Everything you need to know about the 26 rookies trying out for the Eagles this weekend

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Rookie Minicamp is just around the corner for the Philadelphia Eagles and whilst it’s our first chance to catch a glimpse of Carson Wentz and the rest of the rookies signed by the birds, there are also 26 players hoping to make an impact during their tryout for the team. From basketball standouts to Quarterbacks and Linebackers trying out as Tight Ends, here’s all you need to know about the 26 rookies aiming to impress the Coaches at the NovaCare Complex this weekend.

QB: Everett Golson – Florida State
After trying out for the Colts earlier this week, Florida State’s Everett Golson is set to try out for the Eagles this weekend.

After starting 34 games in his college career, Golson passed for 7,628 yards, 52 touchdowns and 23 interceptions..completing 61.2% of his passes. His dual-threat trait made him a terror for Defenses as he ran for 546 yards and a further 14 touchdowns.

The biggest complaint with Golson appears to be his size. At 6’0, 199 pounds, he lacks the prototypical size for a modern day Quarterback..especially when you compare him to Carson Wentz.

The Eagles already have four Quarterbacks on their roster, but it’s nice to see the Eagles taking a chance at least..who knows, perhaps they see something they like.

WR: David Watford – Hampton
David Watford may be working out as a Wide Receiver (and isn’t the only QB to do so), but is best known for signal calling at Hampton. In 10 games last season, Watford threw for 21 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, completing 53% of his passes. The numbers weren’t stellar but like Washington below, Watford has some impressive athletic traits.

At 6’2 and 212 pounds, Watford has the tangibles to become a big-body receiver in the right environment. With a 38″ vertical and a 4.56 40-yard dash..the Eagles search for steady hands continues. Watford has the frame to try out for the “flex” position alongside Washington and it’s interesting to see how the two compare.

QB: Kyle Washington – Angelo State
In case you missed our article on Kyle Washington yesterday (here), here’s a brief summary.

The Angelo State Quarterback may have you questioning why the Eagles are working out yet another signal caller and whilst he was an accomplished Quarterback during his College career, he’s actually trying out as a “flex” tight end/ receiver.

The 6-foot-6, 225-pounder is incredibly athletic for his size and it’s hardly surprising to see the Eagles trying to see if they could utilize such an impressive skill set.

Washington displayed his versatility as a Quarterback at Angelo State, and he did so with confidence. Not only did he average the third highest amount of passing yards per game in the country during his senior season, but also scored a total of 43 touchdowns, rushing for 15 and receiving for 1. He also completed 66.2% of his passes for 3,793 yards, 29 TD’s and 5 INT’s.

Seeing a Quarterback transition to a “flex” position is certainly interesting, but hardly surprising considering that versatility is such a huge focus for the Eagles. Washington has played in every position except OL/DL at least once in his life..the question is can he take these skills and stand out from the crowd?

P: Taylor Symmank – Texas Tech
The number one punter in Texas Tech history,  Symmank suffered a midseason injury that meant he missed eight games in 2015. If he had played in enough games to qualify, Symmank’s average of 46 yards per punt would have ranked him inside the top-15 in the country. Symmank also ends his career as the most successful punter in Texas Tech history.

With Donnie Jones not getting any younger, the Eagles would be wise to bring in a young face to learn from one of the most experienced punters in the league.

WR: T.J Thorpe- Virginia Cavaliers 
After transferring from UNC for his senior season, Thorpe ended his lone season in Virginia with 321 yards on 23 receptions, averaging 14.3 yards per reception and accounting for just one touchdown.

He arrived at UNC in 2011 ranked as the No. 6 prospect in his state and 15-th best WR prospect in the country. Unfortunatelt injuries began to plague his career as he broke the same foot two seasons in a row. In 2014 he broke his foot for the third consecutive year. At 6’0, 200 pounds, Thorpe has always had the talent..it’s just been a case of making it onto the field to prove it. His Draft stock may have plummeted over the course of his career due to his injury woes, but he has enough talent to warrant a tryout and that should count for something.

