The Philadelphia Eagles came into the NFL draft with a chance to improve their defense. And that’s exactly what the Eagles did. They moved up three spots to grab Fletcher Cox with the 12th pick in the first round. Cox, a 6-foot-4, 298-pound defensive tackle from Mississippi State, was a player the Eagles really wanted.
He has a lot of athletic talent. He can play the run as well as the pass. He was named first-team All-Southeastern Conference as a junior, posting 56 tackles and five sacks with the Bulldogs. During his career, he had 114 total tackles, 24.5 tackles for a loss and 8.5 sacks in 36 games. Cox has great strength and quickness. He really moves well laterally, which should help in terms of making plays on the defensive line.
“We think that Fletcher Cox is a tremendous player,” said Andy Reid, Eagles head coach. “He has speed and athletic ability where he could play outside if needed. He gives us a little flexibility. He’s a very intelligent kid, and he’s young. He has the whole package.”
The Eagles had two picks in the second round. With the 46th pick, the Eagles chose linebacker Mychal Kendricks from California and defensive end Vinny Curry from Marshall with 59th selection. Kendricks had a great college career. He was named the Pac-12’s Defensive Player of the Year. He completed his playing days at California with 258 tackles, 13.5 sacks and four interceptions.
“The one thing that really interests me there is we’re getting a phenomenal pass rusher on that side,” Reid said. “We’re getting someone who can really cover the tight end, and his pass cover skills are a strong part of his game.”
Curry finished his college career with 26 sacks, 49 tackles for a loss and 10 forced fumbles. He was chosen as the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year. Curry grew up in Neptune, N.J. He’s a big Eagles fans. He was selected the day before Brian Dawkins officially retired as an Eagle. Curry is a big fan of Dawkins, too.
“I know most people say the draft is the best day of their life, but growing up an Eagles fan and being blessed to have the opportunity and see Brian Dawkins retire and give a speech here, this has to be the best day of my life here,” Curry said.
The Eagles took Nick Foles, a quarterback from Arizona in the third round. Foles, a 6-foot-6, 243-pounder, is the school’s all-time leading passer in yardage (10,011), touchdowns (67), attempts (1,369) and completions (933). He will learn how to run the offense from watching quarterback Michael Vick.
In the fourth round, the Eagles picked cornerback Brandon Boykin from Georgia. Boykin had 159 total tackles, 20 tackles for a loss, nine interceptions, 27 passes defended and two forced fumbles. In addition to cornerback, he returned kicks, punts and saw action at tailback.
Rounding out the draft, the Eagles picked offensive tackle Dennis Kelly from Purdue in the fifth round along with wide receiver Marvin McNutt from Iowa (194th pick) and offensive guard Brandon Washington from Miami (200th pick) in the sixth round and running back Bryce Brown from Kansas State in the seventh round.
NOTES: The Eagles have agreed to terms with several rookie free agents. The list includes Elvis Akpla, wide receiver, Montana State; Matt Camilli, long snapper, Texas El Paso; Chase Ford, tight end, Miami; Cliff Harris, cornerback, Oregon; Emil Igwenagu, fullback, Massachusetts; McKay Jacobson, wide receiver, BYU; Damaris Johnson, wide receiver, Tulsa; Aaron Pflugrad, wide receiver, Arizona State; Chris Polk, running back, Washington; Jeremy Stewart, fullback, Stanford; Phillip Thomas, free safety, Syracuse; Ryan Tydlacka, punter, Kentucky; Darnell Williams, wide receiver, Louisiana College.
When Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie makes the big trip back to face his old team, the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday afternoon, he will be taking a 2-0 record with him. In fact, the Cardinals are also undefeated after two games.
The Eagles are coming off an exciting 24-23 victory over the Baltimore Ravens. The Cardinals upset the New England Patriots, 20-18, in Foxborough, Mass.
