Eagles Rookie Progress Report
Today seems like a good day to check in on the progress of the Eagles’ rookie class. Here’s a player-by-player rundown:
Fletcher Cox – At this point in the season, he looks like the team’s best defensive tackle. Cox is a handful for opposing offenses against the run, and he leads all Eagles linemen with 23 tackles (15 solo). As a pass-rusher, he’s been far less consistent, but Cox has still shown flashes (14 hurries overall) – specifically against the Giants (five hurries) and Ravens (four hurries). Cox’s lone sack came in the opener. The same production was not there against the Steelers, and Cox got thrown out of the Lions game for throwing a punch on a special-teams play. No one was expecting him to be perfect from Day 1, but Cox appears to have a Pro Bowl ceiling. He isn’t a starter, but Cox plays more snaps than Derek Landri every week. The key in the final 10 will be consistency as an interior pass-rusher, something the Eagles have not had in the past few games.
Mychal Kendricks – He’s had a few miscues here and there, but overall, Kendricks has lived up to expectations and provided an upgrade at the SAM linebacker spot. He rarely comes off the field (93.2 percent of the snaps, per Pro Football Focus) and has 32 tackles (24 solo) on the season. The Eagles are eighth in the league at covering opposing tight ends, per Football Outsiders. And they are seventh against opposing running backs, after finishing 29th last year. The upgrade at linebacker has a lot to do with that. Going forward, Kendricks can continue to hone his coverage skills, specifically as a zone defender. Against the run, he’s had some issues getting off blocks in the last couple games. But overall, Kendricks looks like a player who should only get better, especially if he keeps hanging around DeMeco Ryans.
Vinny Curry – The second-round pick had a pretty good preseason but has not been active for a single game yet. We knew the defensive line was the deepest part of the team entering the season, but considering Jim Washburn’s group has underperformed, Curry could see some snaps in the coming weeks.
Brandon Boykin – Because the Eagles have Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the outside, opposing quarterbacks have targeted Boykin quite a bit when he’s in the game. He’s had some rookie growing pains, but overall, has played well. As others have pointed out, he needs to improve his feel for where to be when the Eagles are in zone (analysis here by Tim). Boykin had been playing exclusively inside until last week when he saw some snaps outside as the Lions moved Calvin Johnson to the slot. We’ll see how much he can improve in the final 10 games working with Todd Bowles. Overall, Boykin has played 55.7 percent of the team’s snaps.
Nick Foles – He had a great preseason, but has not seen the field yet through six games. Of course, last week Andy Reid refused initially to commit to Michael Vick as the team’s starting quarterback. Foles is a great unknown, but if Vick continues to turn the ball over at the current rate, the rookie could get a chance in the coming weeks.
Dennis Kelly – The coaching staff seems to like him, but Kelly has only played three snaps this season. He’s been active for five games. In the preseason, he played both tackle and guard. Considering the offensive line’s struggles through six games, don’t be shocked if Kelly gets a shot to start at some point.
Bryce Brown – The coaches clearly like his potential as they rewarded Brown with the No. 2 running back spot at the beginning of the season. He’s played 13.7 percent of the team’s offensive snaps, but has not made much of an impact. Brown has 51 yards on 19 carries (2.7 YPC) and one catch for 8 yards. He’s also probably the team’s worst pass-blocker. The Eagles will have to decide what they want to do with Dion Lewis. Considering Brown only played in three college games after 2009, the guess is we might be a year away from knowing what kind of player he’s going to be. For now, he’s still listed as the team’s No. 2 back.
Chris Polk – The Eagles kept him on the roster after training camp, but Polk hasn’t done much so far. He has not been on the field for any offensive snaps, and as Sam Lynch pointed out recently, he has not been a productive special-teams player either. Polk has been active for five of six games. I’m not sure both he and Lewis will stay on the roster the entire season.
Damaris Johnson – Through five games, he served as the team’s fourth wide receiver and No. 1 punt returner. Johnson was fine as a receiver (8 catches for 124 yards), but has given up that role to Riley Cooper, who was active last week for the first time. Cooper provides size at wide-out, something the Eagles don’t have elsewhere on the roster. Johnson’s role as a punt returner is up in the air. He fielded a steady dose of fair catches and failed to produce a return longer than 13 yards. Last week, Mardy Gilyard took over return duties with an assist from DeSean Jackson.
Nate Menkin – The Eagles signed him off waivers from the Houston Texans, but Menkin has not been active for a game yet. It appears he’s more of a developmental project at guard/tackle, and it’s unlikely he gets on the field this season.
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