Rewind to this time last year. The player we were reading a lot about on the website was Chad Hall. He stood out at the mini-camps, passing camps and OTAs. Hall was giving maximum effort and flying around the field. He treated every rep like it was the Super Bowl. Hall was basically a coach's fantasy.
The regular season arrived. Hall made the team and played in eight games. He was used as a runner, receiver and returner. A lot of the quickness and elusiveness that we heard about from the offseason wasn't showing up. What happened? I think Hall was rusty. He had spent time away from football as he honored his commitment to the Air Force.
Practicing by yourself, or even with high school or college players, is a good thing. It shows dedication and lots of heart. It doesn't prepare you for the NFL. Let's face it, pro football is the best of the best. We see Heisman Trophy winners and big-time stars fall flat on their faces. There is no way to simulate the speed of the NFL game. You have to show up and experience it.
Hall did well in the spring and summer, but that's when he was going against a lot of young players and backups. There is a tremendous difference in going against those types of players and actual starters. Hall had three catches for 19 yards in the first three games he played. The longest play went for 9 yards. It was good to see him get on the field, but we weren't seeing his athleticism.
Late in the season, Hall did his best work against Dallas. He had a 12-yard gain on a pass in the first meeting. In the "meaningless" regular season finale, Hall got to play a lot and caught six passes for 84 yards, including a long gain of 48 yards. Was that a sign he was improving or simply fool's gold because Dallas defenders already had their minds on offseason vacation plans?
Honestly, I'm not sure what to make of Hall. I didn't have super high expectations leading into last year, but I was hoping for a bit more than what we got. Set aside the last Dallas game and his longest reception was for 12 yards; his biggest run went for 8 yards; his best punt return was 14 yards and his longest kickoff return was 21 yards. That doesn't show much speed.
We know Hall is quick and agile. He timed incredibly well at his Pro Day workout last year. Timing quick and playing quick are two different things. I'm hoping that Hall will play quicker and faster in 2011 since he won't be rusty. He won't be adjusting to life in the NFL. He'll know his assignments and have a much better feel for the speed of the game.
Hall isn't guaranteed a roster spot. He will be in a battle with several other players. Hall is a runner/receiver/returner so he's got to perform well in all three areas. That puts extra pressure on him. The flip side is that he gets more touches than just a standard backup receiver. Touches are gold to players who are trying to make the team. It will be interesting to see how much better Hall is this year. He must show improvement if he hopes to be part of the 2011 Eagles. With his toughness and determination, don't bet against him.
Rookie Free Agents Have Been Good To The Eagles
Which position group is hurt most by the work stoppage? Not the owners, players, draft picks or even fans. Undrafted free agents (UDFAs) are the guys really twisting in the wind right now. They don't belong to a team. Those players will sign with teams in a flurry of activity once the offseason gets underway. Even then, the UDFAs will be in a tough spot.
The rookie camps of May and June are the time when coaches can focus on all the rookies and spend a lot of time with them. The UDFAs get lots of reps and plenty of attention. Training camp is more about the veterans and draft picks. Preseason games are the same way, until the final week. UDFAs will have less time to work with and impress the coaches. They will get fewer reps. There will still be some UDFAs who make league rosters and eventually win starting jobs, but they face a real uphill battle this spring and summer.
CB Jenkins A Future Eagle?
One player that created a bit of a buzz among Eagles fans was Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins. He was booted off the Gators team this spring after failing a drug test. There was a lot of speculation that he might enter the Supplemental Draft and be a target for the Eagles. Jenkins isn't all that big, but he's a terrific cornerback. He can cover, hit, tackle and make plays. He picked off three passes in 2010 and has eight for his career. Jenkins will not be going pro this summer. He's coming off shoulder surgery and knows his off-field issues would kill his value at this point.
There were some recent reports that Jenkins would go to North Alabama, a Division II school where he would be immediately eligible. Apparently that isn't the case and Jenkins is looking at a few different schools. It will be interesting to see where he ends up and how he plays. Jenkins should be dominant at the I-AA or Division II level. He will be part of the 2012 draft. He'll need to stay out of trouble if he hopes to go in the first couple of rounds. Jenkins is a gifted player, but he's collected too much baggage in recent months to endear himself to NFL teams.