Eagles Wake-Up Call: Rookie Status Report

Zach ErtzToday, we check in on the rookies. Here’s a player-by-player breakdown of what we’ve seen from each guy, along with projections going forward.

Lane Johnson – The whole “raw” label hasn’t shown up much in the first two preseason games. Based on early returns, Johnson has a chance to be a beast in the run game right away. There have been some issues in pass protection, but Johnson has held up fine in that aspect too. He’s athletic, hustles and will start at right tackle from Day One. An encouraging camp and preseason for the No. 4 overall pick.

Zach Ertz – Four catches for 46 yards on five targets through two preseason games. Ertz has played 42 snaps per PFF; he’s gone out into pass routes on 62 percent of those. The second-round pick will have to prove himself as a blocker, but he’s a polished route-runner who will have a role in the passing game right away. Look for Ertz to be a nice option in the red zone. He’ll play big snaps from the get-go.

Bennie Logan – He’s been a pleasant surprise. Logan always figured to have a place in the defensive line rotation, but so far he looks like one of the Eagles’ best players up front. Opposing offensive linemen have had a tough time controlling Logan in the run game, and he’s been effective as a pass-rusher too. The third-round pick will be coached to make use of those 34-inch arms and get in the passing lanes. Chip Kelly has said he’ll probably play six defensive linemen in the regular season. If Logan keeps showing up on tape, he’ll play plenty of snaps right away.

Matt Barkley – Expectations varied when the Eagles drafted him, but Barkley’s pretty much performed at the level of a fourth-round pick. In other words, he’s been up and down. Kelly likes how Barkley gets rid of the ball quickly, but the rookie QB has set his receivers up for dangerous hits on too many occasions. He’s never really been a part of the QB competition this summer and will likely spend Year 1 on the sidelines.

Earl Wolff – A bit of a mystery. The safety from N.C. State has gotten some reps with the first team in practice, but he didn’t get into Thursday night’s game until the second half. Patrick Chung has one of the safety spots locked down, but the other one is up for grabs. Nate Allen has started both preseason games. Wolff has a chance to make his move, but the guess here is he’ll start the season as a backup.

Joe Kruger – He’s only 21-years-old and unlikely to contribute in his first season. The question with Kruger is: Will he make the 53-man roster? If the Eagles really like his potential and think he might get snatched up by another team, they could keep him and make him a regular inactive. But stashing him on the practice squad is a real possibility.

David King – If the practice and preseason rotations are any indication, he’s going to have a tough time making the roster. The seventh-round pick hasn’t flashed much and has been passed by undrafted free agent Damion Square on the depth chart.

Jordan Poyer – Some thought the Eagles got a steal with Poyer in the seventh round, but the Oregon State product has had a quiet summer. The Eagles are thin at cornerback, so Poyer’s got a chance to sneak on the roster. But he hasn’t done much to stand out so far.

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Among the undrafted guys, Square and linebacker Jake Knott seem like good bets to make the roster. Square figures to add depth on the defensive line, and Knott should be one of the backups behind DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks.

Other names to watch are Michael Bamiro, Russell Shepard and Matthew Tucker. Bamiro is a developmental tackle prospect. He seemed to draw some interest from other teams back in July, so the Eagles might not want to risk losing him by going the practice squad route.

Shepard started off great, but has been quiet in the preseason games and could be headed for the practice squad. Tucker could claim a spot just because Felix Jones has been unimpressive. But the Eagles could choose to add a running back from another team instead.

WHAT YOU MISSED

A detailed “tape” review of how the Eagles used the zone read/bubble screen packaged play on multiple occasions vs. Carolina.

O-Line wisdom has been passed down from Tra Thomas to Todd Herremans and now to Lane Johnson, writes T-Mac.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Paul Domowitch of the Daily News talked to wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell about the team’s option routes:

“You always have some West Coast plays in your concepts, and we have all those,” wide-receivers coach Bob Bicknell said. “But there’s also more chances for guys to kind of read coverage, read how they’re getting covered and make plays off of the leverage of the defender or whether they’re playing man or zone. “I think that’s what’s a little bit different in this offense. We have option routes where guys have an ability to understand what we’re trying to get, where other people are, and where they have a chance to win and get open.”

Derek Sarley of IgglesBlog suggests preseason defenses haven’t shown much yet against Kelly:

Right now, Chip’s offense is being greatly helped by the passivity of the defenses he’s facing. For months, we read stories about how every defensive staff in the league was studying ways to beat spread option looks, and yet so far we haven’t seen anything all that innovative beyond some rotations by the Patriots to mess up the reads with different edge defenders.It’s going to take some time before the league fully understands everything Kelly’s trying to do, but I’ll be shocked if our week one opponent — a team that has more than a passing familiarity with these same offensive concepts — isn’t ready with a big bag of tricks we aren’t seeing yet.

COMING UP

We’ll be back at NovaCare, talking to Kelly and several players today.

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