Philadelphia Eagles

10 prospects with something to prove at 2017 NFL Scouting Combine

10 prospects with something to prove at 2017 NFL Scouting Combine

INDIANAPOLIS -- There are exactly 330 players invited to the NFL combine this year and a lot will ride on their performances. 

In addition to the on-field tests, teams will spend hours and hours interviewing and meeting with the prospects from various schools across the country. 

There's plenty on the line this week. Here are 10 players with something to prove: 

WR Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington
Kupp is the wideout who recently worked out with Carson Wentz. The two share agents, which is why Kupp was spotted wearing one of Wentz's AO1 shirts at the Senior Bowl weigh-ins last month. Kupp, at that point, hadn't yet met Wentz, but he was looking forward to meeting him. Kupp had a great college career, but his athleticism can be questioned. Last month, he said he was hoping to run a 4.4 in the 40 at the combine. We'll see if he can do it. 

WR Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky
Taylor was probably the biggest standout during Senior Bowl week, but he's from a small school and might not be very well known yet. A favorite of NBC Sports' Josh Norris, Taylor has a chance to impress this week. Under 6-foot and under 200 pounds, Taylor will still probably test very well this week. 

WR/RB Curtis Samuel, Ohio State
Like a few guys on this list, Samuel is stuck between positions. He'll work out with receivers this week, but he's more of a running back/receiver hybrid. (Josh Huff ring any bells?) But if a player has two positions, do they really have one? That's the problem Samuel might face. He'll get a chance to show his stuff and hopefully he'll end up on a team that can utilize his talents. We'll just call him an offensive weapon for now. 

CB Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado
An injury kept Awuzie out of the Senior Bowl. That was a shame because a lot of people wanted to see him. It's a super crowded field at the corner position this year, but Awuzie could end up being great value around the third round if he lasts that long. This will be his chance to show that he belongs with the top CBs on the board. 

CB Teez Tabor, Florida
Some think Tabor is the top cornerback in the draft, while others aren't so sure he's the top cornerback coming out of Florida. So, yeah, Tabor has plenty to prove. He’s an intriguing guy with the Eagles in mind because of his aggressive nature, but NFL.com's Lance Zierlein brings up a possibility that Tabor "fears deep speed." We'll need to pay attention to his 40. 

DE Tanoh Kpassagnon, Villanova
So far, so good for the 6-foot-7, 280-pound specimen, whom Eagles personnel head Joe Douglas called "as body beautiful as it gets." There's no question Kpassagnon is a physical freak, and he looked good against high-quality competition in the Senior Bowl. But he's still pretty raw and a good showing this week could ease the fears of some front office executives. 

LB Haason Reddick, Temple 
The Temple defensive player is switching positions but has looked fine in the process. In fact, many have him ranked as the second-best linebacker in the draft, after Alabama's Reuben Foster. But any time a player switches positions, teams are going to want to see as much on-field work as possible. This week could help Reddick become a first-round pick. 

OL Dion Dawkins, Temple
Dawkins played tackle in college but was a guard last month at the Senior Bowl and likely projects there as a pro. He was open to the switch, saying he'll play wherever teams want him to. Because of the switch from tackle to guard, there's a good chance he'll test very well this week. As an athletic interior lineman, he could help his status a lot. 

S Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
The Michigan standout might be the most interesting player in Indy because he was so good in college, but no one really knows how to project him to the NFL. It's clear he's a first-round talent, but is he a linebacker? A safety? He's somewhat of a tweener, but if he has a good week, he should still be a first-round pick. Like Samuel above, it's all about making sure he goes to the right team.

RB Jamaal Williams, BYU
While we'll be watching several 40 times closely, perhaps this is the one we should all care about the most. At 6-0/211, Williams has the size to be a workhorse back, but does he have the speed to separate from NFL players? We'll find out. 

Former Eagles' draft pick Jordan Poyer excited for opportunity with Bills

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Former Eagles' draft pick Jordan Poyer excited for opportunity with Bills

And then there's the former Eagle on the Bills who is a little less famous.
 
It was cataclysmic when Chip Kelly traded LeSean McCoy to the Bills. It was historic when Howie Roseman traded Jordan Matthews to the Bills.
 
Jordan Poyer's journey from Philly to Buffalo is a little bit different and a whole lot less well-known. But the one-time Eagles draft pick has become an important part of Sean McDermott's defense.
 
Poyer, who signed as a free agent with the Bills this past offseason, was the second of three Eagles seventh-round picks in 2013. He made the team as a long-shot cornerback and played in three games as a rookie before getting released on Oct. 19 so the Eagles could sign running back Matthew Tucker off their practice squad.
 
The Eagles hoped to land Poyer on the practice squad, but the Browns claimed him, and he wound up spending four years in Cleveland, playing in 45 games and starting four last year with two interceptions before his season ended with a horrific injury — a lacerated kidney.
 
He finally escaped Cleveland this spring, signing a four-year, $13 million deal with the Bills that includes $7.4 million in guaranteed money and he goes into the regular season as the Bills' starting free safety.
 
Not bad for the 46th defensive back taken in the 2013 draft.
 
“Being in Philadelphia, starting my career here was huge," Poyer said Thursday night after the Eagles-Bills preseason game at the Linc.
 
