Undrafted Eagles WR Damaris Johnson Making Great 1st Impression with 2nd Chance
Becoming the NCAA all-time leader in kickoff return and all-purpose yardage in only three years should be enough to get a player drafted. However, when that player is suspended for their entire senior season and withdraws from school during that beleaguered year, the only chance they'll have to make it in the NFL is by impressing as an undrafted free agent.
That's exactly what Damaris Johnson has been doing during his first month with the Philadelphia Eagles. The 5'8", 170-pound mighty mite signed on with a team that is somewhat unsettled at wide receiver beyond the top three of Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant.
Now, according to many reports, he's standing out enough to possibly make the team.
Tommy Lawlor of the Eagles' official website wrote that Johnson was a "hot name" and "everyone was impressed with his quickness and elusiveness" during the Eagles' rookie minicamp. Meanwhile, Ed Kracz of Phillyburbs.com writes that Johnson has had a "steady" three weeks of practice, catching everything thrown his way. Kracz speculates that Johnson could push Chad Hall for a roster spot.
The buzz continues to build. Yesterday, Dave Zangano of CSNPhilly said Johnson made the play of the day in the OTA practice. Today, Geoff Mosher of the News Journal of Wilmington reports that Johnson is "still impressing." Mosher believes that Johnson could be the team's "Cinderella story":
Johnson makes sharp cuts and gets out of his breaks especially quick for a rookie. His speed is top notch. He looks very comfortable in the offense and just seems like the kind of guy that Andy Reid finds room for. If Johnson can raise eyebrows on the return teams during the preseason, I don’t think he’ll have trouble making the roster.
Mosher also brings up the shady circumstances that ended Johnson's career at Tulsa—being suspended for his involvement in an off-campus felony embezzlement scheme—but insists that the Eagles think he's "not a bad kid, just someone who made a mistake and paid the price."
You can see on film that Johnson is fearless despite his small stature, and that he can help a team in a number of ways. What's surprising to note from this 2010 game vs. Hawaii is Johnson's ability to break an occasional tackle and create a larger catch radius as a receiver by torquing his body in the air.
In a league with players that seem to get bigger every year, the Eagles might have struck gold by looking at one of the smallest rookies in the 2012 class.
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