Brandon Hughes toiled on injured reserve with a knee injury for the San Diego Chargers for the entirety of his rookie season in 2009. After not making the Chargers' opening-week roster this season, Hughes was scooped up to be a member of the New York Giants practice squad, where he spent the first ten weeks of the season. Then, in late November, the Eagles signed Hughes to the active roster, but he was inactive for five consecutive games. Sunday, in the Eagles' regular season finale, Hughes finally got to play his first NFL regular season game.
"It's been one season and 16 weeks," Hughes said, "and it was everything I ever dreamed of. I'm just excited that I got the call to come up and show what I could do."
Hughes didn't just play in his team's 14-13 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, he played a lot. For the first quarter and a half, Hughes played right cornerback in nickel situations when Dimitri Patterson, the starter, slid to nickel. Then, Hughes took over as the right cornerback in the base defense. He accounted for four tackles and was part of an impressive effort by a defense that consisted of mostly second-team players yet allowed only seven points to the Cowboys' starting offensive unit.
"We just went out there, competed and played hard," Hughes said. "It's a testament to the guys that I play with and the coaches. We didn't come out here to lose. We came out here to compete. We didn't win in the end, but that's what it's all about."
Elsewhere on the defense, defensive tackle Jeremy Clark made his first career start only four days after joining the team. It was the cap on a whirlwind week for Clark, who was released by the Washington Redskins on Christmas day.
"It's been a ride," Clark said. "It's always fun to get back on the field. It's what we've been doing since we were kids and every opportunity you get, you try to make the most of it. You never know when it's going to be your last snap, so you just try your best to be prepared and enjoy it."
Now, players like Hughes and Clark prepare to resume their roles as members of the scout team and insurance providers, but they've shown the impressive depth of the roster.
"I'm looking forward to coming to work on Wednesday and just doing my part," Clark said.
Who else among the lesser-known players made their mark in the regular season finale?
-- Wide receiver Chad Hall was the standout performer, notching his first career touchdown and career- and team-highs with six catches for 84 yards, including a 48-yard haul.
-- Undrafted rookie Austin Howard got his first playing time on offense this season, starting and playing the whole game at left tackle.
-- Jerome Harrison carried the ball 21 times for 99 yards - child's play compared to his performance in the last three games of the 2009 season when he had over 30 carries in each game and topped 127 yards in each, including a 286-yard day. Still, Harrison ran hard and showed that he's a top-notch backup for LeSean McCoy.
-- Third-round pick Daniel Te'o-Nesheim started at left defensive end and picked up his first career sack.
-- Only promoted to the active roster late Friday afternoon, Jamar Adams started at free safety and played the whole game, generally rallying quickly to the ball and showing solid range for a player his size (6-2, 215).
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 8:48 p.m., January 2