Philadelphia Eagles Rookies Who Are Struggling in Camp
Most of the rookies have played very well. Fletcher Cox will see significant time in the rotation this year with Mike Patterson expected to miss much of the 2012 season. Brandon Boykin has shone on special teams, and Nick Foles looked like a 10-year veteran in his first preseason game.
The following six players, though, have every right to be extremely concerned as the Philadelphia Eagles get closer and closer to finalizing their 53-man roster.
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I really expected great things from Cliff Harris this year. He was a ridiculously talented playmaker in college, although he couldn’t stay out of trouble.
The Philadelphia Eagles picked him up because of the raw abilities he possesses. I fully expected Harris to work his way right into the mix at cornerback, but the Eagles’ current depth chart lists him just seventh among corners, behind guys like Curtis Marsh and especially Joselio Hanson, a player I thought would be a veteran cut before the season.
Harris missed a week due to an ankle sprain—which also kept him out of the first preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers—and he’s listed just fourth on the depth chart as a punt returner. I expected Harris to be at least the No. 2 punt returner, considering he returned four for touchdowns in college, but he’s behind a guy like Chad Hall who really doesn’t scare too many teams when he goes back to return a punt.
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The Philadelphia Eagles had an open competition at fullback heading into the 2012 season. Owen Schmitt wasn’t brought back in free agency, so it is likely up to Stanley Havili, Emil Igwenagu or Stewart.
None of the players are blowing away the others in camp, but the Eagles have already parted ways with Stewart, releasing him to sign defensive tackle John Gill, a player who wouldn’t make the team if the Eagles kept 80 players.
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The Philadelphia Eagles entered the season with Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen as the starting safeties, and while Coleman and Allen aren’t bad players by any means, they are still a work in progress in the defensive backfield.
Phillip Thomas has had every opportunity to fight for a job as possibly a starter and definitely a backup, but he’s been buried in a list of players that really aren’t that good. Thomas is listed on the third team with Tom Nelson, and while he hasn’t been particularly bad this training camp, he hasn’t played well enough to likely make the 53-man roster.
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Heading into training camp, the Philadelphia Eagles were expected to utilize Dion Lewis as the backup running back with Bryce Brown and Chris Polk fighting for both a spot on the team and even a shot as the backup.
I thought both would outplay Lewis, although I’ve never really been a fan of Lewis since the Eagles drafted him. Brown is a very talented runner but he's really struggled when asked to block—largely because in college, he really wasn’t asked to block at all. This has caused him to get exposed when asked to block his NFL teammates in training camp, and this is an area of his game he is absolutely going to need to improve upon.
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The Philadelphia Eagles have a handful of backup offensive linemen fighting for a couple of spots—Julian Vandervelde, Dallas Reynolds, Mike Gibson and Steve Vallos.
Brandon Washington was projected to go at least as a fourth round pick, and he somehow fell to the sixth round in the NFL draft. He has a lot of upside, considering he’s played tackle before, and it seemed like he would have a very good chance to win the No. 1 backup guard spot behind Evan Mathis and Danny Watkins.
Washington is listed as the third guard on the depth chart; Vandervelde has been taking a high percentage of snaps at center, so Washington may make the team anyway. But when you don’t hear a guy’s name—as has been the case for Washington—that’s really not a good sign.
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Before the draft, Marvin McNutt was projected to go as high as a third round pick. The Philadelphia Eagles snatched him up in the sixth round, and it looked like he might be a great steal of the draft.
DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant are a terrific 1-2-3 wide receiver combination, but the fourth and fifth receiver spots are less than subpar with players like Riley Cooper and Chad Hall heading into camp in those roles.
I expected McNutt to easily win a fourth spot and push for even more playing time considering he’s a big, physical receiver. He had three passes thrown his way in the first preseason game and didn’t catch any; while that’s an extremely small sample size, sometimes that’s all the rookies get.
With Cooper’s injury, McNutt should be a lock for the fourth receiver job, but there’s a pretty decent chance he might not make the team.