As the Philadelphia Eagles close their three-day rookie training camp, the Eagles see they have many talented players on their hands. With position battles at almost every important spot, the 90-player roster needs to be closely examined and filed down. With 23 rookies to be exact, it is clear the Eagles made the most of this offseason.
First things first. It is no doubt the Eagles had the best draft in the entire NFL. Even the days after by signing undrafted free agents and players to add to their training camp squads, Philly signed the best of the best. Out of the bunch, a certain few stand out and have a real good shot at making the roster. Those guys are Damaris Johnson, Chris Polk, Phillip Thomas and Cliff Harris. Let’s take a closer look at the guys not called during the NFL Draft.
Damaris Johnson is a wide receiver out of Tulsa who has probably the quickest feet on the team. He may have ran only a 4.4 40-yard dash, but his on-field speed will tell you otherwise. An impressive note on Johnson’s resume is that he holds NCAA’s all-time records for all-purpose yards with 7,796 yards and for career kickoff return yardage with 3,417 yards…impressive. What kept him off many team’s boards was his off the field issues that kept him off the field for the entire 2011 season at Tulsa. However, the Eagles are willing to give him a second chance and he does realize this once in a lifetime opportunity. Not only can Damaris catch the ball, but he can run with the wind and is a very versatile offensive player. The Philadelphia Eagles would be kicking themselves if they did not sign this guy. He may not be fully NFL-ready yet, but he is a definite upgrade from former receiver Chad Hall and can really make things happen when the ball is in his hands. If he is signed, remember who called it first!
Next is running back Chris Polk, who was a projected as a second-round draft pick, but slipped entirely due to health problems. Chris Polk is a 5’11″, 233-pound running back out of Washington who loves making people miss. In the 2011 regular season, Polk rushed for 1,341 yards, caught 29 passes for 324 yards and scored 15 touchdowns. His career rushing total of 4,049 yards is second in Washington history in just over three seasons. He is quick and agile, and has some of the best hands a back can have. Like mentioned earlier, keeping him healthy is the issue. After fully recovering from his former shoulder surgery, he did pull his hamstring in the team’s training camp. Is this a sign, or just bad luck? It is no doubt that Polk has a rare skill set that many teams would love to have on their roster, but will the Eagles take the chance with him?
Phillip Thomas is man out of Syracuse who could challenge the spot of free safety. After already being signed to a deal, Thomas will look to help improve the Eagles secondary. And yes, this is the real Phillip Thomas. I say that because it is confirmed that Thomas has an impostor, following and watching his every move. Someone has made a fake Twitter and Facebook page, claiming to be Thomas, and has caused drama and controversy linked to his name. Trash talking the organization and causing issues in the media, the impostor did raise awareness and gave the real Phillip a bad look to the league. However, now that the water is clear on the issue, the Eagles want to see what he is capable of in the NFL. During his three years at Syracuse, Thomas finished his career with 203 tackles and nine interceptions, including a Big East-leading six picks as a senior in 2011. He may not be the flashiest player on the field that will drop your jaw, but his textbook style shows some serious potential for the Birds.
Last but not least, cornerback Cliff Harris out of Oregon. Coming out of high school in 2008, Harris was regarded as the seventh best cornerback in the entire nation. In his first year as a Duck in 2010, Harris had 33 solo tackles and five interceptions while also leading the nation with four punt return touchdowns and 20 passes defended. After a promising first year as a starter, 2011 was all down hill. Following an indefinite suspension, Harris was dismissed from the Oregon football team after a series of traffic-related offenses and a reported citation for possession of marijuana. If Harris would have stayed clean and out of trouble, he could have potentially been called in the first 10 picks. Cliff Harris is a long-shot to make the roster, but it’s his special return-game abilities that make him stand out. He did have an impressive rookie camp, but whether he is in the mix for the fourth-corner position is to be seen.
As for the guys that were called during the draft, Fletcher Cox is on his way to a starting position. The Eagles did mess around and throw in the mix at defensive end, it’s his versatility that gives him the edge. Also, you can’t leave out the fact that he is unbelievably fast for 300 pounds and is a great player to add to that deadly line. Mychal Kendricks is another player that has an almost guaranteed starting position. He opened many eyes at the NFL Combine in February and the Eagles knew they needed him on the roster. His speed and power is very rare for someone of his short-size, but it’s his natural instinct to get to the ball that sticks out the most. Other players like Brandon Boykin and Marvin McNutt are looking really good and are making the Eagles look like geniuses for picking these potential gems.
The 2012 season is still a good four months away. The Eagles full-team Organized Team Activities will take place May 22-24, May 30-June 1 and June 4-7 and will be followed by the full-team mini-camp June 12-14. I do expect the Eagles to be making some significant cuts before the month ends. After just signing LeSean McCoy to 5-year, $45 million extension, the Eagles will need to sit down and plan out a may to make the rest of these rookies satisfied. I, for one, am glad to see how well the Eagles’ scouts have done so far this offseason. Who knows, we may have the next Rookie of the Year on our hands.