NFL scouts size up the Eagles' talent

Lane Johnson "has all of the physical tools you look for in a tackle," a senior NFL scout said, adding that Johnson "will need to continue to get stronger." YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Lane Johnson "has all of the physical tools you look for in a tackle," a senior NFL scout said, adding that Johnson "will need to continue to get stronger." YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Posted: October 26, 2013

The best NFL teams, give or take a few, are the ones that can identify their draft picks for what they are, and in short time, what they will become.

Many of the teams that fail draft poorly and tend to overvalue their own picks before it is too late. As subpar as the Eagles' 2010-11 drafts were - apparently because prospects were chosen for need as opposed to drafting the best available players, according to general manager Howie Roseman - the team has done a fairly good job of discarding duds.

Of the 24 players chosen, only eight remain on the roster.

In the last two drafts, helmed by Roseman, the Eagles took 17 players, 13 of whom are still around. While the results are far from being tabulated, those drafts will go a long way in determining the Eagles' future success.

But so, too, will Chip Kelly and Roseman's ability to avoid the pitfall of overestimating the worth of their players. While evaluations are subjective in many ways, it is interesting to see how other teams view Eagles players.

Here are evaluations from two senior NFL scouts on some of the Eagles' core of young players (Part II will run next week):

Lane Johnson, OT. "Has all of the physical tools you look for in a tackle. Fits Eagles scheme well. You knew coming out that there would be growing pains [in] Year 1. Will need to continue to get stronger to help him anchor. His improvement from his junior year to senior year in college shows that he's willing to work and wants to get better."

Mychal Kendricks, LB. "Better fit in a scheme that keeps him covered and allows him to use his athleticism, speed and range to play sideline to sideline. Lacks the size and length to fight his way off blocks of offensive linemen."

Zach Ertz, TE. "Athletic tight end that runs good routes and knows how to get open. Will never be a dominant blocker at the point of attack, but is a mismatch in coverage vs. linebackers. Will excel in his role in that offense due to all of the movable pieces."

Bennie Logan, DL. "Long-armed and quick off the snap, first step and fast hands can jolt offensive linemen. Has struggled in scheme and getting off blocks because of lack of pass rushing moves. Not very instinctive against the run, either. Loses leverage easily and will have to improve base strength to become nose tackle."

Brandon Boykin, CB. "A physical specimen with elite speed and vertical to compensate lack of length. Better equipped for slot, but has quick-twitch athleticism to handle outside. Tackling has improved. Has trouble avoiding blocks as edge rusher. Still has upside. Lacks maneuverability to be elite returner. Leader. Confident."

Bryce Brown, RB. "Talented runner that has a good size to run between the tackles with good speed to attack the hole and get on the edge as an outside runner. Needs to continue to work on his ball security. Also needs to become more reliable as a pass protector and pass catcher. Has all of the tools to be an every-down back, though."

Maclin on free agency

Jeremy Maclin misses playing on Sundays, but the feeling of loss has been compounded by not being able to play in Chip Kelly's fastbreak offense.

The Eagles wide receiver may never get the opportunity. Maclin, who suffered a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, will be a free agent after this season. He said he wants to return but also understands it may not be that simple.

"Obviously, that's what I would like, but at the end of the day, I understand that's going to take care of itself," Maclin said Thursday during a rare visit to the Eagles locker room at the NovaCare Complex. "I'm not going to get caught up in that. I just know that a decision will be made in March sometime."

Maclin's injury happened during the first week of training camp in July, a few days after he said he was excited to prove to the Eagles what he was worth. He established himself as a consistent threat on offense, but he never quite reached expectations after the Eagles selected him in the first round on the 2009 draft.

This was to be the year.

"Just knowing the type of success I could have had in this offense and the extra quality I could have brought to this team - that's the most frustrating part," Maclin said. "I'm one of the guys that can move around and be put in different spots. The fact that I played inside in college and have the quickness to play there and I've got the size and speed to play outside."

Maclin said he is ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation. The recovery time for ACL injuries is anywhere from eight to 12 months, depending upon the athlete and the tear. Maclin tore the same ACL during his freshman year at Missouri.

He said he didn't anticipate having to work out for teams wary of signing a free agent with his history of knee injuries.

