- Last year it was running back Corey Clement. This year? Here is a wide receiver, a cornerback, a running back (again), and more to consider as Training Camp comes into view.
Tim Wilson is taking this entire dream ride “day by day.” Invited to the team’s post-draft Rookie Camp on a tryout basis after a stellar career at East Stroudsburg (Pennsylvania) University and then signed to a contract, Wilson knows this extended NFL career could end at any moment.
All he can do is continue to impress the coaching staff and the personnel department and play the best football of his life.
“Everything is 100 percent attention and 100 percent focus, just doing every little thing I can to be better than I was the day before,” said Wilson, a Philadelphia native who played his high school football at nearby Radnor High School, in the Western Suburbs. “I can’t afford to make any mistakes. I’m trying to be on point with everything I do.”
At 5-9 and 170 pounds, Wilson is already fighting an uphill battle to play in the NFL. But hey, he’s doing his job and he’s still around and, well, in this league, who really knows what’s going to happen? Long shots make it, and they come in all shapes and sizes and with so many different backgrounds.
And in days like these, with Training Camp only a few weeks away, dreams are fun. Running back Corey Clement was an undrafted player a year ago – albeit after an outstanding career at powerhouse University of Wisconsin – and he was very much a long shot to make the 2017 roster. Not only did Clement made it, he played his way into a prominent role for the Super Bowl Champs.
So as we ease into the week and think just a little bit more about what is to come, let’s highlight some “Longshot Specials,” with Wilson leading the list.
“He’s very quick and he’s shown an ability to catch the football consistently,” wide receivers coach Gunter Brewer said of Wilson. “It’s early. Long way to go. But he’s working hard and he’s doing everything we ask of him. We’ll see what happens when the pads go on. As you know, the game changes when the pads are on.”
Wilson showed in the spring practices that he can get in and out of his routes quickly – with more work to be done, for sure – and that he can get open in a short-yardage area. He has a lot of challenges ahead, including showcasing the skills to get off press coverage from long-armed and extremely agile cornerbacks.
That’s one to look at in camp and the preseason.
“Everyone is great at this level. Great technique, great athletes,” said Wilson, who caught 133 passes for 2,042 yards and 16 touchdowns in college. He’s one of 12 receivers on the 90-man roster. The Eagles are likely to keep five receivers on the final 53-man roster. “I’m having fun and I’m working hard and I’m getting better every day. That’s all I can ask of myself.”
De’Vante Bausby, cornerback
A lot has been said about De’Vante Bausby after a strong spring playing mostly at the nickel cornerback position. He looked terrific in there. Bausby is already 25 years old, has played a bit with Chicago (he was also with Kansas City) and he’s on the move here. We’ll see in the summer. But there is no doubt that Bausby, who spent last season on the Eagles’ practice squad, is in the mix. The competition level is strong at cornerback, and Bausby is right there.
At 6-2, 190 pounds, Bausby has the length and the size to make a roster run. If he plays in the summer like he did in the spring, it’s going to be a very tough call for the Eagles at cornerback.
Matt Jones, running back
A career that began with so much promise in Washington in 2015 is basically, perhaps, down to a final shot with the Eagles. Matt Jones was a starter with the Redskins, a powerful 6-2, 239-pounder who was going to get the football a lot. He did. For a season. But he fumbled too much, didn’t do the little things, missed some holes, and eventually fell out of favor there.
Jones then moved on to Indianapolis for five games last season but didn’t make a lasting impression.
He’s here now. Older, wiser, a bit more desperate.
“Yeah, I feel like this could be the last time a team really gives me a chance, and I’m going to make the best of it,” Jones said. “I’ve learned a lot about the game and my approach to the NFL. Maybe I didn’t do all I could before. That’s not going to be the case here.”
Jones is very much a long shot in a backfield that already features Jay Ajayi, Clement, and Darren Sproles, in no particular order. What’s working in Jones’ favor is that he’s unique with his size and power here. He has a chance. But the former third-round pick has to be great in camp and the preseason and show that he can do everything that coach Duce Staley needs out of his backs – pass protection, receiving, versatility in formation, and running the football securely.
Taylor Hart, offensive tackle
It’s true that seventh-round draft pick Jordan Mailata, he of the Australian Rugby fame with no American football background, is the true longest of long shots to make the NFL. But Hart isn’t all that far behind. A converted NFL defensive lineman, Hart is back for a second Training Camp playing on the offensive side of the ball. He’s come a long, long way and the Eagles were plenty impressed with Hart and his progress a year ago, enough to invite him back, anyway.
Hart has a tough road, but that’s what being a long shot is all about. Let’s see where he is in camp and in the preseason. You might just be surprised at how much he has developed.
Joe Callahan, quarterback
Play along here, just for the fun of it: With Carson Wentz taking limited reps in the summer and with Nick Foles not overextending himself in the preseason games, it’s going to come down to Nate Sudfeld and Joe Callahan running the preseason offense. We know that Sudfeld is considered a potential starter in the league and No. 2 material at the very least by the Eagles in the long run, but what about Callahan as a long-term No. 3?
Stranger things have happened.
After a brilliant career at Wesley (Delaware), Callahan spent 2017 with Green Bay – most of it, anyway – and even saw live game action in Week 17. He’s going to get reps here. And with the Eagles deep on offense, there are going to be plays to be made late in preseason games. It certainly wouldn’t be the worst thing for Callahan to deliver the football and show the Eagles that he is worthy of wedging into their years-to-come plans.
Hey, who knows how it’s all going to work out. Camp is only a few weeks away, and then we’ll find out which of these dreams really could come true.