Here’s an interesting mini documentary on his career and struggle with adversity…it’s worth a watch!

DB: Trenton Coles – Duquesne
After transferring from Pittsburgh at the end of 2014, Coles played in nine games for the Dukes in his senior year and recorded 2 interceptions against Central Connecticut. At 6’2, and 188 pounds Coles has a thin frame but is said to have a nasty streak to his game to go with his impressive speed.

Before transferring he played in 11 games as a backup corner and made his impact mostly on special teams. Coles racked up nine tackles and forced a fumble during his 2014 season in Pittsburgh and was once an ESPN Three-Star prospect.

DB: Antony Gaffney – Princeton 
The 6’1, 210 pound defensive back started every game of his Princeston career and ended 2015 with 28 tackles, 4 pass breakups and a total of nine career interceptions. Gaffney attended the Eagles local pro day prior to the NFL Draft and despite a few post-draft offers from teams, decided that it was the home-town feel of Philadelphia that was too good to pass up on. As an Ivy League standout and a defensive back that gets down and dirty when he has too, Gaffney could well be a true embodiment of the “Underdog” personality that this city prides itself on.S: Joe Powell – Globe Institute
Playing 9 games in 2013, Powell racked up 53 tackles, 1 sack and 1 interception as a Strong Safety. Powell actually played in the Arena Football League for the Cleveland Gladiators after his stint in D-3 Football and vowed on Twitter to make it to the NFL. In his first game he surprisingly returned two interceptions for touchdowns! After a stint with the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks (PIFL) this year and some impressive moments in the AFL, The 6’2, 205 pound Safety may finally have his shot.

DB: Cody Culbertson – Ohio Dominican University
Versatility appears to be the name of the game this year for the Eagles and Culbertson is another player bringing experience at numerous positions.

Having spent time at both Safety and Linebacker during his time at ODU, Culbertson notched up 226 tackles, 23 tackles for a loss, 7 sacks, 4 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles and 20 pass break ups.

At 5’9, and 188 pounds..Culbertson possesses a lean yet sizable frame that play to his advantage..especially when rushing the Quarterback.

With a 40-yard dash time of 4.55 seconds and only one less bench-press rep than the Eagles’ very own Simba Jordan Hicks, Culbertson is definitely going to be a name to keep an eye on. The Eagles still debatably need depth at linebacker and if Culbertson is able to prove that he’s big enough and has a natural ability to shed blocks off the line of scrimmage then he could almost definitely benefit from the coaching of Jim Schwartz. The competition will be stiff, especially if he does try out as a DB, but Culbertson is a name to watch out for.

S: Demond Smith – Georgia Tech 
In 2015, Free Safety Demond Smith started 11 games, recording 51 tackles..35 of which were unassisted. A fast and physical defensive back who ranked third in tackles on his team, Smith proved efficient in all aspects of play with 2.5 tackles for a loss, following up a 2014 campaign in which he played in all 14 games and attained 54 solo stops. At 6’0, and 195 pounds he may be slightly undersized but has experience at both Safety and Nickel positions.

Smith was unable to take part in Georgia Tech’s Pro Day after picking up a quadricep strain whilst running the 40 yard dash. Now may be a second chance to prove himself in front of a more condensed group of evaluators and competitive environment.

S: Jourdan Wickliffe – Eastern Illinois 
He may have missed the opening games of 2015 with injury, but it didn’t stop Wickliffe from leading his team in interceptions having played just nine games which ranked him sixth in average INT’s per game in the NCAA. A true ballhawk, Wickliffe ended his college career with 14 picks and a total of 296 tackles. After being named to First team All-OVC honors for three consecutive seasons, Wickliffe earned a reputation as a leader of the Defense. The 6’0, 201 pound Safety will look to demonstrate his ballhawk skills at a higher level of competition in what is going to be a very congested secondary selection.

LB: Jovan Santos-Knox – UMass
I
t’s only fitting that a player working out for the Eagles made the Chuck Bednarik Award Watch List in 2015 alongside some of the top Defensive prospects in this year’s Draft. Santos-Knox ended 2014 with 143 tackles, leading his team and ranking fifth in the country. A year later?  An average of 11.1 tackles per game. Santos-Knox is a pure run stopper and at 6’2, 241 pounds is the perfect size to plug holes..but can he make an impact at the next level?

RB Khairi Dickson – St. Francis (PA)
The Eagles aren’t shying away from evaluating running back talent..just like Khairi Dickson doesn’t shy away from tackles. The powerful  6’0,182 pound running back ended his SFU career with 630 rushing attempts, totaling  3,272 rushing yards and 25 rushing touchdowns (ranking second in SFU history). Not only that but Dickson had a total of 16 games where he rushed for 100 yards or more..six of which came in 2015.

The Eagles seem to be favoring versatile running backs and Dickson’s 119 receiving yards may have been enough to turn their heads.

LB: Jacob Lindsey – Harvard
Lindsey led Harvard with 63 tackles in 2014 and started his senior season in the same explosive fashion, racking up 10 tackles and returned a fumble for a touchdown. It was no surprise that he led Harvard again last year..this time with an even more impressive 72 tackles and six for a loss. This is the second “run stopping” linebacker that the Eagles are trying out this weekend and at 6’2, 220 pounds, Lindsey certainly has the frame to effectively stop the run..but can he stop the likes of an elusive Wendell Smallwood during rookie camp?

 

TE: James Kelly – Marshall
A basketball player is trying out as a tight end for the Eagles…and a very good one too. He became the first Marshall Player since Russell Lee to score 600 points and 300 rebounds in just one year. Averaging 20 points and 9.9 rebounds per game, Kelly
was an Offensive force on the court..as he will hope to be on the field for the Eagles. At 6’5 and 241 pounds..he certainly has the frame for it, let’s just see if he can translate his Basketball excellence into Football efficiency.

LB: LT Filiaga – Utah State
The Utah State Linebacker has reportedly signed a contract with the Eagles but for some reason is still listed as a player trying out for the team. Filiaga started 22 out of 23 games over the last two seasons, finishing with 139 tackles, 1 sack and 7 tackles for a loss. The 5’11, 245 pound run blocker was coming off of a big junior year in which recorded 61 tackles tying sixth on the team.

He may not have attracted as much attention as some of the other Utah State Linebackers, but attaining a Bachelors Degree isn’t exactly a bad way to end a college career!

TE: M.J. McFarland – Texas El-Paso
McFarland hasn’t set the world alight during his career and after transferring to Texas El-Paso didn’t even make the field. You can add McFarland to the ever growing list of players that have “character concerns” after McFarland tested positive for a substance banned by the NCAA, sidelining him in his senior year. His career ended with 178 yards on 19 receptions over 36 games.

However, McFarland was also a proven receiver. The 6’5, 230 pound TE left El Paso El Dorado as the school’s all time receiving leader and has told the Star Telegram that he models his game after Zach Ertz. A chip on his shoulder and in the backyard of a personal inspiration? This could be the break that McFarland needed.

C: Angelo Mangiro – Penn State
Another Lineman who has experience at both Guard and Center, Mangiro led his Offensive Line in 2015 and was one of the few consistent performers on the Penn State Line in 2015. At 6’3 and 321 pounds, Mangiro has the size take his game to the next level afterproving himself by earning an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection in his junior year. But it’s up to the Nittany Lion to take things up a notch and prove he has much more to offer than just an intimidating frame.

LB: Tyson Coleman – Oregon
If there’s one thing the Eagles want in their next generation of linebackers, it’s aggression..something that former Oregon Duck Tyson Coleman has in abundance. Starting 28 games over the course of two years, Coleman ranked fifth in tackles on the Ducks in 2015, racking up 63 tackles and 4.5 sacks en route to earning the honor of being named the team’s standout special teamer. After reportedly signing with the Buccaneers as a UDFA, Coleman will try out for the Eagles this week high on confidence.

