Training camp has officially ended for the Philadelphia Eagles, and just three weeks and three preseason games separate the beginning of the 2012 season for the Eagles.
A number of players stood out at camp for the Eagles but here are my personal top ten players, in order of positions.
Nick Foles, Quarterback:
Foles entered camp as a project. He was the third round draft pick this season and just about nobody expected Foles to challenge Mike Kafka for the backup role. But through one preseason game, it’s a very close race, largely in part to Foles’ dominating performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third quarter. He has three more preseason games to compete for the backup role.
Damaris Johnson, Wide Receiver:
Johnson entered camp with high expectations and so far, he has impressed thoroughly, both as a wide receiver and a punt returner. He’s displayed tremendous speed and good hands, and returned a punt 38 yards in the first preseason game of the year. Expect Johnson to make the 53-man roster in 2012.
Chad Hall, Wide Receiver:
Hall is still a long shot to make the team, but the 5’6 wide receiver turned in a tremendous training camp, catching everything in sight. He’s listed behind Damaris Johnson at both wide receiver and punt returner, and I don’t see how he makes the team in 2012 without an injury to another one of the wide receivers.
Clay Harbor, Tight End:
Although reports had surfaced early in training camp that the Eagles were interested in a veteran backup to Brent Celek, nothing happened, partly because Harbor turned in such a terrific camp. For the first time in his career, he looks like a legitimate threat as a backup tight end.
Julian Vandervelde, Guard/Center:
Vandervelde is a typical lineman in the Andy Reid era. Not a lot happens in the first year but then the player starts emerging during his second year. That’s Vandervelde, who is taking snaps as the backup center. He can also play guard, and I would be stunned if he doesn’t make the team in 2012.
Brandon Graham, Defensive End:
The first two years of Graham’s career have been very forgettable, as the former first round pick has the world thinking that he’s a bust. So all he has done so far in camp is dominate and show that he does have a future in the NFL. He won’t be a starter this year, but he should be a key backup in the Eagles’ rotation.
Derek Landri, Defensive Tackle:
Last year, Derek Landri entered the season without a team. This year, he enters the year with a very good chance to be a starter. In just three quarters of a season in 2011, Landri emerged as a force at defensive tackle. But he was barely pursued during free agency. He took that personally and is out on a mission this year. That’s good news for Eagles fans.
Mychal Kendricks, Linebacker:
Kendricks was the second round pick by the Eagles this year, and was expected to start at the beginning of the year. But after the failed rookie season by Casey Matthews, many fans were skeptics that Kendricks would actually turn into a player. They were wrong. He has been impressive through camp, particularly his speed in coverage.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Cornerback:
Rodgers-Cromartie was one of the biggest disappointments for the Eagles in 2011, although a lot of that can be contributed to playing as a slot cornerback for the first time in his career. Now he’s a starter, and DRC was arguably the most impressive player at camp this season. His speed and coverage abilities are as strong as ever, and he appears to be back to his 2009 Pro Bowl form.
Alex Henery, Kicker:
Henery had a pretty good year statistically in 2011, connecting on the highest percentage for field goals for a rookie kicker in league history. But he still raised doubt, partly because he missed two kicks in a one-point loss against the San Francisco 49ers, and partly because he never kicked a field goal with the game on the line. His leg looked much stronger this camp than it did last year, however, and the highlight was a 51-yard come-from-behind game-winning field goal with just 12 seconds left in the first preseason game. Henery’s kick would have been good from 60 yards.
This article was written by Bryn Swartz, the top writer for the Philadelphia Eagles and a featured NFL columnist on Rant Sports. Bryn has written more than 1000 articles in less than two years as a member of Rant Sports. His blog, Eagles Central, was named the 2010 Ballhyped Sports Blog of the Year. To read a portfolio of Bryn’s best work, click here.