Every year, there is someone in Philadelphia Eagles training camp who surprises everyone, blowing away expectations and beating out competition despite his experience or perceived talent. The names Brandon Boykin, Nick Foles and Jason Kelce all instantly come to mind.
Who will it be this season? The possibilities are endless. The Eagles have brought in so much young talent that the team could see many players emerge from the pack. Especially with a new head coach bringing in a new scheme, there will be a lot of excitement to impress the new coaching staff.
Ahead are the top five players most likely to surprise in training camp. They are ranked in order of likelihood of seeing a breakout performance this season.
Although Nick Foles and Michael Vick seem to have the edge due to experience, don't be so quick to write off Matt Barkley. Barkley may have slid to the fourth round, but were it not for injury, he would have been a top-10 draft pick.
Barkley has an advantage over Foles and Vick in that he is much more accurate than the two. Foles and Vick may possess superior arm strength, but Barkley's arm is not as weak as perceived. He actually possesses a very impressive deep ball.
Chip Kelly is also more interested in accuracy than arm strength, according to Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com. When asked about Barkley, Kelly stated, “I think the accuracy part is more important than the arm-strength. There’s been some big strong guys that can just sling a ball, but those guys to me are throwers and not passers. Matt is a passer.”
As seen by the Seattle Seahawks last season with Russell Wilson versus Matt Flynn, experience isn't everything. What matters is who's the best performer in camp.
If Barkley performs the best, expect him to be the starter. Simple as that.
When asked who was the biggest winner in Chip Kelly's new offense, Jeremy Maclin didn't name big names like DeSean Jackson or LeSean McCoy.
Maclin named Damaris Johnson, the small, speedy wideout who barely made the roster last season.
Johnson may have had a quiet year last season, but few players can match his speed and agility in the NFL. With the slot receiver position now being dominated by speedsters, such as Victor Cruz and Randall Cobb, expect Kelly to give Johnson a shot.
Last season, Johnson showed flashes of his potential. Expect him to make a huge jump this training camp when given the opportunity.
Brent Celek could be on the hot seat this season. Celek may be the more complete tight end, but Zach Ertz is much more athletic and has more offensive potential. He could challenge Celek for the starting tight end spot.
Ever since selecting Ertz with a second-round pick, Kelly has gushed about the young Stanford graduate. According to Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com, Kelly called him a "mismatch nightmare."
Indeed, if Ertz lives up to his potential, he will be difficult to guard. He is 6'5" and 249 pounds, but he also has the athleticism and hands to make jaw-dropping catches.
If Kelly is looking for a tight end who is more reliable in the red zone, he may very well go with the rookie Ertz over established veteran Celek.
Last season, Brandon Boykin was able to beat out the established veteran Joselio Hanson at nickel corner in training camp. This season, look for Boykin to take the next step.
According to an interview with Dave Spadaro of PhiladelphiaEagles.com, Boykin sees improvement in his sophomore campaign.
"The game's really slowed down to me. So I can definitely see improvement," he said.
Boykin has no shortage of talent. And with a 4.40 40-yard dash time, he is one of the fastest players on the Eagles defense. He also locates the ball extremely well in the air.
Currently the nickel corner, expect Boykin to challenge both Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams for an outside cornerback spot.
From breakout performance, to ACL tear, to being undrafted, and now to getting a contract with the Eagles, Ifeanyi Momah has had quite a journey to the NFL. Just like Barkley, he will be playing with a big chip on his shoulder.
This training camp, Momah's hard work may finally be paying off. He is entering Eagles training camp as the largest receiver on the team by far. Standing 6'7", he also ran a 4.40 40-yard dash time. That's blazing fast, even for someone a whole foot shorter.
With the Eagles possessing few options in the red zone and lacking a true go-to receiver, expect Momah to get every opportunity to make the roster.
According Bob Grotz of The Times Herald, ever since day one Harold Carmichael has taken Momah under his wing to train him to use his size properly as a receiver. It could be a sign that the Eagles have big plans for him.