We’re one step closer to Football. Rookie Minicamp kicks off this weekend for the Philadelphia Eagles and while the draft class will be at the heart of the action, there are a flurry of free agents to keep an eye on.
RB Josh Adams, Notre Dame
Perhaps the most exciting name on this list, the Notre Dame running back simply has to shine this weekend. The re-sigining of Darren Sproles and recent acquisition of Matt Jones has turned an already difficult challenge into a Mountain to climb for Adams, who will be vying for a realistic practice squad role unless he can force a back like Wendell Smallwood out of the equation.
A Pennsylvania native, Adams was a day 3 back on the draft boards of many. A long injury history is what drove him off of those boards and into the pool of undrafted free agents.
At 6’2, 213 lbs, he is easily the biggest running back on the team and packs quite a punch as a result. With 3,201 total rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns (41 receptions, 336 yards) during his time with Notre Dame, Adams tore through the trenches with his thick base and unique sense of power.
Adams is a one-cut back who is fairly one dimensional. A willing pass protector, Adams runs with power but his danger relies on building momentum, which will be a lot harder to do at the NFL level. Without much elusiveness in his game, Adams will rely on his bullying style to drive him onto the roster and potentially replace LeGarrette Blount, but it will be a long road.
His bruising style will be a key to his success this weekend. The Eagles are looking to replace the short-yardage vacancy left by LeGarrette Blount and as a developmental option who can learn behind the likes of Ajayi, Adams is a name worth watching and one who is bound to attract attention.
DB Jeremy Reaves, South Alabama
The Eagles bought Reaves in on a pre-draft visit and it’s not difficult to see why. One of the most physical defensive backs in this year’s class, Reaves is another gem out of the Sun Belt conference. In fact, he was named the conference’s defensive player of the year in 2017, amassing 104 tackles, 3 picks and forcing 4 fumbles.
At 5’11, 190 lbs, Reaves uses his frame as a remote-controlled missile. Moving from corner to safety, Reaves is intriguing for the Eagles because he could fit either the nickel or depth safety spot perfectly. There are willing run defenders and then there are human rockets who fly into tackles and enjoy doing it. Reaves is the latter.
We all know by now that the Eagles love the Senior Bowl and Reaves flashed there too, racking up more tackles than anyone else and even picking off Tanner Lee.
Reaves will be one of the bigger names to watch this weekend because the Eagles do still have some big question marks at the Safety position. The team could always re-sign Corey Graham, but Reaves offers a much cheaper and younger option. He wouldn’t be relied on to start right away and has time to learn under one of the most efficient tandems in the league. Reaves is a player who wouldn’t just fill a position of need for the Eagles, but carries the mentality needed to thrive in the City of Brotherly Love, making him a prospect who could set the tone at minicamp and lead the rest of the players who have slightly longer odds of making the roster.
QB Jeremiah Briscoe, Sam Houston State
The Eagles have an interesting quarterback situation coming into this weekend. Depth is light heading into Camp and with Carson Wentz likely missing the duration of preseason and Nick Foles missing all of last year’s, depth is crucial. Joe Callahan will fill Matt McGloin’s role from one year ago, but will there be an undrafted QB4 underdog looking for an opportunity to shine? The first step is stealing the show this weekend.
Enter Briscoe. A winner of the 2016 Walter Payton Award as the FCS’ most outstanding offensive player (beating Cooper Kupp), Briscoe was a finalist once again in his final season, completing 57.9% of his passes for 5,003 yards and a 45-16 touchdown to interception ratio.
While he isn’t afraid to let it rip, Briscoe isn’t the most accurate arm out there and his 6’3, 225 lbs, frame doesn’t offer much in the way of athleticism. His touch on the deep ball is impressive, but it’s getting the ball into the right spot that seems to be a present concern.
If he can elevate himself above the competition, a training camp with the Eagles could well await for this Small School sleeper.
WR Jordon Gandy, Murray State
This 6’4, 210 lbs, wideout is very much a red zone threat who brings that small-school, undrafted chip on his shoulder. Gandy recorded 2,065 yards in his final season, averaging 15.3 yards per catch and scoring 23 touchdowns in the process.
Gandy appears comfortable making all the catches in the book, snagging balls out of the air and aggressively contesting each 50/50 attempt. Intermediate routes seem to be his specialty, which favors the Eagles, but Gandy doesn’t have much in the way of speed. His specialty is boxing out corners and using his frame to create separation at the line…which is something the Eagles could potentially look to harness or extract out of him in preseason, providing he can excel this weekend. Gandy will be an interesting prospect to watch as he seeks to fill a niche void in the receiving corps.
DT Bruce Hector, South Florida
The injury to Timmy Jernigan has cast some serious doubt over who will step up to the mark in 2018 and the Eagles aren’t exactly afraid to take flyers on undrafted defensive tackles, just ask Destiny Vaeao, Justin Hamilton and Aziz Shittu.
Hector’s 6’2, 296 lbs, frame may not be the most prototypical for his position, but he led or tied his team in sacks in each of his last three seasons, showing that size doesn’t mean everything. 7 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss in his senior year capped off an impressive career.
In terms of technique, Hector has all the moves and mental prowess to succeed at the position, maintaining an even base and sustaining leverage on his rushes, Hector is able to re-direct blockers with ease. The main knock on him is unfortunately his size and that will be something that will be emphasized even further at the next level.
With a really strong opportunity of thrusting himself into an equation for defensive snaps this season, Hector needs to start off on the right foot and that all begins this weekend at rookie minicamp.