Chicago Bears to punctuate a 41-21 Redskins victory.
Brown's hope is that the coaching staff remains confident in him that he can break off more plays like that, but he also understands that he's far from a completed product.
"Coming into this season I know I have to do even more and I got to get the coaches to trust me," Brown said. "I felt that last year I didn't play early was because they didn't trust me. They know I can play but they didn't trust me. That's what I am trying to do this year is make the coaches trust me. I've got the talent and a great running backs coach, a great offensive coach and head coach, so everybody in the running backs core is going to need the trust of the coaches."
Brown also focused his early offseason efforts on getting his diet in a good place. Every day since January he's eaten salmon, chicken breast, spinach and potatoes.
The result? He's in the best shape of his life.
"I started cutting off body fat by gaining weight; even [the strength and conditioning] coaches downstairs said I look bigger," Brown said. "I am about 217 pounds but only got like six percent body fat. Last year I was 212 pounds with 13 percent body fat. I am heavier but I feel lighter."