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2012 Rookies Set For Impact

Posted Sep 4, 2012

There are starters, key reserves and developmental prospects among the 10 in the 2012 Eagles Rookie Class ...

A roster that has been heralded as largely remaining "intact" from 2011 has, when all is said and done, nearly one-third of its members from a rookie class that is expected to step in right away and help. How much help can the Eagles reasonably expect?

I remember a time not that long ago when Andy Reid was chided for not playing his rookies enough. Nobody can say that now, eh?

Anyway, that's not the point here. The point is to illustrate how remarkable the youth on this roster is and how much the Eagles are counting on their kids. So, in alphabetical order, here is the rookie class and what they may or may not give to the Eagles this season ...

BRANDON BOYKIN, cornerback/kick returner

Clearly, there is a lot riding on Brandon Boykin, the fourth-round draft pick from Georgia. The Eagles think so much of him that they released proven veteran Joselio Hanson, the longtime staple as a nickel cornerback. In Boykin the Eagles see an athletic, physical player who has great athletic ability.

The Eagles know that offenses are going to try to tie Boykin up in traffic and in misdirection. He's got to see through the forest to get to the trees, if that analogy works. It's not going to be easy for Boykin, who isn't going to back down.

At the same time, he's going to be the team's kickoff return man. Now, in today's NFL there are very few opportunities to return kickoffs, but Boykin will be the guy when the kickoffs are short enough to return. He showed in the preseason that he has a burst and the speed to get to the edge. The Eagles, for the first time in some time, have a threat in the kickoff return game.

BRYCE BROWN, running back

The young man who played very sparingly in college made enough of an impact in the spring and summer to be a no-doubt-about-it member of this 53-man roster. Bryce Brown brings to the table a blend of power and size and speed and you can understand that the upside to be quite a back in the NFL is there. He has some major ability.

Now ... can Brown put it all together as a rookie and contribute? He's listed as the third-team running back behind LeSean McCoy and Dion Lewis, and Brown also is one of the kickoff return men, usually serving as the lead blocker for Boykin. Brown runs well and catches the ball well and he's made nice strides as a blocker. He has a huge future. The question is, though, can he help this year?

FLETCHER COX, defensive tackle

The team's first-round draft pick in April, Fletcher Cox is going to see a lot of time as the Eagles rotate their four defensive tackles. Cox has power and he is improving in his get-off at the line of scrimmage. The Eagles think Cox is going to be a tremendous player and he's going to get plenty of playing time early in the season.

In fact, when the Eagles use Cullen Jenkins at left end to open games, Cox starts with Derek Landri inside. The rookie will be pushed early as teams go at him, but the skill set is there to be very, very good.

VINNY CURRY, defensive end

Quick off the ball, relentless with his work ethic, Vinny Curry looks the part for Jim Washburn's description of a prototype defensive end. But in this season, as a rookie, it's going to be tough for Curry to get on the field.

The Eagles have six defensive ends and Curry appears to be No. 6. Will he dress on game days? That remains to be seen. Curry has to stay sharp and work on his technique and prepare for when his name is called.

NICK FOLES, quarterback

The future is bright for Nick Foles, at least based on what we've seen from him since the Eagles used a third-round pick on him in April. He looked great on the field and he has handled everything off the field exceptionally well.

At the moment, Foles is listed behind Michael Vick, and as long as Vick stays healthy and plays his game, we won't hear much from Foles this season. But ...

DAMARIS JOHNSON, wide receiver/punt returner

Undrafted in April, Damaris Johnson has played with a strong sense of purpose and earned a roster spot and a significant role on the team. He's going to be the punt return man at the very least. Will he work his way into the rotation at wide receiver? As long as Riley Cooper is out as he mends from his broken collarbone, Johnson could see some reps.

Johnson isn't the fastest guy on the field, but he's extremely quick and he has a natural ability to catch the ball and to run in and out of his routes very, very fast.

Johnson has a place in the NFL. The speed of the game goes up a notch in the regular season, so the next test is to see Johnson take his game up another gear.

DENNIS KELLY, offensive lineman

Why does it seem likely that Dennis Kelly will play an important part in the success of the offensive line at some point this season? Kelly has impressed coach Howard Mudd this summer with his great feet and reach, and he has seen time at both tackle spots and inside at guard. He's extremely valuable because of his versatility.

Kelly reminds some of a rookie version of Todd Herremans, who came from tiny Saginaw Valley State and has since developed into an outstanding player. Kelly needs to refine the edges, of course, and that is his challenge moving forward.

MYCHAL KENDRICKS, linebacker

OK, so we've all watched Mychal Kendricks' every move in the preseason. Raise your hand if you are impressed. You are certainly not alone feeling that way.

Kendricks has special qualities and skills. He's going to make mistakes, but he's going to make them moving 100 mph. Kendricks has some major tight ends coming down the pike this season, but he has already shown good coverage skills and a great nose for the football.

It's been a long time since the Eagles drafted a great linebacker. Could Kendricks be the next one?

NATE MENKIN, offensive lineman

Claimed off of waivers from the Texans over the weekend, Nate Menkin is a big kid who played in a small pond in college. He's got great feet and a feel for the tackle spots -- both sides, likely.

It's hard to say what the Eagles have planned for him, but given the uncertainty of the depth behind the starters along the offensive line, who knows? Mudd likes athletes and Menkin certainly is an athlete. He showed a lot of good things in Houston in the preseason. Now he's here and the Eagles want to see him develop quickly over the course of the season.

CHRIS POLK, running back

The big, bruising running back from Washington came on strong in the preseason and won himself a roster spot. Now where does Chris Polk help the offense?

Polk is the fourth of four halfbacks on the roster and his physical style is unique here. Can the Eagles dress four halfbacks? Can Polk do enough on special teams to dress on game days?

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