Philadelphia Eagles: 5 Players Fighting for Their Jobs in 2012
The Philadelphia Eagles look great. Following an above-average free agency period and mind-blowing draft, all reports from OTAs indicate that the team is clicking on all cylinders.
Unfortunately for some, that news doesn't bode well for their futures as Eagles. The depth on this team is much better than it's been in years, and guys who would never have dreamt of being unemployed are finding themselves in all-out combat for their roster spots.
Talented rookies, up-and-coming youngsters and rejuvenated veterans are just some of the guys making noise at camp, and to the dismay of the guys on this list, it could spell D-O-O-M for them heading forward.
Joselio Hanson has been a fixture on the Eagles since he was picked up in 2006, playing nickel corner in passing situations and backing up the starters in the case of an injury. He's been heralded as one of the better slot-nickel defenders in the league, plastering himself onto receivers and breaking up crucial third-down passes.
After six years of relative prosperity (and 13 million dollars), Hanson is in a dogfight to keep his job in 2012. The Eagles drafted slot corner and return specialist Brandon Boykin in the fourth round with the assumption that he would replace Hanson, but Joselio doesn't seem to be going down without a fight.
In fact, this battle could go on until October.
When the Eagles drafted Mike Patterson 31st overall out of USC in 2005, they were hoping to get the defensive tackle of the future. Even though he's been tough in the run game at points, not many in Philadelphia think he was worth the pick.
Even so, Patterson has been on this team since he was drafted seven years ago, and he's been a quality fixture on the defensive line. He has accumulated 332 tackles, 15.5 sacks, and eight fumble recoveries in that time but hasn't received any league honors.
That kind of play, however, just won't cut it when you look at the Eagles' depth this season. Not only do they have veterans like Cullen Jenkins and Derek Landri on the roster, but youngsters Fletcher Cox and Antonio Dixon will be chomping at the bit as well.
Now, it's unlikely that Cedric Thornton will make the roster ahead of Patterson in 2012, but if Patterson's brain surgery keeps him out of action any longer—forget productive action—then he could find himself on the bench by November and out of a job by February. Those metal benches are cold in November.
Jason Avant is in a similar situation to those of Hanson and Patterson: He's been a productive player for his entire career—all of which has been with the Eagles—but could lose out to newly-drafted rookies and other youngsters with simply more potential.
When Avant was drafted out of Michigan in 2006, Andy Reid had kind words to say about Michigan's 2005-2006 MVP: "Jason has great hands, toughness, leadership; he's very intelligent and a good route runner." He's certainly been a good possession—No. 3 receiver for the team with 1839 yards and 90 first downs over the last three seasons—but a couple of bonehead plays and the addition of Marvin McNutt seem to have Avant on the way out.
McNutt is exactly the red zone threat the Eagles have been looking for since they lost Terrell Owens several years ago. He runs excellent routes, has a big frame and has good enough hands to where he can catch anything in and around his body. In his senior year at Iowa, Marvin had 1315 yards and 12 touchdowns to headline an otherwise poor offense.
In addition, Avant is owed $6.6 million in 2013 and 2014 combined, so unless he shows that he's worth that type of money, there's no reason the Eagles would give him the nod over the younger, more athletic rookie.
It seems that the Eagles are just deep at every position this season.
The additions of star rookie Mychal Kendricks along with veteran middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans has the other linebackers on the roster scrambling for the third and final starting spot. And yes, Kendricks has been named the starter at the strong side position.
And with Sigmund Bloom's report that the weak side job is now up for grabs—between Jamar Chaney and Brian Rolle, that is—where does all this leave Moise Fokou?
Fokou will be in his fourth year in 2012, and after the season he will become an unrestricted free agent. Fokou recorded 51 tackles in a part-time starting job in 2010 before only playing 11 games in 2011.
If he can't prove to the Eagles that he clearly deserves the fifth linebacker spot over Casey Matthews or Keenan Clayton, then they would have no reason to re-sign him. They are younger, have a higher ceiling and make more sense to keep in the long run.
Fokou has been serviceable for Philadelphia. He just has to do better if he wants to stay on the team past 2012.
Contrary to popular belief, I think this year is truly the Year of Reckoning for Andy Reid and Michael Vick. If the Eagles fail to make a deep run in the playoffs—and by deep, I mean at least the NFC Championship Game—then the quarterback and the coach who brought him in will both be gone.
As Vick so eloquently says in this interview with Sal Pal, at 2:09 exactly, the 32-year old is "on the back nine." He may still be the most athletic quarterback in the game, but jail, injuries and defeat have taken a toll on the nine-year veteran.
After a year in which he had nearly as many turnovers (17) as touchdowns (19) and posted a paltry 84.9 passer rating, the doubts are starting to accumulate. Not only did the Eagles go out and use their third-round pick on NFL-ready prospect Nick Foles, but Reid and the front office were serious players in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes.
Vick's contract has a clause in it stating that after this year the Eagles can opt out of the deal with only minor fees to be paid, which only enhances my point: If Michael Vick wants to be an Eagle in 2013, then he is going to have to take care of the ball, take care of himself and take his team as far as he can.