He has played 89 defensive snaps the last two seasons combined, three rookies are pushing for his roster spot, and he's only getting reps with the second- and third-stringers. Steven Means' NFL career is, by any objective assessment, nearing a critical fork.
But no one could possibly know it by watching him.
"This is the only reason I'm even walking in this building every day: I have fun on this field and I'm going to do it every single chance I get," said Means, an Eagles defensive end in his sixth NFL season . "It's genuine, it's legit and it's going to be expressed in a tremendous fashion."
After his lone sack of the 2017 season, Means celebrated like he'd just won the Super Bowl (he would have to wait a few weeks for that). He acts the same in practice, too. Batting down a screen pass from third-string quarterback Nate Sudfeld during Monday's camp session? Even that warranted high-fiving the whole defensive line.
"If I make a play, it could be a tackle for loss, a regular tackle, I'm getting up and celebrating, I'm having fun with it," he said. "I wear my emotions on my sleeve. Sometimes that's not good, but on the field, it's a real good thing to do."
The Buffalo native, who played college ball in the same city, joined the Eagles in December 2015 but has rarely seen the field, making just six tackles in 14 appearances in the time since. He was kept aboard as the team's fifth defensive end last season, but he's facing an uphill battle to retain his spot.
Fourth-round pick Josh Sweat has been impressive in camp, undrafted rookies Joe Ostman and Danny Ezechukwu are in the mix, too, and it's unlikely Means could usurp any of the four presumed shoo-ins: Brandon Graham, Chris Long, Derek Barnett, and Michael Bennett.
Means is "the classic guy where he's in a really stacked room, but he could play almost anywhere in the league," Long said on Monday. "Right now, he's a guy that takes advantage of every opportunity on the practice field, special teams, everything, but is also a hell of a defensive end, and I don't think people realize it."
The 27-year-old Means seemingly doesn't realize it, either; "I feel like I'm never at my best, I'm never at my peak," he said.
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He was cut twice earlier in his career by the Buccaneers and Ravens but found new jobs afterward, and edged out Alex McCalister to stay with the Eagles and earn a contract extension last August. After five years of surviving training-camp battles to stick around in the league, Means said he's not thinking about impressing coaches or beating out specific teammates this month. That's a mentality he adopted "about two years ago," which he credits for his career's continuation.
"When you talk about competition, you talk about you going against another guy. I never go against none of those guys — Derek Barnett, Chris Long, Brandon Graham, none of them, not even the interior guys," he said. "My competition is with the offensive line."
Means has shifted his training this summer to try to become excellent at one skill — his power rush — rather than simply good in many areas, and he's hoping that specialization will help keep him around.
He's listed at just 6-foot-3 and 263 pounds, relatively average size among the defensive ends, but he looks and plays bigger in drills. With his physical strength pretty well established, Means said he has worked on his awareness to take a two-layered approach to his power rush, taking on the opposing lineman first while simultaneously tracking the quarterback.
If he can do that consistently, he figures that he won't need to think about any of the other roster-bubble defensive ends at all.
"If I go out there and beat [the O-lineman] every play, it doesn't matter what anybody else does, I'll be where I want to be," Means said. "Everything else will take care of itself."
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