Training Camp is just a few days away for the Philadelphia Eagles, which means it’s almost time to get emotionally attached to long shots and underdogs. There’s something so exciting about finding a player that everyone else is overlooking and watching on as he shines in preseason and fights for a roster spot. With that in mind, here are a few of my personal favorites over the past six years.
This man will forever have my heart. After reaching out to a couple of his former CFL coaches and watching his play for the Edmonton Eskimos, I was convinced he’d shine in Philadelphia. For a brief period, he did.
The 2016 preseason was a jubilant one for Grymes, who built on an impressive Training Camp by making some flashy plays in live-game scenarios. There was nothing more gut wrenching than seeing him haul in an interception against the Steelers, and struggling to get up. He tore his AC joint in the process of making a play that would’ve surely earned him a place on the roster.
After/ being waived with an injury settlement and spending most of the season on the practice squad, he later returned to the CFL where he continued to shine. This past offseason, signed with the Edmonton Eskimos for a third time.
In what is now an 82-game CFL career, Grymes has racked up 253 total tackles, 12 interceptions (!!), two fumble recoveries, and a sack.
How can we not include Paul Turner? For many, The former UDFA will be the first person thought of when asked about Eagles preseason heroes. The Louisiana Tech product burst onto the scene in 2015, leading the entir/e NFL in preseason yardage, catching 17 passes for 165 yards. It looked like the team might have found a real diamond in the rough.
At 5’10, Turner always seemed destined for a slot role, but going up and making one-handed grabs in preseason for fun presented a ceiling so much higher. He stuck onto the roster, but was waived for Bryce Treggs. After a while, he did actually gain a promotion to the game day roster, and ended up going off for 80 yards in a disappointing loss to the Bengals.
He failed to make the roster one year later and after bouncing around the NFL for a while, actually returned to Louisiana Tech as a coach. Pretty cool. Maybe we’ll see him coach in the NFL someday.
It’s wild to think that this time two years ago that Alex Singleton was a dark-horse to make the final roster. The former CFL standout was originally an undrafted free agent in 2015 and ventured to Canada to hone his craft. Named a CFL All-Star in the two following seasons, he was also given the CFL’s ‘Most Outstanding Defensive player’ in 2017, before leading the league in tackles one year later.
He then made the jump back to the NFL, signing with the Philadelphia Eagles. A tight battle with T.J Edwards saw the two lock horns in what was one of the most entertaining preseason finales in recent memory. The two shone brightly all offseason long and it came down to one last opportunity to prove themselves worthy of a roster spot. Singleton’s summer of strength was surely enough to push him over the finish line, right?
The team decided to keep Edwards over Singleton to begin with, but it would be a decision that later proved to be irrelevant. By the time 2020 rolled around, Singleton was ready to make a name for himself. Taking advantage of injury woes, he ended up not only securing a huge pick-six against the Niners, but amassing a 100+ tackle season despite being used sparingly in the opening quarter of the season.
He’s now more than likely one of two starting linebackers in 2021 after signing a new one-year deal this past offseason.
Who could forget Rasheed Bailey? 10 passes, 100 yards, a touchdown, and quite a few jersey sales. Bailey stole the hearts of Eagles fans in part due to the fact he was one. Bailey came out of a D3 school as a local record-breaker and a fan of the Birds.
The 6’1, 205 lbs, wideout was unable to cling to the final roster, but actually returned to the Eagles briefly in 2017 before being released in May after bouncing around the league and suffering a preseason injury in 2016, preventing him from making the Jags roster.
Bailey ventured to the CFL in 2019, signing with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and putting up 206 yards, signing a one-year contract extension this past offseason.
Now in contention for the starting LT spot after a growth rate that can only be rivalled by a small child. One minute, they’re tiny, the next, they’re running around and causing havoc. Mailata was drafted in the seventh round by the Eagles having never played the sport of Football until just months before his declaration. The Aussie was a rugby player who possessed some terrifying athleticism and the Eagles were willing to give Jeff Stoutland a fun new project to work with.
Mailata stepped onto the field in his first preseason and while he understandably looked wobbly at times, he also looked way better than any coach could’ve ever dreamed of. Mailata held his own and after a stress fracture sent him to IR, his second preseason showed development of a night and day contrast.
The rest, as we know, is history…and Mailata will be competing with Andre Dillard for a starting role this Summer.
Raheem Mostert is a name familiar to many. After going undrafted in 2015, the rookie enjoyed a stunning preseason for the Eagles, amassing 157 rushing yards and 191 receiving yards, leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage. He heartbreakingly didn’t make the final roster and would end up bouncing around several teams until sticking with the Niners in 2016.
Since then, he’s gone on to establish himself as a regular runner in the diverse Niners backfield. His terrifying 220-yard outing that included 4 touchdowns in the NFC championship game not too long ago is what sent the team to the Super Bowl back in 2019.
Everyone will remember Corey Clement for his heroics in Super Bowl 52, but before that, he was a UDFA out of Wisconsin trying to make the roster. He dominated his competition in preseason, leading the Eagles in yards per carry with 3.8, totalling 105 yards on 28 attempts.
The story after 2017 isn’t anywhere near as glamorous, and one filled with injury setbacks. However, his preseason breakout led to his placing on the roster and that eventual iconic performance.
Michel had an explosive summer in 2019 where he caught a beautiful pass from Nate Sudfeld and took it to the house for a 75-yard touchdown in the Eagles preseason opener. Many had hoped that the brother of Sony Michel would be able to make it onto the roster as a versatile option in the backfield, but it wasn’t to be.
Prior to trying to fly in Philadelphia, the speedy receiver racked up 435 yards on 31 receptions, 36 yards on two carries and added six total touchdowns in 11 games in 2018 for the Calgary Stampeders.
As of today, Michel has maintained his NFL status and currently resides in Carolina, working behind another versatile back you may have heard of. I think his name rhymes with Mistian McLaffery.
I miss piloting the Dane Train. The 2017 preseason was an explosive one all thanks to the Tulsa product who stepped onto the field with this daredevil attitude. A huge 41-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Johnson against the Jets stands out in a game where he rallied the offense all the way down to the five-yard line late in the game only for the drive to stagnate. Heartbreaking.
But the rushing ability flashed was so fun to watch. Matt McGloin’s Eagles preseason was about as exciting as watching paint dry. Evans finally got his shot against the Jets and quite literally ran with it, scrambling all over the place and just letting it rip like we hadn’t seen all preseason.
As of right now, he’s doing exactly that in the CFL. Evans completed 72%(!!!!!!) of his passes for 3,754 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 13 picks in 2019 for the Hamilton Tiger Cats and his first playoff win.
I feel like a proud Father.
Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire