Last offseason, the Eagles drafted arguably one of their strongest classes in the last decade. In fact, only one player of those picked by the Birds is no longer with the team..that man being Blake Countess. But as strong as the 2016 class was, the Eagles found even more value in their undrafted rookies..value that is only set to increase in 2017. Here are just a few of the names who could be making more than a few waves this year.
The undrafted DT found himself earning snaps alongside Beau Allen throughout 2016. The duo combined for 66% of snaps and with Bennie Logan now in Kansas City, depth is minimal..and a starter is needed. As it stands, Beau Allen is entering his contract year and despite whispers of a potential extension continuing to echo around the facility, Vaeao remains the Eagles best long-term option ahead of the Draft.
Ending the year with 15 tackles, 2 sacks and a forced fumble, Vaeao was just as disruptive as he was during the preseason..which is exactly what the Doctor ordered. Vaeao’s bursts of tenacious play might not be enough to sway the Eagles into handing him a starting role just yet..and it’s highly likely that the Eagles draft some extra help. But with new talent comes new competition..and it was just over a year ago that Vaeao was able to win a Training Camp battle of his own, beating out Aziz Shittu for a roster spot. A spot that would go onto be vital in the Eagles pass-rush rotation.
One of last year’s Training Camp standouts, Grymes was a lock to make the roster until he suffered an AC Joint injury after coming down with a huge interception against the Steelers in preseason. But with a new season comes a new opportunity..and the Eagles saw enough in the former Edmonton Eskimo to bring him back onto the practice squad late last year.
Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll’s departures have left starting vacancies at cornerback for the Eagles..and although it is easily their top priority heading into the Draft, DB Coach Cory Undlin is extremely high on the CFL standout. Even if the Eagles do draft back-to-back corners in the early rounds of the draft, competition will be ripe..and once again, cornerback will be the position to watch at training camp. Especially now that Alshon Jeffery is in town to separate the men from the boys.
Ike Charlton, DB coach of the Ottawa Redblacks, worked with Grymes previously and revealed to us just how special he believes Grymes could be in an exclusive feature earlier this year.
think Grymes is a different animal. Grymes has the mentality that he is the best. He works hard. He competes in everything he does and has the mentality that you’re looking for in a DB. He has a short memory but doesn’t give up a whole lot. I liked Grymes from the time I first saw and worked with him. His mentality is what you’re looking for.”
Grymes had 8 interceptions during his three year career in the CFL, with 4 of them coming in 2015. According to Bleacher Report he ran a 4.6 40-yard dash time in 2013. The defensive back recorded a total of 101 tackles during his time with the Eskimos, 43 of them accumulated in his career year in 2015.
Does he have one more Training Camp ace up his sleeve to finish what he started in 2016?
One player often lost in conversation when talking about last year’s draft class is the Eagles other seventh round pick from 2016, Joe Walker. Like Grymes, it was a preseason injury that saw him watch the Eagles season from the sidelines. A torn ACL kept Walker off the field in his rookie season..but now the need for his presence is more glaring than ever.
With Stephen Tulloch officially a free agent and the future of Mychal Kendricks anything but certain, drafting a third linebacker is a priority for the Eagles, but whoever comes in will be battling an extremely tough candidate, who did nothing but shine during the offseason one year ago.
Walker ended his 2015 campaign leading the Oregon Ducks in tackles with 87 and recorded 6 for a loss as well as 2 sacks. He may not have the best size for the position, but a 40-yard dash time of 4.56 and a 6’2, 236 pound frame make him incredibly elusive. A true coverage linebacker, Joe Walker could be a hidden weapon for the Eagles..whom at the very least emerges as a rotational piece.
The Eagles proved that they don’t need 3 linebackers to make the 4-3 work, instead opting to roll with the nickel formation more often than not. But Walker’s skill set could at least entice them to bring more looks to the table..and with the hole still going unaddressed, whomever the Eagles draft will be competing hard against a man already playing with a chip on his shoulder, who has a missed rookie campaign to make up for.
At 6’6, 239 pounds, the former Florida Defensive End brought plenty of promise to the table after being drafted by the Eagles in the seventh round last year. However upon entering the league, it was clear that he needed to add some bulk to his elusive frame. The rookie would sit out his first season of Football..but with Connor Barwin reuniting with Wade Phillips and Bryan Braman entering free agency, along with two players heading toward the end of their tether..it’s a chance for McCallister to shine..and shine is exactly what Joe Douglas expects him to do. The Eagles head of Personnel was quoted as saying the following at the NFL Annual meeting, when asked about the status of McCallister.
“Everyone is excited about him getting back and showing what he can do,” said personnel head Joe Douglas. “A lot of natural pass-rush ability with Alex coming out of Florida. I think our sports science staff, our training staff, our strength and conditioning staff, they’ve done a great job with Alex throughout this beginning segment of the offseason. I can’t wait to get him back to OTAs and see how he’s doing.”
After picking up 48 tackles in two seasons, to go with a team leading 6.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for a loss, McCalister went on to perform exceedingly well at the combine. The Eagles never got to see what he could truly do at the next level..but after one season in the City of Brotherly Love..that chance could be on the horizon, with a new requirement for explosiveness on the outside and a lack of starting talent to provide it.
Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports