As the Philadelphia Eagles wrap up the team's preseason schedule, it can only mean one thing.
Meaningful NFL games are upon us.
Andy Reid’s team is currently 3-0 in exhibition play, largely thanks to the efforts of certain players. These players have made themselves difficult to cut, and will probably find themselves in an important role in 2012.
Here is a list of those who will carry their momentum into the season.
Brandon Boykin has been a breath of fresh air for the Eagles in more ways than one.
Along with being a defensive standout, the former Georgia Bulldog was a kickoff and punt return specialist. He took over both roles in college to begin his junior year, and recorded touchdown returns going both ways.
Boykin’s first professional touch came on a kickoff return—one that he advanced 46 yards out of the end zone. That single return restored the collective faith of those Philly fans that remember last year’s team-long was 33.
Boykin will be a bright spot on special teams and should have a few breathtaking plays up his sleeve.
There were some serious concerns when Mike Patterson was deemed out for the remainder of training camp, but Derek Landri has since put those to rest.
It's a good thing he has, because it's now expected that Patterson could miss the entirety of the 2012 season (via USAToday.com). This leaves the team with some questions about inside depth.
Landri figures to play frequently in Jim Washburn’s rotation, but has shown most production as a pass-rusher. His preseason performances have all but guaranteed that he’ll be playing in obvious passing downs and will be given a chance to really showcase what he can do.
The sixth-year pro is still upset (via Philly.com) over the lack of interest he received while testing the market as a free agent. Expect him to play his heart out for a new deal.
Mychal Kendricks has been arguably the most impressive player in all of the Eagles’ preseason games.
Forget the fact he’s a rookie who’s basically playing on athleticism and instinct—just look at how fluid he is in pursuit.
He’s still got some improvement to make in coverage, but has looked like a reliable defender against the run. Once he gets a handle on the playbook, look for Juan Castillo to use him in ways that will allow him to take advantage of his natural speed.
Kendricks seems like a natural fit, and should only continue to improve in front of our own eyes.
Phillip Hunt is one of those guys that started training camp on the bubble, but has played himself into the rotation and onto the roster.
His 3.5 preseason sacks are good enough for top honors during the exhibition stretch, and he’ll be teaming up with Brandon Graham throughout the year to lead the second team of pass-rushers.
If Jason Babin struggles against the run like he did last season, Hunt’s playing time could receive a significant boost.
Hunt has proven that he’s more than a one-trick pony and is more than ready to tackle an expanded role during his second year in the NFL.
The undrafted free agent is currently rewriting the script of a childhood favorite—the finished version of “The Little Playmaker that Could” is set to release at the end of the season.
At 5’8”, Damaris Johnson was overlooked when he left Tulsa, but has put together a strong preseason campaign. He’ll probably stick with the Eagles as their fifth or sixth receiver and handle punt returns.
Johnson has proven he can get open down the field and make tacklers miss when he has the ball in his hands.
Make no mistake, while he’s small in stature, he makes up for it with big-play ability.
With Damaris Johnson and Nick Foles stealing the offensive headlines, Clay Harbor has been quietly stringing together some impressive preseason performances as well.
Harbor remains undoubtedly entrenched behind Brent Celek as the backup tight end. However, Andy Reid is looking to employ more two-tight end sets in the offense. This makes him an under-the-radar end-zone target for Michael Vick, and he should be the beneficiary of single coverage with so many other options receiving attention.
He and Foles have developed a nice rapport in their limited time together, and that will only help if the young signal-caller is thrust into the line of fire prematurely in 2012.