Nate Herbig was not stingy this past weekend with the news that he had made the Eagles’ 53-man roster, as an undrafted free agent from Stanford.
“Called my parents, my brothers … my grandparents, my uncles, my aunties – everyone who supported me along this way,” Herbig said Monday, standing in front of his new locker stall, a permanent one along the right-hand wall, to replace the roll-away stall he’d been using in the middle of the room.
“As you know, being undrafted is not easy. I had some dog days. I’m just happy to be here; I’m ready to get to work,” said Herbig, at 6-foot-4, 334 pounds, the biggest center the Eagles have employed in quite some time.
A year ago, Herbig projected as maybe a third- or fourth-round draft pick. But his final season at Stanford as a guard was injury-marred and disappointing. Then he ran a 5.41 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine, slower than anyone tested except NFL Network host Rich Eisen, who ran a 6.0.
Herbig signed with the Eagles and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland switched him to center, something Herbig had never played and never thought about playing. By last weekend, the Eagles were bidding farewell to veteran center-guard Stefen Wisniewski (at least until they need him again) and Herbig was the backup to Jason Kelce. (Though if Kelce were to go down, they might move Isaac Seumalo over from left guard.)
“I got a lot of people to prove wrong,” Herbig. “I view myself as someone who will play whatever position they need me to play."
But he practiced Monday at center. “I’m starting to get a lot more comfortable with it,” Herbig said.
Kelce said he couldn’t imagine learning to snap for the first time after getting to the NFL. He started doing it at the University of Cincinnati, when he moved over from linebacker, where he was recruited by the Bearcats.
“I can’t imagine doing it because I didn’t do it. I first started snapping the ball, first playing offensive line in college, it took me over a year to really get used to snapping the ball and trying to play offensive line,” Kelce said. “The fact that he has been able to do it in a short time and [has] proved that he is consistent enough to be able to get the job done is really, really impressive.”
Kelce said Herbig showed himself to be reliable and consistent in the preseason, in which he played the bulk of the center snaps.
“On top of that he is a big guy, he is athletic, he is smart, so there are a lot of things the coaches, I think, are excited to work with, and [are] excited to see how it develops,” Kelce said.
Sunday will be pretty special for Eagles wide receiver Mack Hollins, who, assuming he is active, will take the field in a game that counts for the first time since Super Bowl LII.
Hollins had two groin surgeries that killed his 2018 season, then got off to a slow start in training camp.
“That’s what I’m here for,” Hollins said Monday. “It’s weird not playing, obviously, but now I’m back.”
Hollins played along on Twitter and Instagram with the meme that developed among Eagles fans last spring, questioning whether he was still alive. He said Monday that when fans see him play against Washington, “hopefully they’ll think I’m back alive.”
Hollins says he feels “fast, I feel strong. The biggest thing is, the day after [working] I feel great.”
There were Eagles fans who would have just as soon seen wide receiver Greg Ward make the team ahead of Hollins, but Ward went unclaimed through waivers and ended up on the Eagles’ practice squad, where he has spent time each of the past two seasons.
General manager Howie Roseman said Saturday that Ward did “a tremendous job” in his third Eagles training camp and preseason. He added that he didn’t have an answer as to what Ward could have done better, but he noted that when you look at the fifth receiver position, it’s a lot about special teams, and Hollins is a bigger player who has been a standout there.
“I was praying that I was [going to make the 53]. But I wasn’t upset when I found out,” Ward said Monday. “I’m actually happy that they were able to bring me back … I understand why they didn’t pick me … There’s no bad feelings, there’s no bad blood. I’m ready to go to work.”