The Philadelphia Eagles 2012 Training Camp is underway, which makes it a perfect time for us to take a look at how each drafted rookie has progressed so far.
More than most years, the Eagles are depending on their rookies to come through in a big way and contribute immediately in 2012. Working in their favor is a full offseason, where they are able to learn the system and nuances of the NFL game at a steady pace.
By and large, this crop of rookies has as much promise, if not more, to contribute immediately as any other in recent memory. We will determine which ones are passing with flying colors, and which are struggling to make the grade.
When the Eagles drafted defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, the consensus was that he would rotate in behind starters Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson. With Patterson sidelined, Cox is primed to make a push into a starting role.
So far in camp he has not disappointed. He has rotated in with the first team regularly and has been dominant in one-on-one drills against offensive linemen. As such, his play has garnered some national attention. He has been described as dominant and aggressive by numerous analysts.
Those are very encouraging words, especially after the team paid a hefty price to land the Mississippi State star. We need to see more of Cox before we can anoint him a future superstar, but so far he is headed in the right direction. If he continues to grasp the playbook and master his technique, fans can expect to see him put a lot of pressure on quarterbacks this season.
Not to be outdone by Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks has also been turning heads at training camp. He continues to run as the Eagles’ starting strong side linebacker since being handed the job back in OTA’s.
While he needs to continue making progress in coverage, particularly against tight ends, Kendricks has displayed the talent that made him worthy of the team’s first of two second-round picks. He plays with a passion and energy that Philly fans love, and knows how to tackle—hard.
His spot on the starting defensive unit appears very safe, with no one behind him making the same impact he has so far in training camp. The fact the Eagles were willing to part with two linebackers in a trade to the Indianapolis Colts last week speaks to their confidence in both Kendricks and the entire linebacker unit.
Coming out of Marshall, Vinny Curry was billed as a high-motor defensive end with no quit in him. He has certainly proven that so far in camp.
With Trent Cole and Jason Babin missing time, Curry has received plenty of opportunities to make some splashes in camp. The biggest splash came when Curry sacked quarterback Mike Kafka in a practice last week. He didn’t just sack him; he threw him to the ground. Apparently Curry didn’t get the memo about not hitting the players in the red shirts.
Regardless, it is hard not to break into a big grin when hearing that. Plays like those prove that Curry is passionate, hungry and eager to prove himself to his teammates on defense.
Throughout the course of training camp, Curry’s first step has gotten much quicker and he has shown good improvement in technique. All in all, he looks poised to add another lethal piece to the Eagles’ stacked defensive line.
For the most part, training camp has been relatively quiet for Nick Foles. But I suppose that is to be expected of a third-string quarterback.
Foles has displayed a good deal of strength in his throwing arm and has surprised many with his footwork, but there is still much room for improvement. Fortunately, many of the things that need improving can be corrected through a steady diet of quality coaching and fundamentals work.
He is very much a project at this point, with accuracy issues among the biggest problems that need fixing. But he has made several nice plays in training camp, especially on throws down the field.
Was he worth a third-round pick? That still remains unanswered, but with continued improvement he could turn into a nice surprise. Of all the rookies, he may be the most interesting one to watch in preseason games.
Brandon Boykin has been pegged as a player who will immediately outplay his fourth-round selection and earn a significant role. However, he has yet to separate himself from Joselio Hanson in training camp.
But that may have as much to do with Hanson as it does with Boykin. Hanson knows his roster spot is in jeopardy and has been playing over his head in training camp. Still, Boykin has made some nice plays in the slot and has flashed plenty of promise.
Where he will likely make his biggest contributions is in the return game, where special teams coach Bobby April has anointed him as one of the teams return men. It will be exciting to see what he adds to the return game, which was less than stellar the past few years.
Personally, I’m much more interested in his progression as a cornerback and will be looking forward to watching how he plays that position. He still has a ways to go, but the potential is there for him to be a solid slot corner.
Not much is typically expected of mid- to late-round picks, but Dennis Kelly is out to become the exception to the rule.
He likely won’t be making a start along the offensive line anytime soon without someone getting injured, but so far Kelly has been impressive. For most of training camp he worked exclusively on the second-string unit at right tackle. When Todd Herremans sat out practice with a shoulder injury, Kelly was placed into the starting unit.
It was a surprising move, considering that Kelly was selected in the middle rounds of April’s draft. It shows that the Eagles have confidence in him and in his progression at the NFL level.
Even so, Kelly has quite a ways to go before he begins turning any heads. For now, he is just appreciative of the opportunities that have been handed to him.
Coming into training camp, most people were down on Marvin McNutt after a disappointing impact during OTAs. Once Riley Cooper went down with a collar bone injury, McNutt started catching some eyes.
With Cooper out, McNutt became the team’s biggest wide receiver, and he has continually gotten better at using his size to his advantage in training camp. He has used his body to gain leverage while making catches and has been making some standout plays. There is still work to be done, however, before he can make an impact on offense.
Where he really needs to stand out in order to make the team is on special teams. To surpass Cooper, who was a standout on special teams, McNutt must also become a key part of that unit. If he disappoints in that aspect, he will likely be relegated to the bottom of the depth chart.
All things considered, McNutt has been a nice surprise and could eventually become a quality red zone option if he continues progressing as nicely as he has.
Of the Eagles’ crop of rookies, Brandon Washington has made the smallest splash. Then again, not much can be expected of a late-round selection.
It also doesn’t help that Washington has been sidelined with a concussion the past few days. As a rookie, he has plenty to prove, and sitting on the sidelines can do nothing but hurt his chances of making the team.
Ultimately, I do not see him making final cuts without a strong final push in training camp.
Remember when I said that not much can be expected of a late-round selection? Well Bryce Brown is out to prove me wrong.
Brown has looked like anything but a seventh-round draft pick. He has shown decisiveness in his cuts and has proven incredibly hard to bring down.
For all intents and purposes, Brown is pushing Dion Lewis (who has also had a solid camp) for backup running back duties behind LeSean McCoy. At the very least, he should make the 53-man roster.
The one area of his game which needs significant improvement, however, is his pass-blocking. He has routinely been pancaked while trying to block, or has completely whiffed. Blocking is becoming an integral part of a running back’s duties, so Brown must make strides if he is to earn the trust of the coaching staff.
Overall, however, Brown has been a treat to watch tout the pigskin.