The Philadelphia Eagles had one of the deepest drafts last April. It was one of Andy Reid's best draft classes and is expected to have a major impact this season. The Eagles bolstered their defense with pass-rushers, a PAC-12 defensive player of the year and plenty of underrated talent on both sides of the ball.
None of that means anything until we see it on the field. If hype meant anything Tim Couch and JaMarcus Russell would each have a Super Bowl ring. Once preseason gets underway we get a much better feel of what these rookies can really do and what kind of an impact they can have in their first season.
The Eagles rookies are already off to a fast start in preseason as five of their nine draft picks and one undrafted rookie have already seen time with the first team units. This is a great sign for a team that doesn't necessarily need a major impact from most of their rookies. Last season the Eagles were just a game short of winning the division. This rookie class has the potential to put them over the top this season.
Fletcher Cox couldn't have been brought into a better situation than he was in Philadelphia. The wide-9 scheme fits his abilities perfectly. He is also in a pressure free scenario. He will play behind Cullen Jenkins on the line and play anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of the snaps.
Cox hasn't registered a sack in preseason just yet, but he has generated plenty of pressure. The pass-rush doesn't always have to get to the quarterback to be successful. Cox is getting plenty of pressure already in the first two weeks of preseason.
He is going to be a work in progress all season long. He is a gifted athlete who still has a lot of work to do on his technique. He won't be a dominant player right away, but he should continue to progress each week.
The Eagles have been lacking at outside linebacker since Carlos Emmons was locking down on running backs in the early 2000s. Since then the Eagles have struggled to cover tight ends and contain the run. Mychal Kendricks already appears to be on the level that Emmons was.
Kendricks lead the Eagles in total team tackles with 11 and solo tackles with seven through the first two preseason games. His football instincts have been off the charts. He sniffed out several screen plays against the Patriots last Monday night. It's rare to see that kind of field awareness that early in a linebackers career.
Kendricks has been the projected strong side linebacker since he was drafted in the second round of last April's draft. So far he hasn't disappointed, which is crucial as he will be the rookie the Eagles rely on the most this season.
The Eagles have depth upon depth at defensive end. That means that Vinny Curry won't have to make a huge impact right away. He can spend most of the 2012 season learning behind all the talent the Eagles have at defensive end. That means he can really perfect his technique this season and not worry so much about his results on the field this season.
Curry is second on the Eagles in total team tackles with 10 through the first two preseason games. He has demonstrated a good pass-rush and has really surprised with his effort in run support. It will be difficult for Curry to see the field much in 2012. He will be behind Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Darryl Tapp, Brandon Graham and Phillip Hunt on the depth chart. Tapp is expected to be traded at some point before the final cuts are made on August 31st, while the other four ahead of Curry will be active on game day. That means Curry will be inactive on game day for much of the season.
Still, you have to appreciate how far along he is already. He may be sixth on the depth chart, but he is already showing flashes of a legitimate starting NFL defensive end.
Folesanity is in full force in Philadelphia after only two preseason games. Foles has seen extended action because of injuries to Michael Vick and Mike Kafka and boy has he taken advantage of it. Foles lead the Eagles on touchdown drives in four of his first eight offensive possessions.
Foles has completed 24 of 38 passes for 361 yards and four touchdowns. His quarterback rating is 118.4 through the first two games. His play has been absolutely outstanding when you consider the fact that he was supposed to be a project player this season.
He is about two years ahead of schedule. The expectation this season is that he would spend the season as the third string quarterback and spend the whole year working on his mechanics and foot work. Now the project label is gone and Mike Kafka will probably spend the season as the third string quarterback, if he's lucky.
Foles' composure, arm strength, movement in the pocket and his decision making have been phenomenal. He isn't going to steal Vick's starting gig anytime soon, but it is nice to know the Eagles have such a capable backup with so much potential.
Brandon Boykin was hyped up as one of the most valuable and versatile prospects coming out of the draft. So far in preseason he has been as good as advertised. He has averaged 28.8 yards on five kickoff returns, forced a fumble as a gunner in punt coverage and has been solid as a slot corner in the nickel package.
Boykin will be a standout on special teams this season, both as a gunner and a return man. He should also be a stout slot corner, depending on what happens with Joselio Hanson
Dennis Kelly was drafted as a project for offensive line coach Howard Mudd to mold into a left tackle for the future. He is a massive offensive tackle at 6'8, but has looked stiff at times in practice. Kelly has gotten most of his work at right tackle and right guard with the second team offense.
The Eagles probably want to see which line position Kelly can make the best immediate impact at as a backup. It's important for the Eagles to be able to rely on him if the situation would call for it. He will be groomed as a left tackle down the road, but for right now he needs to find a position he can fill it at if needed.
Marvin McNutt was supposed to be the possession receiver the Eagles need on critical third downs and in the red zone. So far in preseason McNutt has been pretty much invisible. He has zero catches through the first two games. He has played in both games, mostly with the second team unit, but has struggled to beat man coverage.
McNutt's biggest concern coming out of college was his ability to beat man coverage. He struggled against some of the better corners in college and it has showed early in his NFL career. Right now he looks to be a long shot to make the team. He could find a spot on the practice squad after final cuts are made, but I can't see the Eagles making him a part of their final 53 man roster.
Brandon Washington was another project for Howard Mudd to work with at guard. Washington was a promising guard in college before making the move to left tackle last season. Now he is making the transition back to guard and is struggling to get his technique down.
Washington has been playing with the third team offensive line for most of the summer. That doesn't bode well for his chances of making the team. He still has loads of potential as he was a dominant guard at times in college. He isn't ready to make any impact for an NFL team just yet, but should be a great candidate for the practice squad for this season. He would have a much better chance of making the team next season after spending a full season just learning under coach Mudd and not worrying about his impact on Sundays.
I don't know why Bryce Brown wasn't able to make a bigger impact in college for either Tennessee or Kansas State, but Eagles fans will be glad he didn't. Because of his lack of production in college the Eagles were able to scoop him up in the seventh round in this year's draft.
Brown has made the most out of his opportunities this summer with the Eagles. He has 12 carries for 84 yards including a pair of 20 yard gains in the first two preaseaon games. He is a load at 220 pounds, but he has the straight line speed of a back who is built more like a Darren Sproles or Chris Rainey.
The areas of his game that has impressed me the most with Brown has been his vision and his ability to make defenders miss in the open field. He his hitting his holes quickly and with authority. He is getting out of bounds when the play is dead and he is fighting for extra yards whenever he has the chance.
The benefit of a rookie running back that only really had one full season in college is the lack of wear and tear. He is also really hungry to prove himself as the elite running back he was coming out of high school. Ever time he touches the ball you can see the desire he has to make something special happen. Not bad for a third string running back.