Once upon a time there was a perception that Andy Reid preferred not to play rookies, and that impact from Eagles draft classes would be few and far between. Perception became reality in the minds of many, even when the Eagles pointed to first-year players who contributed, if not started in the Reid Era.
Clearly, that long-ago discussion has been replaced by the hard, cold facts: If you are good enough to play, you do. And it doesn't matter whether you are in your first year or in your 10th season.
April's draft was an aggressive one of the Eagles, of course, and with 13 selections they think they've added a considerable base of young talent to the roster. But how much of those rookies are actually going to make an impact this year?
The early returns suggest the Eagles will get some of these rooks on the field right away in prominent places when training camp starts. Let's take a look ...
**BRANDON GRAHAM, Defensive end
He is going to play, that much is certain. The Eagles want to get him on the field a lot, a lot, a lot, and Graham seems up to the challenge. He lined up at left defensive end in the spring camps and is expected to compete for playing time there with Juqua Parker, among others. Graham is very quick off the ball, a student of the game, a hard worker and a player with a bright future.
Can Graham start as a rookie? He has set that as a goal, but what is really important is that Graham gets on the field and is productive. The Eagles want to keep their linemen fresh and rotate players and go hard after the quarterback. Graham is a key part of the equation.
He enjoyed a tremendous spring after the draft. We next get to see Graham with the pads on, when the fun begins.
**NATE ALLEN, Free safety
Here is your starting free safety. Allen displays the maturity you want to see and his athletic skills are obvious. Allen made some very positive early steps in the spring, and now he has six weeks to continue to hit the playbook and work on his conditioning and his technique.
The Eagles want to put Allen in every situation he could see so they know where he is at mentally in the scheme. How does he read and communicate what he sees to his defense? Where are the automatic checks based on formations?
Allen is very much a student of the game with his work habits and he knows how much more he has to learn. The future is bright for Allen. The Eagles, given their picture at free safety, need Allen to be a man right now.
**DANIEL TE'O-NESHEIM, Defensive lineman
Don't label him an end or a tackle. Rather, just think of Daniel Te'o-Nesheim as a defensive lineman who will slide up and down the line of scrimmage. In fact, Te'o-Nesheim may very well play more at tackle than at end this year. He is being counted on to play in the nickel and add some pass-rushing speed.
Te'o-Nesheim will give tremendous effort and he has shown a nice burst off the ball. He is one of those players you just can't wait to see when the pads go on.
How about the rest of the draft class? We'll see. Riley Cooper made a very nice impression in the spring at wide receiver. Fourth-round picks Trevard Lindley at cornerback and Keenan Clayton at linebacker moved around well and looked athletic enough to provide hope for the seasons to come. The later-round draft picks are talented and very much in the big picture.
But if you are thinking immediate impact, think about the top of the draft. The Eagles saw what they wanted to see in the spring. The next step is the discovery phase when the pads go on and we have more of an idea about just how good this rookie class can be.