The NFL is a dog-eat-dog world. There’s not a single team who isn’t constantly looking for ways to undercut the competition and find new wrinkles to improve their team, both in terms of personnel and philosophies. For the Philadelphia Eagles, this drive is evident. Whether it’s the relentless salary cap pursuit of Howie Roseman, or his intricate work to accumulate compensatory picks, the Eagles have risen through the ranks of the NFL in a few short years, winning a Super Bowl ring in the process.
But one of the more overlooked aspects of their roster-building is their vision to find talent where others refuse to look: Canada.
Going into 2019, the Eagles have a pair of players in Alex Singleton and Marken Michel who have surprisingly strong chances of making the roster. But this isn’t exactly new territory for Philadelphia. They’ve been exploring the realms of the CFL for quite some time now, but why?
This spark first started with a workout in 2015. 6’4 wide receiver Eric Rodgers visited Philadelphia who were one of a stunning 16 teams to put the CFL West 2015 all-star through his paces. After signing with the Niners, he tore his ACL in Training Camp and ultimately would work his way back to the CFL.
The Eagles then worked out DL Freddie Bishop, who spent time on the back end of the roster in Detroit and New York. But maybe, just maybe, this got the cogs turning in Roseman’s mind.
That following season, the Eagles signed former Edmonton Eskimos corner, Aaron Grymes, someone who rapidly rose to become a preseason standout before an injury ripped what looked to be a certain roster spot away. One year later, he was joined by Grey Cup-winning corner, Mitchell White.
I spoke with CFL coaches at the time, who had worked with both players after the signings in order to further understand the motives behind the moves. Due to the differing field size and the fact receivers can be running full-speed at you by the time the ball is snapped, CFL corners are often bred different and would slip nicely into a defensive scheme relying on man and press coverage.
“If you don’t have the discipline to play there, it will get exposed. Most of the guys coming out of college are cover-2 corners, they don’t play a lot of man coverage and I can see why a lot of the NFL teams are looking at these kids. These guys are still young and they’re more fine tuned to come in and play right away. They may look good putting on their shorts & T-shirt and doing the 40 and the benches, but when you get a guy that’s played some pro football that has the mentality you’re looking for, they come right in and fit the bill.Ike Charlton on CFL corners
What I found really interesting though, was a quote from Roseman after the Super Bowl victory in an analytics talk with Wharton college about how he keeps that intense energy in the locker room pumping.
‘We know we have to change the chemistry. To create competition and create that same sense of urgency we had. How do we do that? We get more people who have that underdog feeling, who feel like they’d been kicked to the side and have that need to win.’
So, let’s fast forward to 2019 and take a closer look at this year’s CFL prospects to see if they fit the bill.
Continued on the next page below.