One of the things we always do when talking about players close to the bottom of the roster is mention how they might be playing well, but have little hope of making the roster. While this is somewhat true, you never know when that will change due to injuries.
It sounds like the light has finally gone on for CB Curtis Marsh and he’s playing the best football of his career. The problem is that he’s buried on the depth chart. Marsh is behind Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Nolan Carroll and rookie Jaylen Watkins. Being the 6th CB on a football team isn’t good. Teams normally only keep 5 corners. And Roc Carmichael is still in the mix. It is possible that Marsh is the #7 CB
But Marsh still has a chance to make the roster. If any of the top 5 guys goes down in practice or a preseason game, that could open the door for Marsh.One of the real challenges in sports is for guys who aren’t projected to start or even to make the team to play aggressively and confidently. The #7 CB on the team needs to play with the same attitude and mentality as the #1 CB. You can’t focus on the numbers. You have to play your best and put the pressure on the coaches, scouts and personnel staff to find a way to keep you. Or you want to put out good preseason tape to attract the other 31 teams.
Marsh could have seen the Eagles signing of Carroll and drafting of Watkins as signs that his career is over. Instead, it sure sounds like he is doing everything he can to impress the Eagles. I hope none of the top guys does go down, but if they do, Marsh needs to be ready to stand up. He wasn’t in the past but maybe that has finally changed.
Marsh isn’t the only Eagle backup who is having a good summer. Let’s look over some practice notes. First up is Jeff McLane.
Curtis Marsh may finally be on the outside looking in when it comes to making the roster, but he’s had a nice camp, albeit against third team competition. He scored an interception in front of Huff and had a pass breakup during one on ones. Later during team drills, he broke up a pass to Huff and knocked down a jump ball to Cunningham.
1. Andrew Gardner seems like he’s ahead of the other reserve tackles. There isn’t much depth there with Allen Barbre called up to replace the four-game-suspension-facing Lane Johnson. Gardner had a standoff with Cedric Thornton during a one on one. Kevin Graf seems to be getting better with every practice. He must be coachable. He was dusted by defensive end Joe Kruger early on, but stoned Travis Long and held off Trent Cole. The rest of the offensive line went nuts and the high point of Graf’s day must have been when Jason Peters came over and gave him a low five.
2. At guard, Matt Tobin looks to be the man to beat. He has been solid. Dennis Kelly has had his ups and downs. He suffered a setback last season with a back injury, but doesn’t look as if he’s progressed much since his rookie season. Michael Bamiro was moved to guard in the offseason, but he remains a project.
I didn’t think much of the Gardner signing when it happened, but he could turn out to be an important addition. The Eagles need some OT to stand up and take the key backup role while Lane Johnson is suspended and Allen Barbre is starting. Gardner could be that guy. He’s not played much in the league, but has been around long enough to know what he’s doing. He is a good athlete. The Eagles don’t need him to be Jason Peters. If he can just be Allen Barbre 2.0, that’ll do for now.
I wonder if Graf will turn out to be this year’s Tobin. I wasn’t overly impressed by Tobin at Iowa, but he was smart, tough and coachable. He took well to the NFL and had a good summer in 2013. Graf could be another guy who looks better in the NFL than he did in college. The interesting thing is that he played RT at USC, but the depth chart has him playing LT for the Eagles.
It sure doesn’t sound like Bamiro is making the kind of progress we hoped for. He needs to come alive in a big way on Friday night.
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• Curtis Marsh had a great day. He had four pass breakups that I counted, which is excellent. With Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Boykin, Nolan Carroll, and Jaylen Watkins are locks to make the team, Marsh likely isn’t going to find his way onto the 53-man roster, but he has had a really good camp.
• Mark Sanchez was up and down today, but he did have a highlight throw. During a session in practice in which the defense is supposed to be in somewhat of a ‘prevent’ mode in which they’re willing to give up short passes underneath, but keeping everything in front of them, Sanchez connected with Damaris Johnson on a gorgeous deep ball for a TD. Credit Sanchez for making a big time throw against a defense specifically designed to stop deep passes. You can also probably give the second team defense a healthy amount of blame on that one.