This game also has an interesting twist. In 2011, Rodgers-Cromartie was traded to the Eagles along with a second round pick for quarterback Kevin Kolb, who may start again for the Cardinals if opening day starter John Skelton is still recovering from an ankle injury he suffered against the Seattle Seahawks in week one.
Rodgers-Cromartie didn’t get a chance to show much last year. He had 36 total and 27 solo tackles and no interceptions. He spent a good portion of the season playing inside as part of the Eagles’ nickel page, mostly due to the outside presence of since traded cornerback Asante Samuel. But Rodgers-Cromartie is playing some great football right now and already has two interceptions and two solo tackles this season.
“I feel real good especially to be 2-0 and get them in front of your home crowd,” Rodgers-Cromartie said of the Eagles win against the Ravens. “You got to love it. I just look to build from there. I would just say as a team and as a unit we put the time in and they finally allowed me to go back to where I was. They got me feeling comfortable and allowing me to play fast.”
Rodgers-Cromartie, a 6-foot-2, 182-pounder, has certainly been one of the Eagles biggest bright spots on defense, but he’s not the only standout. DeMeco Ryans, Eagles middle linebacker, has been a real defensive stalwart.
“DeMeco is a great man,” he said. “You can see that in stopping the run and playing the pass. He got an interception. He’s a dominating linebacker. Then, you got Nnamdi (Asomugha) coming over. You’re not going to take balls his way. He can take down a whole side of the field. Our defensive line is fierce. They’re fast off the ball. The quarterback knows if he holds the ball too long he’s going to be sacked. Then, we got Brandon Boykin (rookie) coming in making plays. I think that’s big for him as a rookie coming in and taking over for (Joselio) Hanson and doing a good job.”
Rodgers-Cromartie is one of the best young cornerbacks in the league. In 2009, he was named to the Pro Bowl after hauling in six interceptions and forcing three fumbles that year. He played a big role in the Cardinals’ success. He helped Arizona to a 32-25 win over the Eagles in the NFC championship game that season. In addition, he played in Super Bowl XLIII, losing a close one to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 27-23. He’s looking forward to returning to Arizona and competing against his former team.
“It’s going to be good just to see some old friends and some of the guys,” he said. “It’s going to be nice to get back out there. But I have to understand I’m going out there to play a ball game. I can’t get too caught up into it.”
Rodgers-Cromartie was a terrific player at Lakewood Ranch High School in Bradenton, Fla. He was an all-area selection as a defensive back and wide receiver.
He played his college football at Tennessee State where he was one of the top players in the country. The former Ohio Valley Conference star was the 16th player selected in the first round of the 2008 NFL draft. Rodgers-Cromartie was the first Tennessee State player chosen in the first round in since 1974 when defensive end Ed “Too Tall” Jones (Dallas Cowboys, first overall) and linebacker Wayman Bryant (Chicago Bears, fourth overall) were selected.
So far, it’s been a big year for Rodgers-Cromartie, the Eagles and Tennessee State. He’s been keeping up with the Tigers.
“Big Blue is off to a 3-0 start right now,” Rodgers-Cromartie said. “We beat Jackson State, FAMU (Florida A&M) and Austin Peay. I’m very proud of them. Rod Reed (Tennessee State head coach) has the program turned around. They’re doing real good. So, shout out to Big Blue.”
When the Philadelphia Eagles face the Cleveland Browns on the road Friday night (6ABC, 7:30 p.m.) they will be playing without quarterback Michael Vick, who suffered bruised ribs in a 27-17 victory over the New England Patriots. According to Eagles head coach Andy Reid, Vick, a three-time Pro Bowler, has probably seen his last action in the preseason. However, Reid expects him to be ready for the season opener, which ironically is against the Cleveland Browns on September 9 at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
“In season, you’d probably have him in there for the game,” Reid said. “As I’m standing here today, unless I’m drastically changing something, I’m not going to play him (the rest of the preseason). That was a pretty good shot he took. It was in a soft spot…”
Reid will start rookie Nick Foles in place of Vick against the Browns. Foles, a third round draft pick out of Arizona, has performed extremely well in the preseason. The 6-foot-6, 243-pounder, has completed 24 of 38 passes for 361 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. Foles will be battling the Browns first-team defense. He will be really tested in this contest.
