Philadelphia Eagles' 5 Players Facing Make or Break Training Camps
With training camp right around the corner, there are not a lot of open roster spots on the Philadelphia Eagles. The reigning NFC East division champions basically have all 22 starters locked in on offense and defense, with most of the key reserves already set in stone too.
Its team bringing back every player would be good news for any NFL fanbase. You don't want to head into camp with five or six open starting jobs open on both offense and defense. And you definitely don't want to be wondering who will be your starting quarterback, like the Eagles last year when Nick Foles competed against Michael Vick.
It's a positive for Philadelphia that they have 40 to 45 roster spots virtually locked up. There could be a few surprises for the 2014 Eagles, but there won't be many.
The following slides will highlight five players who are basically entering a do-or-die training camp in terms of making the Philadelphia roster.
Quarterback: Matt Barkley
Matt Barkley's football career really couldn't have gone worse over the last two years.
Considered by some to be the potential No. 1 overall draft pick heading into the 2012 college football season, Barkley suffered through a disappointing senior year at USC and saw his draft stock plummet. He was selected by Philadelphia in the fourth round of the 2013 draft.
He really wasn't given a fair chance in the quarterback battle last summer, and he entered the season third on the depth chart. When he did play, he was a turnover machine, throwing four interceptions in just 49 passes. In more than 60 minutes of play, he failed to get the Eagles into the end zone.
Now Barkley is reportedly fighting for his job with G.J. Kinne, an undrafted rookie who spent the 2013 season on the practice squad. Kinne is a good athlete and has surprising abilities as a special teamer, but he's the type of player whom Barkley should easily be outplaying.
This could be Barkley's final chance to make the team. It certainly would be unusual for an offensive genius like Chip Kelly to have to cut the first quarterback he's ever drafted in just his second training camp, but if Barkley doesn't step it up, he'll be a 24-year-old who could be looking for non-football-related work in less than two months.
Wide Receiver: Ifeanyi Momah
Ifeanyi Momah was the talk of training camp in Philadelphia last year. A 6'7'' wide receiver with 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash? Pencil him in as one of the league's biggest sleepers for 2013.
At least that's what a lot of fans thought.
But if a player with Momah's size and speed can go undrafted, there's usually a reason. In the case of Momah, there were two explanations: 1) He tore his ACL as a senior and 2) he's not very good.
Momah looked completely lost at training camp last summer. He managed to earn a spot on the practice squad but that had nothing to do with his performance on the field and everything to do with his projectability as a player.
Momah may have earned an undeserving spot on the practice squad last summer, but that won't happen again in 2014 if he doesn't really step up his game in training camp. So far, the results have been positive, but he's still a long shot to make the team.
After all, the Eagles' first four receivers are almost certainly to be Jeremy Maclin, Jordan Matthews, Riley Cooper and Josh Huff. Jeff Maehl, Arrelious Benn, Damaris Johnson and Brad Smith are the likely front-runners for the fifth spot, and undrafted rookies Kadron Boone and Quron Pratt could potentially steal a spot on either the roster or the practice squad.
For Momah to make the team, he'll have to outplay about eight to ten other players in camp. His size and speed are tremendous assets. It's time for him to show that he has some football abilities too.
Offensive Lineman: Michael Bamiro
Michael Bamiro is basically the Ifeanyi Momah of offensive lineman. An undrafted player possessing tremendous size but displaying extremely raw abilities as a football player, Bamiro spent the 2013 season on the practice squad.
He later admitted to not being ready, even on the practice squad, but like Momah, expectations are much higher for him heading into his second season. And like Momah, this is probably the last chance he'll get to show that he can play at an NFL level.
Bamiro, who was listed as a tackle during the 2013 season, has spent the offseason learning how to play guard. Versatility is huge for the Eagles, and if Bamiro makes the squad, he'll be able to fill in at four of the five offensive line positions in the event of an injury.
Unlike Momah, Bamiro doesn't have a lot of competition to make the team. I still don't think he makes his way onto the 53-man roster, but the good news for him is that veteran Allen Barbre is the only guaranteed backup offensive lineman to make the team. Other competition for Bamiro includes tackle Matt Tobin and tackle/guard Andrew Gardner.
Outside Linebacker: Brandon Graham
Consider Brandon Graham the only player on this list who has experienced some success in the National Football League.
Moderate success, that is.
The former first-round pick is viewed as a disappointment by the fanbase, and he should be. Expected to become an elite pass-rusher alongside Trent Cole, Graham hasn't started since his rookie season in 2010. He fought through an ACL tear late that year, which affected his performance in 2011. A breakout season in 2012 didn't translate in 2013, as Graham saw the field for an average of just 21 snaps per game.
Graham is scheduled to make about $3.4 million in 2014 and just over $3.2 million in 2015 before he hits free agency at the age of 27. He's not going to win a starting job this offseason, so the question is how much money the Eagles want to spend on a fifth linebacker (or sixth, depending on the performance of first-round pick Marcus Smith).
Pro Football Focus (subscription required) consistently rates Graham as one of the top pass-rushers in the National Football League, reinforcing the notion that the former Michigan Wolverine is an underused player who could become a legitimate star if given the opportunity to start. But unfortunately, Graham hasn't gotten the chance to start. His playing time has dropped significantly since he was a rookie and he just doesn't seem to be a good fit for the Eagles' 3-4 defense.
This summer could result in Graham earning a spot on the team, possibly his final opportunity to show that he isn't a first-round bust. Or he could be traded, likely to a team where he would start.
Inside Linebacker: Casey Matthews
With all due respect to the Mannings, the Matthews family should be considered the first family of football, thanks to the remarkable careers of Bruce, Clay Jr. and Clay III, plus potential greatness from top-ten overall pick Jake.
Then there's Casey, who was drafted by the Eagles in the fourth round of the 2011 draft and really hasn't made a single noteworthy contribution on the defensive side of the ball in three seasons.
Handed a starting job at middle linebacker during training camp as a rookie, Matthews was demoted to outside linebacker after just two games. He was benched again and finished his rookie season playing in just 332 snaps.
Yet over the last two seasons, Matthews has played in a combined 115 snaps. That's an average of four snaps per game. He's experienced some success on special teams, but he's completely unreliable, even as an injury replacement.
The Eagles don't have tremendous depth at inside linebacker, but expect Najee Goode and either Jason Phillips, Jake Knott or Emmanuel Acho to make the squad over Matthews.
That is, unless the fourth-year linebacker finally learns how to play the position of linebacker in what is probably the most important month of football of his career.