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Learning About 2012 Rookie Class

Posted Nov 21, 2012

It's happening before our very eyes, and what "it" is may determine the Eagles' somewhat-immediate future. A youth movement will assault the field on Monday night ...

In part due to injury, and in some cases ineffectiveness, the Rookie Class of 2012 is going to be front and center in front of a national television audience when Carolina comes to town for Monday Night Football.

The last time I saw this happen was in 2005, when an injury-ravaged team played with the likes of Mike Patterson, Reggie Brown, Ryan Moats, Todd Herremans and Trent Cole for much of the second half of that season. Some of those players, we found out in the course of watching them play, proved to be good, solid starters on this team.

Others kind of went by the wayside, in retrospect.

Anyway, Monday night's game is going to feature a lot to watch. First-round draft pick Fletcher Cox is already a mainstay on the defensive line and he has the upside to get you really, really excited. He has a chance -- OK, I'll say it just to add some optimism to the room -- to be a star. He's not there yet, but he has a chance to be.

Second-round draft pick Mychal Kendricks is learning on the go. He's been a starter since day one and he has shown a wiiiiiiiiiiidddddeeee range of skills. There are times when Kendricks just takes over a series and swarms to the football and makes plays behind the line of scrimmage and dominates. There are also times when he takes bad angles on tackles or is unable to get off of blocks or loses some leverage in coverage. The kid is a rookie, and he plays like one. The upside is that Kendricks has a chance to be a very good player. He has a lot of work ahead, but he's the kind of kid who digs in and who loves this kind of challenge. He'll get there.

Quarterback Nick Foles is in position to get his second consecutive start after Sunday's lesson learned against Washington. Foles knows he's going to get a dose of Sean McDermott's blitzing scheme -- McDermott learned under Jim Johnson, as you know -- and so the key is going to be read and recognition and execution. Foles has been in the NovaCare Complex all week studying, taking notes and immersing himself in the game plan for Monday night.

The Eagles need to see a mini-step forward from Foles. It would make everyone feel so good, wouldn't it? To make it happen, Foles may have to rely on seventh-round draft pick Bryce Brown at halfback. With LeSean McCoy still in Phase 1 of his recovery from Sunday's concussion, Brown took the reps as the starter in Wednesday's practice, with Dion Lewis at the No. 2 position.

Brown is an intriguing young back, no doubt. He hardly played in college after a sensational high school career and entered the draft with a lot of question marks, and a lot of rust on the football field.

So, Brown has been pretty good. He's got a nice burst, decent power and excellent speed for a 220-pound back. He is a willing blocker and is a smart kid. Can he carry 15 times on Monday night? Might he be more effective with that many carries, or does he not yet have that endurance?

Three other draft picks -- plus rookie free agent Damaris Johnson -- figure to see time on Monday night, and you've seen a lot of two of them already. Dennis Kelly is expected to start at right tackle, another chance for a fifth-round draft pick who is in the developmental phase of his career. How good is Kelly? Some good and some not so good. He's got good feet, a nice reach and a punch that is improving. Kelly is probably more of a tackle than a guard, and he will have his hands full on Monday night.

Brandon Boykin has been the nickel cornerback all season and has the usual up-and-down rookie season. He was great early, then got picked on a bunch for a few weeks and has since settled down into somewhere in-between great and not very good. It's a broad range, of course.

The final rookie who could see some time is second-round draft pick Vinny Curry, the team's third selection in April. He has played not a bit since the preseason, when he seemed to be around the football quite a bit. How much Curry plays, and in what role, remains to be seen. He could get two snaps or he could get 20. The Eagles need to learn about him as they weed through the glut of ends on this roster.

Add it up and that's seven of nine draft picks who are expected to play on Monday night, plus Johnson. It's a youth movement, even if it isn't announced as one. Injuries and a 3-7 record necessitate these kinds of moves, and for all of us it's a sneak peek into what could be the Eagles' near future.

The kids need to grow up quickly to end this six-game losing streak, that much is for sure. A rookie backfield of Foles, Brown and fullback Stanley Havili -- who didn't play last year -- is what you might see a lot against the Panthers, so it would be doubly rewarding to see the young men step up and play well and win a game the Eagles desperately need to win.

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