The lights were on, and once again Keenan Clayton shined.

Getting his chance against the Bengals' backups Friday, Clayton, a rookie linebacker drafted in the fourth round, intercepted a screen pass from quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan, ending a drive that had advanced into Eagles territory.

Coaches were happy, of course, but also left to wonder: Where was that guy at Lehigh?

They won't say it so bluntly in public, but coaches were frustrated with Clayton's effort in practices.

At training camp, drills were often punctuated by the sound of linebackers coach Bill Shuey calling out "Keenan!" and adding extra instruction for the rookie.

Then came the Eagles' first preseason game, against the Jaguars, and this stat line: four tackles, a sack, a tackle for a loss, and two hits on the opposing quarterback, against Jaguars' reserves.

Clayton followed up that performance Friday with a tackle, a pass break-up, a special-teams tackle, and his third-quarter interception.

"He's made some big plays in the two games that we've had to this point. So, that's certainly a plus. On the other side of it, there needs to be consistency day in and day out and each and every practice," said defensive coordinator Sean McDermott.

Clayton did not argue that point. Even in college at Oklahoma, he said, his teammates and coaches questioned his practice effort. The speedy linebacker - he posted one of the fastest 40-yard dash times at the NFL's rookie combine - got by with strong play on game days.

"My coach in college always used to tell me that I wouldn't make it long because I didn't know how to practice," Clayton said. "Now that I look back at the conversation and see what he was getting at . . . you've got to practice like you play."

It's something Clayton conceded he is still working on, just as he is still trying to carve out a role on this team.

"If Coach was to just look at the practice tape [and not game film], he'd probably be like, 'What is this guy doing?' Sometimes after practice, a lot of times after practice, I feel that way, too," Clayton said.

After playing safety early in college, and then switching positions, the Eagles drafted him as a strong-side linebacker. Clayton tried to add some weight to bulk up his 6-foot-1, 229-pound frame for the job, which often involves taking on a tight end, but was sheepish when asked about whether that worked.

"Don't lie!" teammate Moise Fokou interjected when Clayton hemmed and hawed.

"I'm trying," Clayton said of his weight-gain attempt.

In training camp, McDermott moved Clayton to weakside linebacker, where there is no tight end, leaving more space for him to use his speed, and less need for fighting off blockers.

"I'm a little bit lighter guy, so to an offensive tackle or a tight end, they're licking their chops when they see somebody my size out there trying to hold the point [of attack]," Clayton said.

Clayton is still learning his position but has shown a talent for pass coverage. When he made plays in training camp, it was often while swatting passes away.

As of now, Clayton is behind Ernie Sims at weakside linebacker. If anything happened to the starter, Omar Gaither would probably get the first crack at stepping in.

Clayton, however, could contribute on special teams, and said he also wants to be ready for game action if he is needed. To do that, though, he said he will have to earn the veterans' trust.

"If I show them in practice that I can get it done . . . then if I go in, they understand, 'We've got the rook coming in, but we know he can do it because he's been doing it in practice,' " Clayton said.

After the Eagles' second practice Monday, Clayton and other rookies remained on the field, working on shedding blockers.