Eagles rookies pumped for preseason opener

Second-round pick Mychal Kendricks is currently the Eagles' starting strongside linebacker. (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)

Here’s the latest of our regular check-ins on the status of the Eagles’ rookies in training camp. First up, the draft picks, to be followed by the undrafted free agents in part 2.

Few players are looking forward to Thursday’s Eagles-Steelers game more than the team’s rookies, since it will be their first time stepping onto an NFL field as a player. “I’m so excited for my first game as an Eagle,” said defensive back Brandon Boykin.

How many of the team’s 24 rookies will last beyond the end of August? “In the game today, unlike maybe 15-20 years ago, the young players in some cases have to come right in and help the football team in sometimes several different ways,” said special teams coordinator Bobby April.

Here’s a rundown on how the team’s draft picks have fared so far. The first cut-down date is August 28, when teams have to get to 80 players. Teams then have to cut to the 53-man roster by September 2. 

--First-round pick defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and third-round defensive end Vinny Curry have shown quickness off the line and both figure to see playing time in the defensive line rotation. Cox is currently a backup to Cullen Jenkins, whom Cox credits with helping him learn the wide-nine scheme and also a few tricks of the trade. Curry is on the third team behind Trent Cole and Darryl Tapp. 

--Linebacker Mychal Kendricks, a second-round pick: Currently the starting strongside linebacker, ahead of Akeem Jordan, and his speed is perhaps the biggest factor. His instincts are good, and he’s often in the backfield for the first “tackle” during drills. 

“Mychal has been coming along well,” said defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. “Talk about relentless and tough…. He studies and it is important to him. The way he carries himself off of the field, too. We’re excited about him.” 

--Quarterback Nick Foles, a third-round pick: Has shown flashes of his potential, including when he hit Mardy Gilyard on a deep sideline route despite close coverage by Trevard Lindley during one scrimmage. His arm strength is not a concern.

But quarterbacks in Andy Reid’s system need time to fully absorb it. Foles occasionally looks flustered in the pocket as he slowly goes through his progressions. It’ll take him time, but apparently he’s putting in the work. And if the season comes down to Foles seeing playing time this season, something has gone wrong for the Birds. 

--Cornerback Brandon Boykin, a fourth-round pick: Considered a steal on draft day, and he has used this training camp to show why. He’s the first-team kickoff returner and, with his aggressive play, has been pushing Joselio Hanson for time at the nickel cornerback spot. 

“Both of them are having good camps,” said Castillo. “They are both competing and they are both smart, athletic and good people.” 

--Offensive tackle Dennis Kelly, a fifth-round pick: An imposing figure on the field at 6-foot-8, 321 pounds. He’s been using his size to his advantage, despite playing for a coach in Howard Mudd who typically likes his linemen shorter. Kelly is backing up Todd Herremans at right tackle. 

--Wide receiver Marvin McNutt and right guard Brandon Washington, sixth-round picks: Third-team on the depth chart and haven’t stood out much in camp. McNutt, the all-time leading receiver at Iowa, has height—he’s 6-3 and surrounded by much shorter receivers on the team—and looked solid enough when only the rookies were around early. 

--Running back Bryce Brown, the player the Eagles took a seventh-round flyer on: Has consistently produced NFL-caliber plays. He’s relentless as a runner and doesn’t go down easily, as Eagles defenders have discovered. 

He also has top-notch speed, as he showed during Thursday’s practice when he took a handoff on the left side, burst through the line, and was gone untouched for a 50-yard touchdown run. He’s currently the third-team back behind LeSean McCoy and Dion Lewis. 

“Bryce is a highly talented young man,” said April, “and he has an excellent opportunity here…. He’s getting his hard work done on the field and it’s shown for him.”


Check out Part 2 of Rookie Watch here.