5 Players Who May Find Themselves on Philadelphia Eagles' Practice Squad in 20
It’s not enough to project the Philadelphia Eagles’ 53-man roster. Here at Bleacher Report, we’re taking a stab at predicting a few of the names who will wind up on the practice squad as well.
Once final cuts are made at the end of training camp, the Eagles will choose eight players to serve on their practice squad. In order for a player to be eligible for the scout team, he must first clear waivers—or in other words, every other front office must first pass on adding that player to their own roster.
That means the Eagles may not get to stash just anybody from their current 90-man roster at the NovaCare Complex. Of course, it also means that not all eight spots are necessarily reserved for players currently in the nest.
Which is why we’re limiting our early projections to five who might not make the cut but won’t necessarily be out of a job come September, either. Who could head coach Chip Kelly be eying to fill out the team?
WR Ifeanyi Momah
Ifeanyi Momah generated a lot of buzz when he signed with the Eagles as an undrafted free agent last March. A 6’7”, 239-pound wide receiver, Momah spent more than year out of football after suffering a torn ACL as a senior at Boston College. When he was finally able to work out for NFL teams, though, he reportedly ran a 4.4 40.
However, once the Eagles got him into training camp, it was fairly evident Momah was a project. He wound up not even make the practice squad.
Yet Momah was re-signed in January, and based on what Chip Kelly said to Sam Donnellon of the Philadelphia Daily News, it sounds like there might be some progress there.
We have seen a marked improvement from last year to this year...He's not just trying to figure out, 'Where do I line up at the snap?' He already knows where he's going and he's lining up and reading coverages and has a better understanding in terms of how it's supposed to look. I think he feels more comfortable here. There's not a newness in terms of this is not my first time doing this, and what does this look like, where am I supposed to be, how does that work?'
That being said, even if Momah is far and away a better receiver than he was this time last year, there’s plenty of competition at that position. Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper certainly aren’t going anywhere, nor are this year's second- and third-round picks Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff. Veterans Brad Smith and Arrelious Benn seemingly hold inside tracks to roster spots as well, and the Eagles carried only five wideouts in 2013.
Momah’s potential is downright frightening, but right now, that’s all it is...potential. Even at BC, he only logged 39 career receptions and six touchdowns over four seasons.
Yet assuming Momah has made strides, he may be worth keeping around in an effort to continue his development. After all, you simply don’t see many 6’7” human beings with 4.4 speed.
OLB Travis Long
Travis Long already spent one season on Philly’s practice squad. A torn ACL caused the Washington State pass-rusher to go completely overlooked in the 2013 draft until the Birds swooped in last July. Now all of a sudden, as Chip Kelly tells Paul Domowitch for the Philadelphia Daily News, Long has a legitimate shot at making an NFL roster:
He's really improved...I think obviously when we got him, he was coming off of an injury. He spent a year on the practice squad and didn't miss any time. But you could tell he was still recovering from the injury.
But he has really made some great strides and is a guy that's really pushing hard to make this football team. I think he'll be able to contribute from a special-teams standpoint and add some depth at the outside-linebacker spot. So he's definitely a guy you have to keep an eye on right now.
There’s just one problem. Whose spot is Long going to take?
The jobs of starting outside linebackers Connor Barwin and Trent Coles are virtually assured. The front office used the Eagles’ first-round pick on Marcus Smith, all but cementing some role in the defense. The team also guaranteed free agent Bryan Braman a few bucks when the former Houston Texans' special teams ace signed over the offseason. And unless Brandon Graham is traded before the season gets underway, he’s still a very effective pass-rusher despite limited opportunities.
Long may have racked up 20.5 sacks at WSU, but the Eagles also appear to have turned outside linebacker from a weakness to a strength in one short year. Unless Graham winds up being moved—which I have to believe is not the unlikeliest scenario—I’m simply not seeing where there’s space for Long.
TE Blake Annen
Blake Annen proved himself to be an incredible physical specimen at Cincinnati’s pro day, measuring in at 6’4”, 247 pounds and running the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds according to Gil Brandt for NFL.com. So why was Annen only signed by the Eagles as an undrafted free agent rather than a Day 1 or 2 pick?
