Whenever Michael Bamiro’s name came up, the word “project” usually followed. Rightfully so.
Even with arms like steel girders, thighs that could pass for kegs and mammoth hands that can make yours disappear in a handshake, the highest level of football that Bamiro had played was two seasons at a tiny school in Long Island.
Bamiro, who became the first known NFL prospect to successfully dodge both the NFL and supplemental drafts, arrived at the NovaCare Complex in mid-July after signing a free-agent deal. The 6-foot-8, 340-pound behemoth had already missed the minicamps and organized team activities, and his alma mater, Stony Brook, doesn’t exactly have a reputation for manufacturing NFL-ready talent.
“It was very fair,” Bamiro said recently, discussing his reputation as a raw, unrefined prospect with an uncertain NFL future. “I missed a month and a half worth of work for OTAs, so I was a month behind everyone in front of me, so I can understand that, and I understood that.
“At first, I’m not gonna lie to you, I overestimated it, like, ‘I’m not gonna be that bad.’ But then you get here and it’s like, ‘Wow, guys are leaps and bounds ahead of me.’”
Making the 53-man roster, a pipe dream back in July, may not be as far-fetched as it once seemed. Bamiro, who’s been working daily with both offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland and coaching intern Tra Thomas, has progressed quickly this summer.
In games, offensive linemen usually stand out only when they’re beaten, but Bamiro hasn’t killed any of his quarterbacks yet. He allowed a pressure in the preseason opener against New England that led to Dennis Dixon getting drilled but responded against Carolina, doing a better job of shielding the Panthers’ defense when he again entered in the fourth.
“Coming from a small school and onto our team so late in the offseason we knew it would take time for his raw tools to show,” general manager Howie Roseman said, “but it’s impressive that he continues to work hard and improve every day.”
Still, Bamiro needs more work, and the team has a few more weeks to determine whether his education should continue on the practice squad or if he’s bridging the gap fast enough to make the 53-man roster.
If not for the surprise performance of journeyman newcomer Allen Barbre, who subbed nicely for injured left tackle Jason Peters for the first two preseason games, the team would have major depth issues. Second-year pro Dennis Kelly, who figured to be the top reserve tackle, is sidelined indefinitely after undergoing back surgery earlier this month.
But with Barbre and right guard Todd Herremans, who started right tackle for the past two seasons, the Eagles have options if either Peters or rookie right tackle Lane Johnson go down with an injury.
Those options allow the coaches to be judicious with Bamiro, who still hasn’t seen an abundance of the twists, stunts and exotic blitzes frequently seen at the NFL level. Bamiro did feel comfortable with his development from the first preseason game to the second.
Herremans noted that Bamiro “has come a long ways.”
“Big kid,” he added. “I’ve never seen anybody’s hands that size. He might even have bigger hands than Jevon [Kearse].”
Bamiro took some positives from Thursday night’s game.
“At the end of the last game I felt like I finally got an understanding of what I need to do on this field,” he said, “so I did feel like maybe I can contribute to this team. Maybe I can catch up to some of these guys.”
With a body built for punishment, Bamiro has naturally picked up the run blocking in Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense, using his long arms and titanic legs to drive back defenders and create lanes for running backs.
Stony Brook might not be known as an NFL prospect factory, but the Seawolves operated a run-heavy offense that featured Bamiro, an All-Big South first-team selection, clearing the way for 1,000-yard rusher Miguel Maysonet, who had signed with the Eagles as a rookie free agent but was released during the spring camps and now plays for Cleveland.
It’s pass protection, where footwork and hand technique are fundamental, where most raw linemen need their most work. Bamiro thinks he’s made his biggest strides there, which showed against the Panthers.
“I definitely felt way more comfortable in the plays that we ran and where we need to be, who I needed to block and how I needed to get it done,” he said. “I felt way more comfortable. I felt a lot more prepared and I was happy with the outcome.”