“We’ll see how he does,” Reid said. “It’s good experience for him. He’s a young guy and so every rep he gets, I think, is a positive rep for him. But he’ll get the prep time now, short prep time he’ll get, but we’ll see how it works for him.
“He did a good job (against the Patriots). He trusted people around him, which, for a young guy, that’s a real positive thing. He trusted the play and then he trusted the player running the play. He probably said it best: he gave the playmakers around him an opportunity to make plays, the o-line did a nice job for protecting him and he got the ball out on time. Those are plusses.”
Foles isn’t the only rookie to shine in the preseason. Brandon Boykin, Eagles rookie defensive back, has done a good job in coverage. Boykin, a fourth round pick from Georgia, has played some good football on special teams. The 5-foot-9, 182-pounder, seems to be getting more accustomed to the level of play in the NFL.
“I feel like the game is a little bit slower than practice,” Boykin said. “In practice you’re going against the first team and everything is going fast. You’re tired out there so it is a good preparation for the game. When you finally get out there it kind of slows down.
“It feels good. You want to come in as a rookie and be able to contribute as much as you can. I definitely (have to) be ready and at some point this season hopefully I get my shot.”
NOTES: The Eagles are 2-0 in the preseason. On Sunday, August 26, the Eagles will host their third Eagles Flight Night at Lincoln Financial Field. The event begins at 7:30 p.m. For ticket information, go to www.philadelphiaeagles.com. The Eagles will play their final preseason game against the New York Jets on Thursday, August 30 at 6:35 p.m. (6ABC). The game will be played at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Philadelphia Eagles will try to win back-to-back games. This week they gear up to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Oct. 13 (Fox TV 1 p.m.) at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. The Eagles (2-3) are coming off a big 36-21 win over the New York Giants last week. The Buccaneers (0-4) have just finished their bye week, but have been struggling over the first month of the season.
This could be an interesting game for the Eagles defense. In the victory over the Giants, they were able to come up with two big turnovers. Lineback Mychal Kendricks, cornerbacks Brandon Boykin and Cary Williams had interceptions. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and linebacker Conor Barwin lead the team with two sacks each.
The Eagles will be playing against a rookie quarterback Mike Glennon from Tampa Bay. Glennon made his first career start in the Buccaneers 13-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. He was connected on 24-of-43 passes for 193 yards including one touchdown and two interceptions. Glennon replaced veteran quarterback Josh Freeman two weeks ago as the starter, who was later released by Tampa Bay and signed by the Minnesota Vikings. Chip Kelly, Eagles head coach, is well aware that his team is facing a rookie signal caller.
“You know, I think what’s important is making sure that if we are in disguise situations that we can hold our disguises in terms of trying to get them to think one way and then move to another thing,” Kelly said. “But really it’s not just a rookie quarterback, is that we have to be fundamentally sound in what we do. We just can’t say, hey, we’ve got a rookie quarterback so let’s try to put all this new stuff in, and I think sometimes that’s what gets you in a lot of trouble is you almost out think yourself. We still have to stick to the game plan that we have within the structure of our defense and then make sure we’re where we’re supposed to be when we’re supposed to be there.”
Offensively, Kelly has been impressed with running back Chris Polk, who played quite well in a backup role. Polk gave LeSean McCoy, a nice breather against the Giants.
“He’s backing up LeSean and got a couple carries in the Giants game depending on how the game dictates itself,” Kelly said. “The one thing Chris has done an outstanding job, he’s played really, really well for us on special teams and really getting a lot of contributions from him as a wing on our punt team, doing a good job of covering kickoffs.”
After this week, the Eagles will return home to battle the Dallas Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday, Oct. 20 at 1 p.m.