The Super Bowl winning season will always be one to remember for the Philadelphia Eagles. In a year where breakouts, dominance and explosiveness headlined, there were always bound to be a few players whose incredible efforts fell under the radar. One of those players could be primed for a big year in 2018 and it should come as no surprise.
That man is linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill. Drafted by the Patriots in the sixth round of the 2016 Draft, he would eventually be cut during the team’s final roster decisions that year, leading the Eagles to pick him up and take a chance on the former collegiate Safety.
Playing just one defensive snap in his rookie year, ‘KGH’ made his presence felt on special teams, playing in 42% of snaps. It was in 2017 however that saw his impact soar through the ceiling. Playing in a whopping 75.2% of snaps, Grugier-Hill led the Eagles in special teams tackles (and even made a special appearance as an emergency kicker) and saw a total of 85 snaps on defense, registering 22 tackles in the process. He was also named a Pro Bowl alternate. The development speaks for itself, with the linebacker continuing to improve and find new ways to contribute. While his stunning form on special teams may have flown under the radar for many, it didn’t get past Howie Roseman.
“When we look at Kamu, we think he has a chance to be not only one of the better special-teams players on our team, but in the league.” The Eagles GM said after making the final roster decisions last season.
With two years left on his contract, Grugier-Hill now finds himself in the perfect spot to take another large step in his career. The Eagles are set to host a thrilling linebacker positional battle this year with many veterans and underdogs recently joining the roster in the hopes of sticking to it. On the surface, the Eagles are flooded with depth, but in terms of starting caliber talent, the pool is much smaller.
KGH has always stood out in Training Camp and preseason alike. Another strong showing this offseason could not only elevate his position on the depth chart, but also line him up for some more defensive snaps…and while that’s the goal for any player, this situation is a little different.
The future of Mychal Kendricks remains a complete mystery. Having been shopped around the league for what seems like forever, Kendricks finally broke his slump and put together an astonishing campaign in 2017, but it’s unclear whether the Eagles will grant him another paycheck or let him walk when his contract expires in two years. With no long-term successor to the throne, Grugier-Hill very much faces an audition to fill that spot, giving the Eagles some developmental talent to marinate until the time comes for him to take over the starting position.
It will be a hard-fought battle. Players such as Corey Nelson and the most recently signed LaRoy Reynolds, who has been a special teams ace in his own right, will be pushing Grugier-Hill all the way to the finish. Training Camp has become the proving ground for the Eagles. Competitive practices are littered with intense drills and designed to bring the best out of everybody. If he can outshine some proven NFL talent and rise above some veterans too, then there isn’t much that will slow the Hawaii native down.
The Eagles not only have a pro-bowl special teamer who can block punts as well he attempts kickoffs, but a secure tackler who has all the tools needed to develop into a starter. In his third year under Jim Schwartz, KGH will be surrounded by veterans like Nigel Bradham and Paul Worrilow, as well as some exciting leaders such as Jordan Hicks.
The sky really is the limit for a player who has been earning his stripes on special teams and has the potential to now take his game to the next level and become the heir to the Throne currently occupied by a linebacker who has been subject to consistent trade-rumors for three years straight. At just 24-years old, the room for growth is extortionate and if he can replicate the dominance he displayed on special teams last year, a breakout is surely on the horizon.
Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports