Philadelphia Eagles: Training Camp Progress Report For 6 NFL Rookies
How have the Philadelphia Eagles' rookies performed in camp?
With an average age of 25.3 and only six players age 30 or older, it's a pretty solid bet that youth will be served with the Philadelphia Eagles this season.
Throw in the fact that this is Chip Kelly's first draft class as an NFL head coach, and it's obvious to see that the foundation is being set this summer for the program the franchise hopes to build for the former University of Oregon head coach.
Among the Eagles' high-profile rookies are quarterback Matt Barkley, chosen in the fourth round of April's draft out of USC, who is involved in the heated battle for the team's starting quarterback position. There's a slew of young receivers vying not only for a roster spot, but perhaps even playing time this season in the absence of Jeremy Maclin after the veteran receiver tore his ACL during practice last Saturday at the Novacare Complex. Then there's tight end Zach Ertz, who just may have the most immediate impact of any first-year player on the roster. And, who can forget fourth-overall pick Lane Johnson?
On defense, Bennie Logan has the opportunity to contribute immediately on the defensive line and safety Earl Wolff has already emerged as a standout.
The Eagles were lauded by analysts around the league for a strong draft, and so far this summer, that class has performed well under the hot sun of training camp.
Here is a look at the progress some of the Eagles rookies have made through the first two weeks of Camp Kelly.
WR - Russell Sheppard
Since Jeremy Maclin was lost for the season with a torn ACL last Saturday, veterans Riley Cooper and Damaris Johnson have received the lion's share of snaps in place of the four-year veteran. However, sneaking in a few reps each day has been Russell Sheppard, the LSU product signed by the Eagles as an undrafted free agent.
Sheppard is primarily a wide receiver, but as is the case with every player on this roster, versatility will be crucial in head coach Chip Kelly's eyes. Fortuitous for Sheppard, "versatility" happens to be his nickname.
He played quarterback in high school and has even played defensive back and running back during his career.
At this level, especially this season, the 6-foot-1, 195-pounder will likely need to have an impact on special teams.
S - Earl Wolff
The Eagles safety has been a revolving door of sorts in recent years.
This offseason, after not being all that impressed with incumbents Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen at the safety position, the team added Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips in free agency. The Birds' also used a fifth-round selection on North Carolina State product Earl Wolff. So far in camp, Wolff is proving he belongs.
Though training camp hasn't even reached it's second full week, there have been a few constants around the Novacare Complex: Earl Wolff spending extra time on the field after practice with teammates and assistant coaches, getting in extra work, and the 6-foot, 207-pound ball hawk turning heads rather frequently with highlight reel plays with regularity.
It's safe to say that the Eagles' secondary will be a patchwork unit this fall. All indications are that Wolff figures to be a major part of the plans moving forward and if he continues to grow as a player, there isn't very much keeping him from seeing the field as soon as this season.
WR - Ifeanyi Momah
Few players on the Eagles' roster are more intriguing than 6-foot-7 wide receiver Ifeanyi Momah.
Signed by the Eagles as an undrafted free agent, Momah has been getting steady practice reps, and it's not difficult to imagine him emerging as a red zone target for whoever lines up under center for the Birds this fall.
The Boston College product has plenty of ground to make up if he intends to make the active roster this season. After suffering a knee injury in 2011, he last played a game on September 3 of that season.
The 23-year old will be fighting for a roster spot with fellow rookies Russell Sheppard, B.J. Cunningham and Will Murphy. However, after losing Maclin for the season, Momah and his increasingly evident sure-handedness certainly have the opportunity to latch onto the roster or at the very least, stick around as a member of the team's practice squad.
TE - Zach Ertz
If there has been one question that's been asked to me via Twitter more than any other this week, it has been "who has stood out during practice?" The answer is a simple one.
Ertz is the type of player that you can't miss on the field. He's big, physical and is showing himself to be a very smooth route runner. He's also taking on a greatly expanded role in the absence of Jeremy Maclin in an offense that is already predicated on tight end play.
The Eagles' second-round draft choice out of Stanford has caught almost every pass thrown his way and on most days, he has turned in several "catch of the day" candidate receptions.
The 6-foot-5, 250-pound tight end has lined up all over the field, both in tight, in the slot and out wide. Again, with Chip Kelly, versatility will be crucial.
When he was drafted, many experts said that Ertz was pro-ready immediately, and judging by his initial training camp performances, it's hard to envision him not being one of the more critical players to the success of the Eagles' high-octane offense.
OT - Lane Johnson
From tackle to tackle, the Eagles just may have the strongest offensive line in the National Football League.
Anchored by All-Pro Jason Peters, the Birds' line has the makings of being truly dominant if Lane Johnson can reach his potential quickly.
Early on in camp, Johnson has shown the poise of a veteran, with few signs of a player who has only played offensive tackle consistently for two seasons. The 6-foot-6, 302-pound behemoth has been a road grader in practice, particularly in the run game which will be the focal point of Kelly's offense.
For as dominant as Johnson has looked early on, one has to be reminded that it is only practice, and the rookie must refine his technique for he and the offensive line to reach their true potential.
QB - Matt Barkley
If one thing is crystal clear about Eagles rookie quarterback Matt Barkley, it is that he belongs in the starting quarterback competition.
While he has yet to turn in the kind of workout that turns heads and shifts the competition on its axis in his favor, the prolific USC product certainly has shown himself to be a hard worker with the determined mentality it takes to improve and withstand the pressure cooker of an NFL position battle.
Whether or not the 6-foot-2, 227-pound quarterback is named the team's starting quarterback this season is almost besides the point. He has the luxury that none of the other four signal callers on this roster have: he is the only player handpicked by Chip Kelly. It's almost inevitable, be it as the opening day starter or not, that Barkley will see playing time this season and have the chance to prove that the Eagles made the right call by taking a flyer in the fourth round on him.
Besides, Kelly's mind is nowhere near made up on who the starting quarterback will be in Week 1 against the Washington Redskins, and if Nick Foles' impressive preseason last year can be used as a barometer for anything, it is that Barkley may have all the momentum he needs to tilt the competition in his favor should he turn in such an effort as a rookie.