DT: Justin Thomason – North Carolina
Playing in all 14 games during his senior season, Thomason ended the year with 43 tackles and 3.5 sacks. An impressive performance in the  Russell Athletic Bowl saw the 6’3, 295 pounder match his career high with seven tackles against Baylor and went into the Draft ranked as the 68th best in his position. He doesn’t quite have the size to be a dominant DT in the NFL and his struggle in shedding blocks of bigger Offensive Line was highlighted with a slow 40-yard dash time. Thomason has a shot to prove many wrong however and in a UNC class where only five players were eligible for the Draft..could turn a few heads if he ends up sticking around.

OT: Ben Curtis – Delaware
Having started each of his final 40 games at the college level, Curtis helped sustain an Offensive Line that enabled his team to rank second in the CAA and 17th nationally in average rushing yards per game with 219.4. Curtis ranked 74 out of the 108 eligible tackles for the Draft. Considering that the Eagles need help creating holes as well as punching through them, the 6’6, 290 pound tackle could not only emerge as a dark horse to impress as a depth tackle but also develop into a valuable asset for the Eagles.

DE: Kassan Messiah – Massachusetts
He may be a Defensive End, but surprisingly Messiah ran the routes of a tight end at the UMASS Pro-Day, something he had not done in 4 years.  Messiah worked out with the Jets and the Giants, trying out as a linebacker and a tight end with both. Amassing over 60 tackles in three of his four seasons with UMASS, Messiah is a leader on the Defensive side of the Football and has displayed incredible amounts of versatility over the course of his career and as a senior he registered 64 tackles, 4 sacks and 2 pass breakups. Keep an eye out for Messiah’s name over the next few days..he could well be one of the big surprises.

DE: Mike Moore – Virginia
Starting three games at OLB and nine at DE, Moore started all 12 games for Virginia in his senior year and for good reason. He ended the year tied seventh in the ACC for sacks after bringing the QB down 7 times. If that’s not impressive, his 12.5 tackles for a loss ranked him 14th in the ACC and his three forced fumbles ranked him second. The 6’4, 265 pound pass rusher is great at what he does..wrapping up players and reading the Offense. Here’s an insightful video into the mind of the explosive pass rusher.

DE: Jacob Payne – Shenandoah
Another prominent run stopper, Payne led the ODAC with 7 sacks whilst racking up 53 total tackles. Named All-ODAC and Lou Wacker Defensive Player of the Year in 2015, the 6’5, 270 pound linebacker looks the part of a speedy pass rusher and his large frame makes his impact all the more impressive. Nicknamed “The Payne Train”, Payne tried out for the Jets as a Strong side Linebacker and went on to sack Christian Hackenberg..but according to insidenova, it was the Eagles who showed the most interest in him leading up to the draft.

First scouting him at the FCS national bowl game..it’s also convenient that his favorite NFL player is Eagles’ star Connor Barwin.  It would not be surprising to see Payne on the team when training camp arrives.

OT: David Bowen – Boston College
Ranked 61st out of 108 Offensive Tackles going into the Draft, Bowen’s impressive 6’7, 307 pound frame should be enough to convince you that he’s got what it takes to develop into an NFL ready tackle one day. A backup for most of his career, Bowen was a two-star high school recruit who plays with an underdog chip on his shoulder and tenacity in his game.

It was former Philadelphia Eagles QB Coach Ryan Day who recruited him to Boston, and it’s a member of the Eagles who could once again elevate his career.

OT: Eric Lofton – Temple
The final player trying out for the Eagles is local Offensive Tackle Eric Lofton. A player who was willing to contribute in any position along the line for the Owls, Lofton is entering the tryout as a tackle despite spending a lot of time at guard. At 6’5 and 302 pounds, Lofton was ranked 6rd out of 206 draft eligible guards. He proved to be consistent in his senior year, being named to first-team all-conference honors.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser

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