Philadelphia Eagles News

How Much Will Rookie Class Help?

It was Vincent's belief that a team on a Super Bowl quest could not rely on rookies to be difference makers. This was at a time when the Eagles were a veteran-laden team, a battle-tested team and one that had been to big games.

A rookie, in Vincent's mind, was best served to help as a role player, to step up in situations, but not to be a go-to player on a weekly basis.

Times have changed. The NFL looks to its rookies for immediate impact, and the Eagles are no exception. They slotted second-round draft pick Mychal Kendricks into the starting job at SAM linebacker the first time he stepped on the practice field, and barring any setbacks, that's where he is going to be when training camp opens at Lehigh University in late July.

Kendricks has a huge role as he looks to fill a defensive hole that has been part of this team since the days of, can it be?, Carlos Emmons. The Eagles need a tough, physical linebacker who can play the running game, and they also need him to have the ability to drop into coverage and run with a tight end 30 yards down the field.

Kendricks has all of the above abilities. He is tough, instinctive and physical. He is a beast in a young man's body, and yet the fact that he is 5 feet 11 means he has to prove he can cover tight ends who are as tall as 6-6 and who are fast and strong and as athletic, maybe, as LeBron James.

It's a tall, pun intended, task for every strong-side linebacker in the league. There's a reason tight ends are catching so many passes and becoming the focal point in the NFL. Who can cover these kinds of athletes, especially when they are moved into space in the formation and are given room to run?

We'll find out very quickly on Kendricks, who isn't the only member of this rookie class who has a chance --and it is only a chance at this point -- of making an immediate impact for the Eagles.

While defensive linemen Fletcher Cox and Vinny Curry aren't expected to start right away, they could very well work their way into the rotation along the defensive line. Cornerback Brandon Boykin is going to challenge Joselio Hanson for the nickel job, and is also pushing for consideration as a kick-return man.

Anybody else? We have to wait and see how wide receiver Marvin McNutt progresses in a crowded and talented field there. Running back Bryce Brown is an *uber *talent who has some catching up to do after a disrupted collegiate career, but he has a long way to go to unseat LeSean McCoy and Dion Lewis for playing time.

The days of anyone suggesting that Andy Reid doesn't play his rookies is long, long over. Last year's class featured starters like center Jason Kelce and offensive guard Danny Watkins and linebacker Brian Rolle, not to mention placekicker Alex Henery and punter Chas Henry.

When the Eagles line up to play Cleveland on September 9, the defense is likely to have to contend with Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden and running back Trent Richardson, both of whom are immediate starters. It happens all around the league, and the Eagles are no exception.

Back when Vincent was an Eagle, in those years of the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Eagles had more hits than misses with their drafts. Maybe that is why Vincent's perspective was what it was.

Then again, Reid had a veteran team roaring in the early 2000s, and there wasn't much room on the field for rookies. He had some immediate starters -- John Welbourn at right tackle in 1999, Corey Simon at defensive tackle in 2000 -- but the Eagles won primarily with veterans. The rookies played when they were ready to beat out an established NFL player.

These last several drafts have produced players ready to get on the field right away, like DeSean Jackson, like Jeremy Maclin, like Nate Allen and even LeSean McCoy, who spelled an injured Brian Westbrook very favorably in 2009.

How much will this draft class offer? That is something we will learn in the months to come, but the way it looks, yeah, the Rookies of 2012 could be quite a factor as the Eagles look to climb back to the top of the NFC.

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