Game vs. Bears a big night for Eagles' rookies

Game vs. Bears a big night for Eagles' rookies

August 8, 2014, 8:00 am
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There are 22 rookies on the Eagles’ roster. That’s 22 youngsters who’ve dreamed most of their lives about playing in the NFL. That’s 22 youngsters who are working desperately to live out their dream. That’s 22 youngsters who are now just a few hours from playing professional football for the first time.

The Eagles open the 2014 preseason at 8 p.m. Friday at Soldier Field against the Bears.

And those 22 kids can’t wait.

“I’m very fired up, I’m excited,” said Kevin Graf, an undrafted rookie offensive tackle from USC. “I’ve been waiting -- this has been my dream my whole life.

“I’m on pins and needles, can’t wait for game time. Just an exciting moment for me and my family.”

For high draft picks like Marcus Smith and Jordan Matthews, these games aren’t crucial. They’ve got the team made.

For guys like Graf, Beau Allen, Kadron Boone and Henry Josey, nothing is guaranteed beyond today.

“I’ve been excited just being here, and now that the moment’s come and it’s actually about to become reality, just trying to stay relaxed and just stay focused and make sure I go out there and just do what I have to do to keep making these coaches trust in me,” said Josey, who ran for 2,771 yards with 30 touchdowns at Missouri, despite missing a year with a knee injury.

“It’s something you love doing so much and then the moment’s here again, it’s time to play football. The competition level and playing against somebody different than ourselves makes everything so much more exciting. I’m just ready to play.

“It’s going to be pretty big for me. It’s another emotional step probably for some people in my life just for everything I’ve been through, but it’s just another football game and that’s the way I have to look at it. I can’t take it as some big moment. I have to stay focused. I’ve always been a patient guy. I’m not going to hit any home runs off the bat. I’m just hoping to have a good game.”

With Riley Cooper and Jeff Maehl unlikely to play Friday and Jeremy Maclin iffy, all the rookie receivers should get a lot of snaps.

That means a kid like Boone, who played at LSU, should have a chance to show what he can do.

“Friday night is going to be a big night, a childhood dream coming true, but it’s a job and you can’t let it get to you,” Boone said. “Just have to go out there and do my job.

“A lot of kids, they dream about this moment, but for me to actually have it come true, just soak it all in and enjoy the experience, but once it’s kickoff, just have to get in the zone and do my job. At the end of the day, you just have to be locked in. You can’t let that overwhelm you.”

There’s a ton at stake for a kid like Allen, a seventh-round pick out of Wisconsin who’s gotten a ton of first-team reps at nose tackle because Bennie Logan has been banged up.

With a strong preseason, Allen has a good chance to survive final roster cuts. It begins Friday night.

“I’ll be excited,” he said. “But at the end of the day, you’re playing football, and I’ve been playing football for 10 years and it’s no different whatever level you’re in, and I just have to remember that and just go out there and do my assignments.

“I want to play well and use the techniques that I’ve been coached every day. I don’t want to lose my head and get caught up in it.”

Although Smith isn’t battling for a roster spot, he is battling for playing time at outside linebacker.

Smith, the 26th player taken in this year’s draft, has been getting good reviews for his work at practice, but this will be full-speed, full-contact, against guys he’s not familiar with.

“I’m going to have butterflies, of course, that’s every game,” Smith said. “But once I get out there and once the first play happens, they’ll be gone. But I’m ready to play. I’m ready to show people what I’m all about.”

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