Eagles rookie camp storylines: Johnson, Barkley, DBs

Eagles rookie camp storylines: Johnson, Barkley, DBs

May 9, 2013, 9:00 am
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Pictured: first-round pick Lane Johnson (left), fourth-round QB Matt Barkley (center) and seventh-round cornerback Jordan Poyer. (USA Today Images)

A couple dozen or so rookies will be trying to make a good first impression on Chip Kelly and his coaching staff this weekend when the Eagles hold their spring rookie minicamp at the NovaCare Complex.

Eight draft picks, nine undrafted rookies, a second-year rookie –- yes, there is such a thing -– and a handful of non-roster invitees are expected in uniform for three practices.

The practices, the first for this new batch of Eagles, will be closed to the media, but here are some storylines to follow as this group of rookies takes the first step toward making the 53-man regular-season roster when it’s finalized in less than four months -- on Sept. 2.

Can Lane Johnson move right in at right tackle?

The plan is for Johnson, the fourth pick in the draft, to step right in at right tackle, presumably allowing Todd Herremans to move back inside, where he’s been more effective, and allowing the Eagles to move on from the Danny Watkins disaster.

But it all depends on how Johnson handles being a starter as a rookie, and it’s not a lock he’ll be the immediate stud the Eagles are hoping for.

In recent history, Shawn Andrews and Tra Thomas were good enough to start on the O-line as rookies (Andrews got hurt after winning the job), but O-line first-round picks such as Watkins, Jermane Mayberry, Lester Holmes and Antone Davis either weren’t ready or weren’t very good.

So these first few practices, with no veterans around, are a great chance for Johnson to get a head start on the pro game.

Can rookie draft picks Earl Wolff and Jordan Poyer make an impact?

We all know how wretched the Eagles’ secondary was last year. Nnamdi and DRC are gone, and Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman are back to square one, trying to win roster spots. The Eagles signed some veterans –- Kenny Phillips, Cary Williams, Patrick Chung, Bradley Fletcher –- but jobs are still up for grabs. All have NFL experience but none are locks to start.

So these first few days will be a great opportunity for rookie draft picks Earl Wolff and Jordan Poyer to start competing.

Neither were high picks, but they were the only defensive backs the Eagles drafted.

Wolff, a North Carolina State safety, was a fifth-round pick, and Poyer, an Oregon State corner, was a seventh-rounder. But the Eagles like both of them, and both will get a chance to compete.

How will the quarterbacks line up?

As far as we know, Michael Vick and Nick Foles will split the first-team reps at quarterback, with Dennis Dixon possibly getting some here and there.

But where will rookie Matt Barkley fit in? Will Kelly give him a legit chance to compete? You would think Barkley will start out far behind Vick, a 10-year veteran, and Foles, who started the second half of last year. But Barkley is a unique player. He started as a freshman in high school, started on opening day as a true freshman at USC ... and it wouldn’t be surprising if Kelly and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur put him in the mix at least to some extent just to see where he is.

They’ve said all along the quarterback job is wide open, so why not include Barkley in the competition?

Can Ifeanyi Momah play?

This is one of those nothing-to-lose moves that could potentially land the Eagles an intriguing player. Momah, undrafted and out of football last year, is like the Bryce Brown of receivers. He barely played at Boston College, although he did catch 8-for-157 yards in his one game in the last few years -– Sept., 3, 2011, against Northwestern.

He can run, he stands 6-foot-7, and he played on a fairly high level before missing his senior year with a torn ACL. These next few days will be Momah’s first practices in a couple years. Who knows. Could be the next Marvin Hargrove.

Which undrafted rookie will rise above the rest?   

Will it be record-setting Stony Brook tailback Miguel Maysonet? Will it be versatile LSU speedster Russell Shepard? Will it be burly Iowa State inside linebacker Jake Knott?

All the undrafted guys will have the opportunity to catch the eye of the coaches these first few days.