Philadelphia Eagles News

Veterans Who May Surprise

There is a group here that brings something to the table that is of vital importance: NFL experience and the know-how of the way it works in this league. For one reason or another, things just haven't worked out for these players in other cities, with other teams.

But they are here for a reason and they are not buying into the hype of the rookie class, or of the long odds they face to make an impact on this team.

Here are some players to consider as they move along in the team's offseason conditioning program, deep in the shadows for some of them. These are players who have been there, not quite done that, but who are looking for their chance to revive their NFL careers ...

TRENT EDWARDS, Quarterback

The first thing you notice about Trent Edwards is that he is 6 feet 4 and a very large man. Probably goes about 240 pounds right now, as he has added pounds of muscle and is in fantastic physical condition.

We all know the situation at quarterback for the Eagles: Michael Vick is the starter and while he is electric and dynamic and the leader of this team, he also has to stay on the field. And that is something he has had trouble with the last couple of seasons.

Common sense says the Eagles need to make sure they have their bases covered behind Vick. They went out and drafted Arizona's Nick Foles a couple of Fridays ago and will obviously keep Foles around to develop. That leaves Edwards and Mike Kafka, a third-year man who has learned the Eagles' system and who has had just a taste of playing time in the NFL.

Edwards has had more than just a taste. He was once the "quarterback of the future" for the Buffalo Bills, having played in 37 games with 33 starts there. But a series of injuries and inconsistent play ended Edwards' time in Buffalo, so he moved on to Jacksonville and then Oakland for short stints.

His shoulder injury has healed. His mental state is positive. Edwards is ready to go and has to be considered on equal ground with Kafka because of his experience in the league. Kafka probably has the inside track at this point for the No. 2 quarterback job given his time in the scheme, but Edwards will have plenty of time to work his way into the role. It is a good battle to watch in training camp.

D.J. JONES, offensive tackle

The Eagles claimed D.J. Jones off of waivers from Baltimore during the playoffs and were awarded him when the Ravens were eliminated. It was an interesting move at the time as the Eagles began looking, even then, for more depth along the offensive line.

Jones wasn't drafted. He's a big kid at 6-5, 315 pounds. He moves well for a big man. Jones looks to be more of a right tackle than a left tackle after playing both guard and tackle at Nebraska, but only Howard Mudd makes the call on offensive linemen on this team.

Jones is part of a large group of players Mudd wants to see develop. The Eagles have a promising situation along the offensive line, with the major question marks at left tackle -- with Demetress Bell replacing the injured Jason Peters -- and with their overall depth.

Jones will get a long, long look.

THOMAS WELCH, offensive tackle

Maybe you were preparing for the weekend when the Eagles announced on Friday evening that they had been awarded Thomas Welch off of waivers. Welch has already learned that the NFL is all business very early in his career -- he was drafted in the seventh round of the 2010 draft by New England, then went to Minnesota after he was released by the Patriots. In 2011, Welch spent time on Buffalo's practice squad, spent a few weeks on New England's active roster and also played five games with the Rams.

There is something that teams like about Welch, and Mudd just might be the coach to help him put it all together. He is a good athlete with nice size at 6-6 and 300 pounds. The Eagles are looking for versatile players who can line up on both sides and even slide to guard in a pinch.

Welch, Jones and King Dunlap give the Eagles three options of veterans who have played in NFL games. That isn't a bad position to be in during this slow month of May. Mudd will have a lot of teaching ahead with some talented, young veterans.

MARDY GILYARD, wide receiver

Once upon a time, Mardy Gilyard dominated college football. He enjoyed an all-time career at Cincinnati as both a wide receiver and a kickoff return man. He became a fourth-round draft pick by the Rams, and there his career slowed substantially.

Gilyard caught six passes in his rookie season and then was released by the Rams prior to the 2011 campaign. It was a strange move, and nobody has really explained what happened in St. Louis, a team looking for playmakers.

The past is the past, though, and Gilyard is here now. He hopes to stick as a wide receiver -- there is excellent competition at the position -- and kickoff return man. The Eagles were not productive in the kickoff return game in 2011, and special teams coach Bobby April now has some legitimate candidates for the job.

Gilyard must be considered. He returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in his senior season at Cincinnati and averaged 30.5 yards per return. Gilyard knows he has a chance to stick on special teams and is excited to have the chance.

There are going to be other players fighting for the job, including fourth-round draft pick Brandon Boykin. Gilyard has to show up every day and make plays.

MIKE GIBSON, offensive guard/center

A sixth-round pick of the Eagles in 2008, Mike Gibson was then signed off the team's practice squad in 2009 by Seattle and played parts of three seasons there. Gibson started eight games in 2010 as Seattle went to the playoffs, but was unable to establish himself as a full-season starter.

So now Gibson is back in Philadelphia with a clear goal: Earn a job as a backup guard and center and be ready to play when needed.

He is exactly what Mudd has worked with in the past: Medium size, good feet, smart and versatile. Gibson has been in every day as part of the team's offseason conditioning workouts and he is getting a taste of what Mudd is all about.

STEVE VALLOS, center/offensive guard

Much like Gibson, Steve Vallos must impress as a versatile interior linemen to make this team. He is in his fifth NFL season, having played in Seattle and Cleveland the last four years. Actually, way back in 2007 Vallos was a seventh-round draft pick by the Seahawks and spent that season on the team's practice squad.

At 6-3 and 310 pounds, Vallos is a big man who has to show he is athletic and able to handle Mudd's needs inside. The Eagles feel good about having Vallos and Gibson as their veteran options right now behind guards Evan Mathis and Danny Watkins, along with center Jason Kelce.

Vallos isn't likely to garner a lot of headlines. In fact, not many of these players will. The glamour players are the superstar veterans and the rookies on the roster. Meanwhile, much of the team's depth could be here in the form of young veterans looking to get their games right as Eagles. 

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