"I’m in Year 5 now and you never know what would have happened if I didn’t start out here, start my career here. It was a big part of my foundation, learning the NFL game."
 
The Browns went 12-47 while Poyer was in Cleveland, and he played under three head coaches and four defensive coordinators during his stay with Cleveland.
 
“It was a challenge," he said, shaking his head. "We all play this game to win football games. That’s the name of the business, the name of the game. That’s why we start playing when we’re little. Anytime you’re not winning it’s always tough.
 
"I’m trying to put that time of my life behind me now, I’m here in Buffalo now and happy here."

But the one good thing that happened to Poyer in Cleveland was the switch from corner to safety.
 
“It's a lot different and it took some time," he said. "But I feel good about it, felt good about making the switch. Took it and ran with it and learned the position.
 
"It's still a new position, and I still have a lot of things to learn, but I feel like it was good for me. Really one of the best things to happen to my career."

In Buffalo, Poyer's head coach, McDermott, and defensive coordinator, Leslie Frazier, are both former Eagles secondary coaches. Nobody has a better feel for the secondary than McDermott, who played in the same secondary as Mike Tomlin at William & Mary and worked under Jim Johnson for a decade in Philly before going to a Super Bowl with Ron Rivera in Carolina.

"It's a great situation for me with Sean and Leslie," Poyer said. "Sean coaches us every day, helps us get better, helps get the whole football team better. I learn something from him every day."
 
Poyer has played in more games than 24 of the defensive backs drafted ahead of him in 2013 and in more games than all but five of the 47 other seventh-round picks that year.
 
The only defensive back the Eagles have taken in the seventh round the last 50 years who's played in more career games is Kurt Coleman, another player who revived his career under McDermott.
 
To go from seventh-round pick to $7½ million in guaranteed money is quite a story, but Poyer is so grounded he said he doesn't really think about the big picture of his career arc.
 
“During the season, you’re moving so fast you don’t really have time to sit back and look at what you’ve accomplished or how far you’ve come," he said.
 
"At the end of the season or at the end of my career I’ll look back on it and soak in everything that I had to go through and got to where I am now, but right now, I'm just focused on getting ready (for opening day).
 
"Philly gave me a good opportunity, made a lot of good friends here and now excited to be here in Buffalo."

Let's learn from past, keep Eagles' preseason positives and negatives in perspective

Let's learn from past, keep Eagles' preseason positives and negatives in perspective

It happens this time every year. 

Two preseason games are now in the books and the overreaction portion of the program has commenced. It's only natural. We're seven-plus months removed from the Eagles' last regular-season game. You have an entire offseason of hype and buildup. There's free agency, the draft, OTAs, training camp, and finally, there's the wonderful world of exhibition games. We're dying for storylines and answers. And projections based on illusions become reality.

A stroll through some names of training camps past is a stark reminder not to go overboard anointing these guys the next big thing. Here are some blasts from the past: Henry Josey, Jeremy Bloom, JaCorey Shepherd, Gizmo Williams, Billy Hess. Remember them? No points off if you don't, but they were thought to be the answers in years past.   

Remember way back in the day, like Aug. 29, 2015? The Eagles played their third preseason against Green Bay. New Birds quarterback Sam Bradford's line that night: 10 for 10, 121 yards, three touchdowns and a 156.7 passer rating on three drives. They thought they had found their guy. Bradford went on to have a middling season with a 7-7 record as a starter. His individual stats matched the record, and a year later, he was dealt to Minnesota. His coach, Chip Kelly, did not last the season. 

Take last year for instance — Paul Turner was Jerry Rice reincarnated. Now, the receiving corps was awful and Turner, an undrafted free agent stuck with the practice squad, eventually got time with the club during the regular season. But we may want to hold off on his Canton enshrinement.

Which brings us to the consternation surrounding the 2017 Eagles' first-team offense and running game. Granted, sans two amazingly athletic plays by Carson Wentz in the Packers game, the first team has not looked ready for prime time. 

But let's take some things into account. Teams game plan minimally for preseason games. Unless, of course, you're Dom Capers and you blitz an entire exhibition game. The Eagles did not prepare for the extra men sent, therefore they didn't handle it well.

Thursday against the Bills, the Eagles' first-team offense was without left tackle Jason Peters. They were also missing Wendell Smallwood, and Darren Sproles barely sniffed the field. That will hurt production. 

In the Packers game, 5-foot-9, 180-pound Donnel Pumphrey ran the ball off-tackle multiple times. That ain't happening in the regular season. Would you like to see Wentz protected better and the ones more productive? No question. Is it time to push the panic button? Certainly not.

The flip side is keeping some of the positive performances in perspective. It's beyond encouraging how Mychal Kendricks has looked through the first two games. But let's not lose sight of the non-factor he's been the last couple of seasons when things were real. 

There is not a bigger believer in Derek Barnett than me. From the moment I knew where the Eagles would be drafting, I wanted him in midnight green. I'm a firm believer he will be starting sooner rather than later. And he has not disappointed in the exhibition games. But some of the guys he is facing will be pumping gas in Jersey real soon. Not playing in the NFL.

Perspective and long views are not easily attained. But they're necessary tools when it comes to this time of year.