It is good to read positive stuff about Marsh. Every bit of progress is important. Whether he makes the Eagles or not, I would love to see him play well and earn a spot somewhere.
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Quron Pratt continues to have an impressive training camp. Pratt made a diving catch on a comeback route with Bradley Fletcher in coverage. It was a Sanchez throw. Later on, Pratt caught a Hail Mary catch deep in the back of the endzone but didn’t “complete the process” and dropped it after stepping out of bounds. Still kind of impressive that he even got his hands on it.
Really impressive back shoulder touchdown catch for Brad Smith against Bradley Fletcher from a Nick Foles throw. Foles seems to be really getting the hang of that throw. As far as Fletcher goes, he hasn’t had a bad camp, but today wasn’t his best day.
BLG has the kicking update as well.
• Eagles kicker competition: Alex Henery (5-5) was perfect from 37, 45, 42, 45, and 52. Undrafted free agent rookie kicker Carey Spear only made 2 out of 5 with misses from 42, 43, 45. … I was impressed with Henery’s kickoffs. None of them went through the back of the endzone for a touchback but they all went at least halfway through the endzone. … the Eagles practiced some extra point attempts from the 15-yard line because the NFL is experimenting with a longer distance in preseason.
It doesn’t sound like Henery has had a great summer, but he has shown some progress. This will be a make or break year for him.
I’m really intrigued to see Pratt in action. He’s quietly had a very good camp so far.
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The big storyline for the day was the play of Brandon Boykin.
McLane on Boykin – “Boykin has been excellent for most of camp, but he brought it today. His coverage was typically tight, but he’s added a karate chop to his repertoire. He has been consistently slapping the ball out of receiver’s hands like he did against B.J. Cunningham at one point. Later, Boykin, who had six interceptions last season, picked off Mark Sanchez when he went to Josh Huff in the end zone. Boykin lost his helmet on the play, but got up and chucked the ball away. Boykin may be best suited for the slot, but the Eagles have to find ways to get him on the field more than last season’s 50 percent.”
Kapadia on Boykin vs Matthews – “12:41 – Brandon Boykin vs. Matthews in one-on-ones. Who’s got popcorn?
Matthews runs down the seam and turns for the ball, but Boykin breaks it up. After practice, Matthews explained that he specifically requested to go up against Boykin today.
“It’s just seeing different looks,” Matthews said. “The first couple days I was going againstMalcolm [Jenkins]. I said, ‘Malcolm, let’s get together. I want to work against you. You’re a safety. I want to see how it is to go against somebody a little bit more physical in there, somebody that’s gonna try to get their hands on me.’
“And then yesterday and this morning, I said, ‘Yo Boykin, let’s go together. I need to make sure I work against you a little bit.’ So that’s why we took a lot more one-on-one reps together today. And then I also got to work against him some in team too. So it’s just about seeing different looks, being able to work against different type guys and then try to put that all together in my game.”
The next time they get matched up, Matthews uses his size advantage to create space within the 5-yard window, gets open and makes the grab on a shallow crosser.”
And then…”Boykin bats another ball down against B.J. Cunningham. At this point, he might as well start using the Dikembe Mutombo finger-wag.”
Jimmy Bama on Boykin – “There aren’t many players who compete harder than Brandon Boykin. During 11-on-11’s, Boykin won a contested battle with Josh Huff in the back corner of the end zone for an interception. Boykin’s helmet was ripped off on the play, and he emphatically chucked the ball in a fired-up celebration.
Boykin has consistently made plays throughout camp, but one thing that’s been very noticeable recently with is the violent way he attacks receivers’ arms when he’s trying to break up passes. Most corners will try to get a hand on the ball and that’s it. Boykin swings his arms down like hammers, so that even if he misses the ball, he can still punish the receivers’ arms, making it more difficult for them to make the catch.”