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Who On Roster Is Flying Under Radar?

Posted Feb 26, 2016

The debates about Sam Bradford rage. Connor Barwin's position has been a topic of conversation. DeMarco Murray and his fit in a new offense is a great subject. What players, though, have escaped the offseason talk? Let's mention a dozen of them now ...

The debates about Sam Bradford rage. Connor Barwin's position has been a topic of conversation. DeMarco Murray and his fit in a new offense is a great subject. What players, though, have escaped the offseason talk? Let's mention a dozen of them now.

Eric Rowe, CB

Defensive backs coach Cory Undlin and Eric Rowe deserve a lot of credit for the way Rowe developed in his rookie season. He was a raw project coming out of the summer and his footwork left a lot to be desired, among other things. But Rowe kept working hard and Undlin stuck with him and stressed technique and, lo and behold, Rowe came on in a big way in the final month of the year. Rowe is in the midst of a huge offseason and he needs to continue to develop his game, but you can see that he has a chance to be a really good cornerback.

Given the state of the Eagles' secondary, Rowe could also be a really good safety. The team has signed Malcolm Jenkins to a long-term contract, but what of the other starting spot? Could the team move Rowe to safety, where he played for three seasons in college? Or do they allow him to continue his progression at cornerback and see if he can become a big-time player there?

Rowe has the benefit of having Undlin back as his coach. The scheme will change and perhaps the Eagles will play more zone coverage than they did a year ago, but Undlin will stress the same technique and that should help Rowe continue building his game.

Josh Huff, WR

No doubt the Eagles will add another wide receiver or three to bolster the numbers between now and the start of Training Camp, and there is going to be competition for playing time and roster spots, so players like Josh Huff have to improve their games. Huff has been a difficult player to grade through two seasons. He shows great explosiveness when he has the ball in his hands and you'd like to see more of it, but why wasn't he more productive in 2015? Why was his playing time so sporadic? Why were his targets so low?

Can a new coach and a new offense bring Huff to his highest level? He's a player to watch this summer?

Trey Burton, TE

Trey Burton is the team's third tight end and we know that after the team signed Zach Ertz and Brent Celek to new contracts. But is Burton more than a third tight end and special teams ace? Do the Eagles see him as a player who can get some snaps as a fullback, rather than carry a full-time fullback -- who may not play all that many snaps -- on the roster?

Burton did it all at Florida, so he's used to moving around in the offense. His versatility could pay off in this offense.

Darren Sproles, RB

I understand that the Eagles spread the football around in the passing game in 2014 and 2015. I know that Ertz and Jordan Matthews and others got their touches. What was strange was that Darren Sproles caught just 40 passes in 2014 and then 55 in 2015 after three straight seasons of plus-70 receptions in New Orleans. Where was Sproles in the passing game? And as we look ahead, can Sproles become more involves in space in the offense?

Sproles is going to be a dynamic player in the return game, of course, but how important is it for head coach Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Frank Reich to incorporate Sproles more into the passing game, to scheme him to get some one-on-one matchups in space?

Bennie Logan, DT

Bennie Logan was having a really nice season in 2015 until he suffered a high-ankle sprain/calf injury late in the year. Logan missed the final two games and the run defense suffered. Now Logan will play in a 4-3 scheme and he and fellow tackle Fletcher Cox (and Beau Allen and Taylor Hart and Brandon Bair, etc) will be asked to get up the field and penetrate to the football. Logan is big and powerful and he should fit into the system nicely. He and Cox could form a potent inside tackle combination.

Mychal Kendricks, LB

Is Mychal Kendricks playing the SAM linebacker in this defense, which comes with the responsibility of covering the tight end, or is he going to place in space on the weak side and play more of a downhill linebacker? Kendricks had a down season in 2015 after signing his new contract. Expect him to be invigorated when the team reports for the offseason conditioning program in April. He has nothing to focus on except learning this scheme and getting his consistency and productivity back.

Ryan Mathews, RB

The Eagles have a backfield once again loaded with talent and hopefully they can be more productive than a season ago with the ground game and the entire offense. Ryan Mathews must stay healthy, and that is his annual challenge. Nobody questions the talent. But a groin injury derailed a strong start to his 2015 season, so Mathews wants to report healthy and stay healthy and give the Eagles a strong 1-2 punch along with Murray in the backfield.

Byron Maxwell, CB

The Byron Maxwell the Eagles thought they signed wasn't the Byron Maxwell who performed in 2015. He needs to be a tenacious, ball-hawking leader in the secondary, so maybe the new coaching staff and new defense will bring out the best in Maxwell. Cornerback is obviously a position that every team needs. The Eagles made a major move to sign Maxwell last season, but he had just two interceptions and missed the final two games of the year with a shoulder injury. A bounce-back season is huge for Maxwell and this secondary.

JaCorey Shepherd/Denzel Rice, CB

Two young cornerbacks, along with Randall Evans, figure in the picture for the Eagles this season. JaCorey Shepherd missed 2015 after tearing his ACL in a Training Camp practice at Lincoln Financial Field. Shepherd figured to challenge for the nickel cornerback job after the Eagles traded Brandon Boykin to Pittsburgh and instead he spent his rookie season rehabbing his knee.

Rice made the roster as a non-drafted rookie after an impressive summer and could be a player to make his move this year. Both players have length and athletic skills. The Eagles need more depth at cornerback. This is going to be good competition in camp.

Matt Tobin, OG

Matt Tobin started 13 games at right guard last season and while he wasn't great and while the Eagles are likely to bring in competition at both guard spots, Tobin could be a really valuable piece for offensive line this season. He could stave off the newcomers, or he could be a great piece of depth at either guard spot. Tobin needs to continue to work on his strength and his technique, and he will. He's got a great work ethic. The Eagles are going to try to upgrade the offensive line in the offseason, and there is no doubt about that, but sometimes the upgrades can come from existing players. Tobin is a candidate to take a big leap into 2016.

Cody Parkey, PK

Cody Parkey's groin injury is a thing of the past and he's been working hard at the NovaCare Complex in the offseason to keep it that way. Let's not forget just how prolific Parkey was in his rookie season -- he made 32 of 36 field goals and all 54 of his PATs, setting an NFL rookie record and an Eagles franchise record with 150 points scored on the way to the Pro Bowl.

That said, expect a kicking competition in the summer. Caleb Sturgis replaced Parkey early in 2015 and showed a big leg while converting 18 of 22 field goal attempts. Both are good enough to kick in this league. Whoever kicks best in the summer, it looks like on paper, will win the job for the Eagles in the season ahead.

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