Rookie Watch: Kendricks, Boykins impressing
Tuesday is the last day of training camp at Lehigh, so as the Eagles prepare to head to Philadelphia to resume camp Thursday, here's the latest look at how the team's top rookies are faring. They're listed in order of the eight most likely to see playing time this season.
Mychal Kendricks: The second-round pick was installed as the team's starting strongside linebacker from the get-go and he's shown why. His quickness and speed is unquestioned, now he needs to continue the learning the system and fine-tuning his techniques. He struggled at times against Pittsburgh to free himself from blocks, but he's an eager learner.
The hardest adjustment is "being able to use my hands a lot more with these linemen," Kendricks said. "They're really good and just being able to adapt to that has been the biggest challenge."
"Mychal is relentless," said defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. "You saw some of his big-play ability [against Pittsburgh]."
Fletcher Cox: Currently the backup left defensive tackle behind Cullen Jenkins, Cox has had a solid camp as he adjusts to defensive line coach Jim Washburn's wide-nine scheme. Cox, the team's first-round pick, should see meaningful time in the defensive line mix since the Eagles regularly rotate linemen to keep them fresh.
Brandon Boykin: Boykin, a fourth-round selection, is slated to open the season as the team's kickoff returner. He made good on his training camp productivity with a 46-yard kickoff return on his first touch against Pittsburgh. He's also in the mix for slot cornerback in the team's nickel package.
"Brandon is a good athlete," said Castillo. "He's smart, he's tough, and he's coming along. He understands the system and there is some good competition going on."
Damaris Johnson: Johnson has used training camp to go all the way from undrafted free agent out of Tulsa to starter in the team's preseason opener, after Jeremy Maclin tweaked his hamstring before the game. That's a meteoric rise up the charts, but Johnson's speed and elusiveness are hard to miss.
With increased practice reps, Johnson has been working on improving his route-running and working to make crisp cuts. "It's something we've worked on," said Johnson, who is also the team's first-team punt returner. "We just go in and dig out of every route, even when the ball isn't coming to you. Run the route as if you know you're getting the ball."
Vinny Curry: Curry is a little farther back on the depth chart--at third-team behind Trent Cole and Darryl Tapp--but that's more an indication of the team's line depth. Curry has been solid throughout camp.
"Our young kids put a lot of pressure on themselves because that is what kind of guys they are," said Castillo. "[They need to] just have fun and do what they did in college because that is what got them here. I think that's what Vinny did [against Pittsburgh]. Coach [Washburn] talked to him and Vinny just kind of relaxed and turned it loose and just played hard."
Dennis Kelly: The 6-foot-8 fifth-rounder is Todd Herremans' backup at right tackle and has been impressive in drills throughout camp. Particularly in 9-on-7 running drills, Kelly regularly has opened holes against the attacking defense.
Bryce Brown: Drafted in the seventh round because of his raw potential, Brown has looked impressive nearly every day of camp and is currently the third-team running back behind LeSean McCoy and Dion Lewis. He doesn't go down easily when hit, and he's produced some of the team's most impressive runs.
"Bryce is a really smart kid," said coach Andy Reid. "He's picking things up well and he's a big, physical kid.... It's important that he continues to fine-tune himself as we go here. But I would tell you he was one of the positives coming out of the [Pittsburgh] game."
Nick Foles: It's amazing what one quarter of game action and a huge shot of confidence can do for a player. It once appeared that if Nick Foles saw any meaningful playing time this season, then things had gone terribly wrong. Now, on the heels of his standout quarter against Pittsburgh, Foles not only looks like he could win the backup job, but he'd also be pretty good at it.
Not that Foles is content with his one shining moment.
"If there is one thing I learned from college, it's that when you have games like that, you always have to improve on it," Foles said. "I'm not satisfied, and there is a lot of stuff for me to work on and improve on. I'm really technical with myself and I try to look at what I could have done better rather than what I did well."