Philadelphia Eagles: 4 Rookies That Must Perform in 2012
Each player has his own role in a team, while some players are more important than others. Having said that, being talented and a great performer isn't the only important thing. Sometimes, the depth a player provides is what makes them too valuable to lose.
The Philadelphia Eagles received favorable reviews for their draft picks in 2012. The team used four of their first five selections to pick up some of the top defensive stars of the rookie class, and provided depth for their offense with the others.
Out of the nine NFL rookies that joined Philadelphia, the following four must prove their mettle at once.
1. Mychal Kendricks
The Eagles expect a lot from Kendricks, heading in his first pro season.
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
Most of you would probably expect to see Fletcher Cox here. However, there are a number of reasons why the Eagles need Kendricks to be a stud in 2012.
The linebacker position was the weak spot of the Eagles defense in 2011. Jamar Chaney, Brian Rolle, Moise Fokou and the rest of the linebackers were exposed on numerous occasions. The team struggled to stop the run. It wasn’t until too late that everyone was in sync.
The Eagles chose Kendricks in the second round and it looks like they’re planning to use him as the starting strong-side linebacker.
What makes him so important (more important than Cox) is the Eagles' lack of first-class talent behind the line. DeMeco Ryans is an asset, but he can’t do everything on his own. There is also some doubt regarding his durability.
If only one Eagles rookie can turn heads with his performances in 2012, it better be Mychal Kendricks.
2. Fletcher Cox
The Eagles had to trade up to get Fletcher Cox.
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
The Eagles must be very happy with their defensive line and the depth at all four positions.
There are a few teams in the NFL that have so many capable defensive linemen, including rookies Fletcher Cox and Vinny Curry, who were added in the 2012 NFL draft.
Cox was regarded as one of the top defensive linemen in the class. As soon as he fell out of the first 10 picks, Philadelphia didn’t hesitate to trade up and get him.
Last year, the Eagles struggled to stop the run, both in the first and second level. The team knew they had to improve at both linebacker and on the defensive line. Cox was probably the best they could get in the draft, and so they got him.
While the line can cope without much help from Cox in 2012, the Eagles need him to shine immediately for another reason.
That is, to prove that they evaluated the first-round talent this year better than they did in previous years.
The last three first-round picks for the Eagles were Jeremy Maclin, Brandon Graham and Danny Watkins. Maclin has justified his status, but Graham remains unproven and Watkins needs to be more consistent.
Andy Reid and Howie Roseman have been criticized for their decisions in the draft, especially those in the first round. A bust will put them under more pressure. That’s why Fletcher Cox is a big bet for the Eagles in 2012.
3. Brandon Boykin
Boykin can beat Joselio Hanson in the slot corner battle.
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
Brandon Boykin was an obvious pick for Philadelphia in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL draft. Asante Samuel left the team to join the Atlanta Falcons, and while Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are the clear starters, they had their share of mishaps last season.
Boykin is a talented youngster that is projected to be a great slot cornerback. He has the ability to cover players with bigger frames than his due to his great jumping ability. In other words, Boykin can replace Joselio Hanson as the slot corner of the future, but also replace Aso or DRC if required.
Having said that, Boykin’s return skills are what the Eagles need the most. They suffered with Dion Lewis and DeSean Jackson returning kicks and punts in 2011. Boykin returned four kickoffs and a punt for a touchdown in the last three years.
In other words, Boykin is a player that the Eagles can use in many ways to improve on the field. If he manages to show his skills from day one, Philly’s defense will be up for a much better season.
4. Marvin McNutt
McNutt should add enthousiasm to an already talented receiving corps.
Eric Francis/Getty Images
Marvin McNutt can be the guy that makes the difference in the Eagles’ receiving corps this season. He is a tall, athletic receiver that was a fan favorite at Iowa. In 2012, he led the Big Ten in receiving yards with 1,315.
DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are going to start out wide, but McNutt has everything he needs to be the next receiver in the depth chart. Jason Avant has done a good job so far as the slot receiver, but he dropped some balls and was inconsistent at times last year. Moreover, McNutt has room for development.
Furthermore, he can be an excellent red-zone target. That’s what the Eagles have missed the most in the last couple of years. Riley Cooper has the size, but he didn’t provide much help, with only two touchdown receptions in two years.
If McNutt emerges as a good rotation receiver, Michael Vick and the rest of the offense will keep opposing defenses on their toes in 2012.