Eagles Notebook: Eagles' rookie Knott ready to shoulder the load

Posted: August 15, 2013

JAKE KNOTT reported to Eagles training camp with a bunch of inside linebackers standing between Knott and a roster spot.

That might no longer be the case for the undrafted rookie from Iowa State, who has been a heads-up plugger just about every day. Knott backed up his practice work with a strong showing in last Friday's preseason opener against the Patriots.

"I think Jake's had a really, really good camp," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said yesterday. "He's got an instinct and nose for the football. He just kind of seems to be around it a lot. There are some intuitive things that Jake brings out that sometimes it takes a long time to coach that into somebody. He came here with that."

One of those linebackers in Knott's way was veteran NFL special teams whiz Jason Phillips, who is out for the season now with an ACL tear. At this point, Knott probably just has to convince the coaching staff that he has more upside than either Casey Matthews or Jamar Chaney, two former starters who played their way into reserve roles.

When an undrafted rookie looks better than some of the guys who were drafted, there's usually a story there. In Knott's case, it has to do with his left shoulder, arthroscopically repaired in 2011, then ripped apart again in a game against Oklahoma State last season, requiring "real" surgery this time. Knott says the more extensive open surgery fixed the problem, his shoulder feels just fine now, but NFL teams were leery. Shoulders tend to be important for linebackers.

"I think it played a large part [in not being drafted ]because I feel I can physically do a lot of things people who got drafted in front of me can't do," Knott said yesterday.

The Eagles list him at 6-2, 243; the height figure might be an inch generous.

"I feel completely comfortable and haven't even noticed it, really," Knott said.

Last year, after he tore his labrum and capsule, Knott asked his doctor if he couldn't just play in the homecoming game, against Baylor, before having season-ending surgery. Could he make the injury any worse? Well, no, but he wouldn't be able to take anything to deaden the pain, with surgery scheduled for Monday. And he wouldn't be able to lift his left arm to tackle; it would have to be strapped and braced.

"Tons of guys play with injuries all the time that nobody hears about," Knott said. "I just hit with my right shoulder all the time . . . It would pop out a few times. It's not about toughness in that situation; I didn't really want to let my teammates down, senior year, if I could give 'em one more good go and be able to set my timetable on [playing his final college game]."

So how'd it go?

"I got Defensive Player of the Week for the Big 12," he said. "It was lucky. I had like, 11 tackles and a forced fumble, I think."

Tomorrow night, Knott will be wearing the No. 54 jersey, Brandon Graham having returned to the No. 55 he wore at Michigan. Knott knows who the last linebacker here to wear 54 was. He would love to meet Jeremiah Trotter, he said.

"It's definitely a huge number to live up to," he said. "I'd better be playing well if I'm going to wear it, right?"

Just for starters

Chip Kelly said he hopes to play his starters about two quarters tomorrow night against Carolina. Nick Foles and Michael Vick again will divvy up the "starter" reps at quarterback, with Foles getting the first series this time. In the preseason opener, Vick and Foles each got two series, and each QB produced one touchdown.

"We'll see how that plays itself out," Kelly said. "Does that mean [the QBs will alternate] by series, or whatever? It depends on how many snaps and how long the series are . . . if we get a lot of reps in the first quarter."

Kelly might go to subs at some point in the second.

"Some of our 'ones' only played nine or 10 snaps the other night," he said.

Kelly said he doesn't expect tackle Jason Peters (hamstring), who hasn't practiced fully this week, to be able to play. Longsnapper Jon Dorenbos and guard Danny Watkins, who have concussions, did not participate in Tuesday's walkthrough and are not expected to play. For Watkins, the 2011 first-round pick relegated to backup work, obviously every game is important to forging a future with a new coaching staff that had nothing to do with drafting him.

Running back LeSean McCoy (knee) is expected to play. New wide receiver Jeff Maehl has only yesterday's walkthrough practice as preparation, but Maehl, who starred for Kelly at Oregon, said he thinks he can pick things up well enough to run some routes if the coach wants him in there.

"It's great that my journey has come back here with Chip," said Maehl, acquired in a trade with the Texans for offensive lineman Nate Menkin. "I'd be lying if I said it wasn't in the back of my mind that if I didn't get an opportunity there, maybe Chip would give me one. I was a little shocked that it happened this early, but I'm happy to be here."

Click here for complete coverage of Philadelphia Eagles training camp.


On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian

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