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Sizing Up IR Impact For 2014

Posted Feb 10, 2014

A season of proper nutrition, sports science, the right kind of training and, admittedly, good luck mixed in helped the Eagles stay relatively healthy in 2013. A few players coming back in '14, though, could help the cause ...

A flurry of injuries bizarrely impacted training camp at the NovaCare Complex as the Eagles lost three players for the 2013 season with knee injuries, but for the most part last year was as good as it gets in the NFL from a health standpoint for this team.

How many of those players who ended 2013 on Injured Reserve can help the team in 2014? Let's take a look ...

ARRELIOUS BENN, wide receiver

Acquired in a trade from Tampa Bay, Arrelious Benn figured to compete for a roster spot, at the very least, and perhaps play his way into some significant snaps. He's a big body at 6 feet 2, 220 pounds and Benn has also played special teams in his NFL career.

What's in store for Benn next season? He's an interesting guy to watch. Benn didn't get enough reps in the spring or in training camp to totally immerse himself in the new offense, so the first question is how much he has retained and how fluid will he be when practices begin. Of course, Benn has to show that he is fully recovered from his ACL injury and that he can run well enough to separate and to play in coverage on special teams.

The entire wide receiver corps is a bit up in the air with some free-agency questions and some general questions about how much the Eagles will challenge this group in free agency and in the draft. Where does Benn figure into the mix? If he can run and learn the system and build chemistry with the rest of the offense, he could be a help to the passing game.

PHILLIP HUNT, linebacker

Scheduled to become a restricted free agent in March, Phillip Hunt is in an interesting position. He played as a hand-down defensive end for a couple of years after coming over from the Canadian Football League and had some moments where he flashed with his speed off the edge. But as the Eagles moved to a 3-4 scheme, Hunt was asked to change to a stand-up end.

He didn't have enough time to show what he could do. Hunt went down in August with a knee injury and missed the entire season, so now he's in a tough spot. Do the Eagles make a tender offer to Hunt and retain his services? Does Hunt hit the market and see what kind of opportunities are out there for him?

No doubt Hunt's first goal is to show that he is healthy. He's been rehabbing since September and has always been a hard-working guy and an underdog. The Eagles could use every bit of an improved pass rush, so maybe Hunt is someone who returns and gets a chance to show what he can do. His picture will be clarified when the team decides on its plans for the RFA.

JOE KRUEGER, defensive end

A seventh-round draft pick last April, Joe Krueger is an intriguing prospect. He's 6 feet 6 and is listed at 269 pounds. A shoulder injury ended Krueger's rookie season in the summer, so he spent the season studying the defense and working on his overall body strength and explosiveness.

Where is Krueger now from a physical standpoint? He should be in the best shape of his life, stronger than ever and much more prepared for the NFL life. Head coach Chip Kelly understands that big guys beat up little guys on the football field, and Krueger has plenty of room to build his body. Keep an eye on him this spring and summer and see how he fits into the defensive line equation.

JEREMY MACLIN, wide receiver

We all know the story here: Jeremy Maclin tore his ACL in the summer and missed the entire 2013 season. He is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March. Does he stay with the Eagles to test the free-agency market?

It's quiet now as we wait to see what happens next. Maclin started for four seasons prior to his injury and now faces a critical career moment.

JASON PHILLIPS, linebacker

Signed as an unrestricted free agent last March, Jason Phillips lost his season with -- you guessed it -- a torn knee ligament. The Eagles hoped that Phillips would help as a special-teams ace and as a depth linebacker on defense. Instead, he missed all of 2013.

Phillips is a tenacious, tough player and if he's healthy and can run and play at the level the Eagles think, he can be an asset every time he is on the field. The Eagles will look to create more competition throughout the defense in 2014, so having Phillips back should help.

Who is the stopper on special teams as Dave Fipp looks ahead? It could be Phillips, who wants to make up for lost time in the season to come.

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