Domo: Soul's Metz hoping to fly as an Eagle

JUST FIVE days ago, Jake Metz was jumping around the visitor's locker room at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz., swigging champagne and celebrating the Philadelphia Soul's 56-42 win over the Arizona Rattlers in ArenaBowl 29.

On Tuesday, the 25-year-old defensive end was out on the practice field at the NovaCare Complex preparing for the Eagles' final preseason game against the Jets Thursday night at the Linc.

Metz, who led the Arena League in sacks (eight) and was named the league's defensive lineman of the year, worked out for the Eagles on Monday, signed a contract with them later in the day and reported for work early Tuesday morning.

"I didn't get much sleep last night," said Metz, who was born in Abington, attended Souderton High School and rooted for the Eagles growing up.

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"I was up until about 2 or 3, just laying there staring at the ceiling. I got here pretty early today and I plan on doing the same tomorrow."

With the Eagles planning to rest their starters and most of their top backups Thursday in preparation for the Sept. 11 season opener against Cleveland, the 6-6, 260-pound Metz is expected to see a lot of action against the Jets.

While he would appear to be an extreme longshot to make the Eagles' season-opening 53-man roster given the lateness of his signing, a solid performance against the Jets could earn him the next best thing: a spot on the their practice squad.

The Eagles and Carolina Panthers both contacted Metz after the Soul's ArenaBowl win and invited him to work out for them. The Eagles offered him a contract before he had a chance to fly to Charlotte, N.C.

"I love his length and his size," coach Doug Pederson said. "He's got good athleticism. He's coming right off a championship season, so he's in shape and ready to go.

"With (rookie defensive end) Alex McCalister (calf) going down, we needed some depth there, and he gives us that rotation that we're looking for up front (at defensive end Thursday night). And it gives him an opportunity to get himself on film."

Said Metz: "I'm going to do whatever I can to show them that I belong on this team. I was talking to Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham and other players today and they were all telling me the same thing - not to worry. Just go out there and play.

"I've had the drive (to succeed) the whole time. I felt the whole time that I would get here. My persistence is what got me here. I'm not worried about anything. I'm gonna play."

Metz said he doesn't think he'll have any trouble transitioning from arena ball to the outdoor brand.

"It's a lot faster indoors," he said. "It's very fast. The field's smaller. The play's a lot quicker.

"There are a lot more running plays out here, obviously. You have to let the plays develop instead of just turning and running in arena ball."

Metz, who was a 6-6, 200-pound toothpick his senior year at Souderton, was ignored by the big schools and ended up going to Division II Shippensburg.

He filled out at Shippensburg and became the school's all-time sack leader (30 1/2) and all-time tackles-for-loss leader (55). But the NFL wasn't impressed.

He went undrafted and unsigned in 2014. The Eagles and Giants worked him out, but didn't offer him a contract. The Lions invited him to their rookie minicamp, but also didn't sign him.

Several Arena League teams called him after that and he ended up signing with the hometown Soul. He spent most of the 2015 season on the bench.

"He wasn't a dominant player last year," said Soul owner and former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski. "He played some linebacker. He played some defensive end. You could see he was an incredible athlete.

"But he needed an offseason. He committed himself to getting bigger, stronger and faster. It was so noticeable this year in training camp. He just exploded onto the scene. He dominated from Week 1."

"When you get released by teams, it can be pretty depressing," Metz said. "But Jaws giving me the opportunity to play over there (with the Soul) gave me the confidence to get to this point. Now, I'm here and I'm going to continue to excel."

Because of his size and explosive first step, Metz will be intriguing to watch in Jim Schwartz's Wide 9.

"In our league, we can't play a Wide 9," Jaworski said. "The rules forbid it. The end has to line up on the guard/tackle. When Jake gets out in that Wide 9 position, he's going to go, man, this is easy. When he takes on those 345-pound offensive tackles every play, he's going to have the advantage.

"He's so quick off the ball. And he's got that 'dip' move that is so important to a pass-rusher; that body lean that lets you dip under those offensive tackles. And he plays with great leverage."

Metz doesn't have a lot of prep time before Thursday night's game.

"I'm going to be the first guy here and the last one to leave," he said. "The coaches are taking me under (their wing). The players, too. The older guys are teaching me everything they know.

"They're basically telling me not to stretch the scheme. Just go out there and be the athlete I am. Which takes a load off of me for sure."

Jaworski is confident that Metz will play well Thursday.

"They're not going to play a lot of guys, so he's going to play a lot of snaps," he said. "If you focus on him, I guarantee you he'll be the first guy off the ball. I actually expect him to make some 'splash' plays Thursday night."

Jaworski said Metz's special-teams ability should help his chances of earning a spot on the Eagles' practice squad, and eventually, the 53-man roster.

"He's a demon on special teams," he said. "He's on our kick return teams. He's on our kick (coverage) teams. He's a beast. The Eagles will notice that and the league will notice that."


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