Martin Rucker knows that he has to improve his blocking if he's going to get stake claim to the backup tight end spot behind Brent Celek.
Rucker, 6-foot-5, 255 pounds, has been considered a viable pass-catching threat ever since he set the all-time Big XII mark for career receptions for a tight end with 203. But the knock on Rucker has been that he wasn't quite good enough to block elite pass rushers in the NFL, something that he says has been rectified this off-season.
"There's been tremendous improvement (in my blocking)," Rucker said. "Coming here, they actually taught me how to block. The big thing in the NFL is rolling the hips and I'd never been taught how to roll my hips before, so it's easy to say the guy can't block and he doesn't know how to do it when nobody's taught me how to do it. But now that I have the tools, I can come out here and practice myself on rolling my hips and pass blocking, taking the sets and everything. Being taught how to do everything right helps you so much more, so now that I know how to do it right, it's coming like second nature."
Of course, it's hard to see the improvement while the team is still practicing in short and shells, but Rucker is confident his play will speak for itself come training camp. There, Rucker will be locked in one of the more intriguing position battles with second-year man Cornelius Ingram and rookie fourth-rounder Clay Harbor.
"I just look at it as three guys out here playing football, and I think they look at it the same way," Rucker said of the competition. "If you get caught up in all that position battle stuff and try to do too much, that's when you game falls apart. So you can only do what you can do, so I only go out there and do what God's blessed me to do."
"I just want to contribute to this team in a positive manner, whether it be on special teams, whether it be on offense, I just want to contribute. I'd love to get out there and play and that's exactly what I'm working to do, so hopefully I'll turn a few heads and get on the field this year."
Following his productive career at Missouri, Rucker was a fourth-round draft choice of the Cleveland Browns in 2008 draft, but, partially due to coaching turnover, things didn't quite work out for him in Cleveland. So Rucker joined the Eagles practice squad during week 3 of the 2009 season and eventually worked himself onto the active roster. So the off-season focus for Rucker has been learning the offense best he can since he joined the fray mid-stream last season.
"I didn't get all this installation when I got here, it was already two weeks into the season and I was on the practice squad," said Rucker, who studies the playbook for at least an hour each night. "So I missed the installation and I'd be in the meetings, but I didn't have the foundation that everyone got last off-season. So getting all of that plus having last year has really helped.
"I'm getting in shape and picking up the playbook, picking it up really well. I'm happy with the way things are going so far."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 8:30 a.m., May 29