Eugene Bright was a busy man today.
The Eagles’ undrafted rookie tight end didn’t get much in the way of breaks during practice today as one of only two healthy tight ends on the field (along with starter Brent Celek). With veteran Matt Schobel and fellow rookie Cornelius Ingram sidelined with injuries, Bright was forced to work overtime during the more than two-hour session.
Bright should be used to the extra workload by now. He’s been called upon to fill in the gaps in an injury-shortened tight end rotation ever since rookie camp back in May. With Ingram still recovering from a knee injury that claimed his entire senior season at Florida, Bright was given more than his share of the reps.
Now it looks like that trend will continue on a permanent basis. With today’s news that Ingram will miss the season after tearing the ACL in his right knee for the second time in as many years, Bright suddenly finds himself in a position not only to earn a roster spot, but to contribute as a first-year player.
Bright certainly doesn’t have Ingram’ pedigree, but he showed good hands today and a strong work ethic in camp. If he was tired at all from all the extra reps this morning, it certainly didn’t show in his play – he caught seemingly every ball thrown his way.
“I’m just trying to get better every play out there,” Bright said as he came off the field. “I’m just trying to get my timing down. I didn’t get to go to Arizona with these guys (for Donovan McNabb’s annual passing camp).”
Bright doesn’t have Ingram’s speed or game-breaking potential, but he has the kind of frame (the Eagles list him at 6-4 and 268 pounds) that should allow him to be an effective blocker for a team that saw its tight ends struggle mightily in the run game last season.
Many fans wanted the Eagles to draft a strong, wide-bodied tight end like Oklahoma State’s Brandon Pettigrew to shore up the edge blocking. Well, they didn’t draft Pettigrew, and Ingram’s biggest question mark has always been his ability to block after coming out of a spread offense in college. But the Birds just might have acquired a blocking tight end in April after all.
Bright, a local guy from Bryn Mawr, played high school ball with Andy Reid’s sons Garrett and Britt at Harriton. He played multiple positions, including tight end, at Harriton, but played exclusively at defensive end during his college career at Purdue.
He is also a former high school basketball player – a background that has been championed as an asset for NFL tight ends ever since former hoops players like the Chargers’ Antonio Gates began having success. (In fact, one of the arguments for Ingram’s star potential was that he played basketball at Florida.)
The extra time Bright’s gotten on the field because of Ingram’s injuries have no doubt been a boon to his transition back to offense, and it seems that he’s come a long way since the Eagles signed him as a free agent in the days leading up to the draft. He looks fluid and comfortable running routes, and shows an ability to use his body to get position on defenders.
Maybe the Birds still have a promising rookie tight end that will make an impact this season – it just isn’t the one they thought it would be.
** I’ve imbedded a YouTube highlight reel below of Bright’s greatest hits at Purdue. It might not speak much for his pass-catching ability, but you can see the kid’s a football player.
-- Mike Potter