Probably because Annen is a tight end who posted just 19 receptions during his collegiate career. He certainly possesses all the physical tools to play the position, but he clearly needs work in order to be a viable target in the passing game.
As far as progress is concerned, it sounds like Annen is already a little behind. Geoff Mosher for CSNPhilly.com noted Annen was among the tight ends who barely sniffed the field during minicamps.
Maybe that shouldn’t come as a big surprise. After all, it is a tough group to crack. Brent Celek and Zach Ertz have prominent roles in the offense, and James Casey is a fantastic blocking tight end and special teams contributor. Emil Igwenagu actually made the 53-man roster out of training camp last year, and fellow undrafted rookie Trey Burton’s versatility could be valuable.
With that in mind, perhaps Burton is a candidate for the scout team as well.
Annen’s measureables might be too good to pass up, though. If he can carve out a role on special teams, he may even have an outside shot at a roster spot. Otherwise, Annen could become a special project of Chip Kelly’s while serving on the practice squad—that is, if the kid clears waivers.
DE Alejandro Villanueva
Easily one of the most intriguing prospects on the Eagles’ roster, Alejandro Villanueva is not only a mountain of a man standing 6’9”, 277 pounds. He’s also a total badass, having served three tours in Afghanistan with the United States Army Rangers.
Now he is trying his hand at pro football, signing a free-agent contract with Philadelphia during the offseason. During OTAs, Chip Kelly discussed what amazing shape Villanueva is in—especially for a defensive lineman—with Tim McManus for Philadelphia Magazine.
I've been kind of partially amazed that he could do what he's done...He was training such in a different realm, I think he was preparing for a lot of the PT work that he did in the Army, he was running five miles a day. We're certainly not asking our defensive linemen to run five miles a day. There was one day here, you can check with him, I think he went from here to an Army training session and went out and had a couple PT tests that he had to pass and actually one of them was a five‑mile test. He nailed it and came back and didn't miss a day.
He’s been just a guy that you see every day just getting a little bit better, getting a little bit better. As I said the other day, a real intriguing prospect but just amazed at everything that Alejandro does to be honest with you.
Of course, Kelly glossed over a very salient point while heaping praise on Villanueva. The guy may be an unbelievable specimen and real-life warrior, but he hasn’t competed in organized football since 2009. And the last time Villanueva did appear in a game for Army, he was playing wide receiver not defensive end.
There’s something to be said, though, for having an athlete of Villanueva’s sheer size, not to mention his effort and fortitude. There’s a place for all of those things in Kelly’s program.
On the 53-man roster though? Given how raw Villanueva has to be, that would be a massive upset.
WR Kadron Boone
Not only is wide receiver Kadron Boone a name to watch for Philadelphia’s practice squad. One NFL executive suggested to Geoff Mosher for CSNPhilly.com that the 2013 undrafted free agent is flat out “gonna make that team.”
He’s not a bad receiver; he’s a pretty good receiver...He just got caught up in a place that has two pretty good receivers. He’s going to be fine. I honestly believe he can play either way (outside and slot), and that’s what’s going to benefit him.
He can run. He has good hands. Very competitive guy...You’ll see. He’s definitely gonna show up. It wouldn’t surprise me if he makes the team and actually contributes. I wouldn’t be surprised if he outplays Huff. It wouldn’t surprise me.
Of course, Boone has the same steep hill to climb at wideout that Ifeanyi Momah faces, except that in addition to posting mediocre production at LSU, Boone doesn’t possess off-the-chart measureables.
Then again, coming from an LSU receiver corps that heard three players’ names called in the draft—including two in the first two rounds—at least Boone has a built-in excuse for lacking big numbers in college. Plus, if he does make the club in any capacity, be it as a fifth or sixth receiver or on the scout team, it won’t necessarily be his skill as a pass-catcher that gets him in the door.
Boone is only going to earn a roster spot if he can demonstrate a knack for special teams as well. Mosher’s source didn’t mention that aspect of Boone’s game, but as a four-year reserve at LSU, it stands to reason he most likely has some experience in that role as well.