"I don't think I'm in a position where I'll necessarily have to do that," Maclin said. "It's not a [knee] microfracture or anything like that. I came back better than I was before and I think I'll come back better than I was this past time."

Aside from DeSean Jackson and maybe Jason Avant, the Eagles don't have receivers who are guaranteed to return in 2014. Riley Cooper, who took Maclin's place, will also be a free agent. He has played better the last two games, but for most of the season so far, the Eagles haven't had a consistent No. 2 threat after Jackson.

"We miss him," running back LeSean McCoy said, "more than he misses us."

Two-gapping Curry

After being inactive the first two games of the season, Vinny Curry's snaps have increased each week - 12, 13, 14, 25 and 26 plays against the Cowboys on Sunday.

The Eagles defensive end has gotten pressure in each game, and that's partly why he has seen his time increase. But less noticeable has been his improvement as a two-gap lineman.

It's supposed to be that way. When Eagles ends play two gaps or the four-technique (lined up directly over a tackle), they're not supposed to try and get around the offensive lineman, but push him back.

"You're definitely not trying to get around him," Curry said. "That will get you on the bench."

Despite having 67 pass rush opportunities to Trent Cole's 220, Curry has two sacks to Cole's zero and as many hurries (four). Still, he said he's most proud of the strides he's made playing as a two-gap end.

"I think I'm doing pretty good," Curry said. "As long as I ain't getting drove back."

Inside the Game

There's a seating structure in the Eagles defensive meeting room - defensive backs up front, followed by linebackers and then linemen.

Nate Allen has sat in the same front-row seat since he was a rookie.

"When I first got here, I sat next to Quintin Mikell and he was in the first row," the Eagles safety said.

Allen's play over the last four seasons hasn't been as consistent, but after a rocky start to this season he has settled down. He'll never be an all-pro, but there have been fewer mistakes.

"His eyes are better. His tackling is better. Nate has worked very hard," defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. "He's very serious about what he's doing."

Earl Wolff was pot committed.

When Dez Bryant caught a short pass over the middle in the third quarter on Sunday, Wolff, who was coming up from center field, said he had only one play.

"I closed my eyes when I was about five yards away," the Eagles safety said. "I was like I was all in."

Wolff collided with Bryant, knocking the Cowboys receiver to the ground, but he, too, fell. The rookie left the game to have a head injury checked out, but Wolff only missed the rest of that series. Did he remember the hit?

"Yeah," Wolff said. "For a second I didn't."

The Eagles remain one of the healthier teams, but since Kelly mentioned the low number of soft tissue injuries his players have had earlier this month, the strains and sprains have increased.

On the injury reports for the Eagles' first five games, there were only three players listed with soft tissue injuries from the groin down. But since then, Kelly's training staff has had to deal with 12 soft tissue injuries to lower extremities, including Michael Vick's hamstring strain.

Inside the Locker Room

If the Eagles are looking for some inside information on Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, G.J. Kinne may be able to help.

Released before the season, Kinne recently traveled to Clemson to help out his former offensive coordinator at Tulsa, Chad Morris. Kinne got an up-close look at Boyd, who could be a first-round draft pick in May. "He's really good despite the Florida State loss [last Saturday]," Kinne said. The quarterback worked out for the Panthers and Redskins before the Eagles signed him to the practice squad on Tuesday. . . .

Roseman explained the team's reason for carrying only four cornerbacks - Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin and Roc Carmichael - earlier this week: "We're trying to figure out first of all our 46 for game day and right now we've been going with four corners active on game day," he said. "We have to make sure we have a certain amount of body types for each special teams position." . . .

Receiver B.J. Cunningham, signed to the 53-man roster last week, and linebacker Emmanuel Acho, signed earlier this week, are two of the special-teams players Roseman was referring to. Both are expected to be active on Sunday against the New York Giants.

By the Numbers

12

Eagles forced turnovers, one fewer than all of last season.

15

Combined number of snaps that Eagles offensive linemen (Jason Peters 14, Lane Johnson 1) have missed so far this season.

30-448

Tight end Zach Ertz's prorated catches and receiving yards for the season.

jmclane@phillynews.com

@Jeff_McLane

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