Eagles Wake-Up Call: JaCorey Shepherd On the Mend
A lot can happen in a year — especially when you’re talking about this team. From the collapse of the Chip Kelly regime to the front-office realignment to the resuscitation of the Andy Reid era; from drafting the quarterback of the future to the disappearing act by the quarterback of the present…there’s a lot to keep up with. So it would be forgiven if that sixth-round pick out of Kansas who flashed then crashed last summer made his way off your radar.
But JaCorey Shepherd has been here all the while. Hasn’t left the city much, in fact, thanks to an intense rehab schedule that has largely tied him to the NovaCare.
It’s been just about nine months since Shepherd tore the ACL in his right knee after colliding with Darren Sproles during training camp practice. Asked about the path that followed, Shepherd replied simply, “Hard.”
“It’s been crazy,” he continued, “but I learned a lot about myself and a lot about the game and how to be patient, and a lot about how to take care of my body,” he said.
As a Texas boy, Shepherd noted that football started early for him and never relented. Between that and the other sports he played, the 23-year-old never got any time off — until he suffered this injury. With the benefit of rest, he says this is the best he’s felt overall since he started playing ball.
As for the knee, Shepherd told Birds 24/7 that he is ahead of schedule. He plans on doing some individual work during the upcoming OTAs. The goal is to ditch the knee brace and be full-go by training camp.
“I have no doubt. As of right now the way everything’s going, I’ll be ready for sure,” said Shepherd, “and maybe I’ll be able to do something in the mandatory minicamp.”
Shepherd racked up 32 passes defensed and five interceptions over his last two seasons with Kansas en route to first-team All-Big 12 honors. A hamstring injury during his pre-draft testing may have factored into his slide down the draft board.
Kelly scooped him in the sixth round and was happy he did, as Shepherd quickly became the favorite to land the starting nickel corner job. The confidence in Shepherd and the rest of the unit allowed the Eagles to pull the trigger on a deal that sent Brandon Boykin to the Steelers for a conditional fifth-round pick. Just days after that trade, though, Shepherd was lost for the year.
A decent amount of change has happened in the secondary since then. Byron Maxwell is out, Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks were brought in, and the Eagles selected DBs Blake Countess and Jalen Mills to add competition. Last year, Billy Davis typically opted for safety Malcolm Jenkins to man the slot role in most sub-packages. It’s to be determined how Jim Schwartz will want to deploy his men, but the plan from Shepherd’s perspective is to make sure his name is once again near the top of desirable options.
“That’s my mentality. That was my mentality after those first two months once I was able to start actually moving around, that was the way I took it: I know the expectations were kinda high; I’m going to keep ’em high regardless of how they view it or how anyone else views it, I still look at myself to [pick up] where I left off, and I’m not going to settle for anything else,” he said. “That’s how I approach it. I want to pick up where I left off. I’m not going to use this as an excuse..
“Everybody gets hurt, it’s about how you bounce back.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
“Philadelphia insists it wants Sam Bradford to be its starter, while Bradford wants to be elsewhere. The rest of the NFL insists on yawning.” Weekend Reading.
“This is pretty rare. The majority of my offensive line is not doing anything right now.”
NFC East Roundup.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Lane Johnson tells 97.5 The Fanatic that Sam Bradford should be back in the fold soon.
“I haven’t really talked to him but word on the street is from other guys that have is that he’ll be back pretty quick and be ready for OTAs,” said Johnson.
“I expect him to be back either this week or probably next week so that’s the word on the street anyway…
Does he need to win teammates back over or will this be viewed as just business?
“I just see it as a guy handling his business. I think he’s going to return and when he does that, we’ll break the ice and get back to work. But I think the deal with Carson [Wentz] being here, I think that’ll just bring the best out of Sam as far as that’s concerned when you have competition like that. So I think it’ll be a good thing for us.”
A new personnel head will be in place soon, per Jeff McLane.
The Eagles are close to hiring Bears scout Joe Douglas to head their personnel department, NFL sources told the Inquirer on Saturday.
The announcement is expected Monday.
Douglas, who has been the Bears’ director of scouting for the last year, interviewed with the Eagles on Thursday. He previously spent 15 years as a Ravens scout.
Douglas will report to Howie Roseman, the Eagles’ executive vice president of football operations, and head the scouting department.
We’ll keep an eye out on the Douglas and Bradford fronts.