Brad Smith aims to help Eagles at wide receiver

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Brad Smith aims to help Eagles at wide receiver

Brad Smith has played many positions throughout his eight years in the NFL.

Wide receiver. Backup quarterback. Kick returner.

He also spent time in the backfield as a Wildcat specialist earlier in his career with the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills.

Now, entering his ninth season and second with the Eagles, Smith is trying to focus on becoming a better receiver.

“I’ve played receiver during my career off and on,” Smith said Tuesday after practice. “Now, being able to work on the nuances a little bit more, especially with this offense -- kind of knowing what they’re looking for has been a blessing.”

When the Eagles released their first official depth chart on Monday, Smith was listed as the first-team slot receiver, something of a surprise considering he caught just two passes for 27 yards last season.

“I’ve never really played much slot,” Smith said. “Coaches have always moved me around for different packages and personnel, so I’ve played a little bit of everything.”

In eight years, only twice has Smith finished a season with more than 20 catches and 200 yards, the last time being in 2011 with the Bills, when he caught 23 passes for 240 yards and one touchdown.

The last time Smith finished a season as one his own team’s top three wide receivers in terms of yards? That would be 2007 with the Jets, when he caught 32 passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns playing behind Jerricho Cotchery and Laveranues Coles.

In fact, Smith has only four more career receiving yards (976), than he does career rushing yards (972). His most impressive year as a pro was in 2010, when he finished with 1,432 kick return yards, 299 rushing yards and three total touchdowns, yet caught just four passes for 44 yards.

Still, the Eagles have been impressed with his performance as a receiver in camp thus far.

“He’s one of the guys that’s really benefited from all the reps he’s getting,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said Tuesday. “He’s done a great job. I think he’s improved by leaps and bounds from a year ago within our offense.

“He’s a veteran player. He’s a very steady competitor and player on special teams and he’s developing himself more as a wide receiver within our offense and he’s done a good job.”

No matter how much Smith has improved as a wide receiver, it is still difficult to imagine him finishing the season as the team’s first option in the slot.

Rookie second-round pick Jordan Matthews is currently listed behind Smith on the depth chart, and it is likely the Eagles are keeping him on the second team as a way of bringing him along slowly. It would be very surprising if Smith finished the season with more catches or yards than Matthews.

“We don’t view it [as a competition],” Smith said. “We’re trying to get better individually because ultimately when it comes down to it, it’s can we win games as a team.”

Even with his current place on the depth chart, it’s not a guarantee that Smith will end up on the Eagles' final roster.

The first four spots are locked up by starters Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper and rookies Matthews and Josh Huff, leaving just two more receiver spots. While it is likely that Smith will snag one of those spots, he still has plenty of competition in Arrelious Benn, Ifeanyi Momah, Damaris Johnson and Jeff Maehl.

While Smith’s versatility would seem to give him an edge over those players, it's still debatable as to how much of his versatility the Eagles really need. Last season he received only two carries and returned just four kicks.

When asked what he would like his role to be, Smith predictably responded, “Whatever Coach wants.”

As he is currently not listed as one of the team’s kick returners, it seems as though Chip Kelly wants him to focus on improving the team’s depth at wide receiver, something the Eagles certainly could use.

“Coach moves us all around a lot,” Smith said. “There are certain formations we could be anywhere. As far as game planning, Coach could come up with anything.”

Sources: Eagles to sign former Villanova LB Don Cherry and former Alabama S Nick Perry

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The Associated Press

Sources: Eagles to sign former Villanova LB Don Cherry and former Alabama S Nick Perry

The Eagles have a serious depth problem at linebacker, and they're looking at a local prospect to try to fix it. 

The team will sign former Villanova linebacker Don Cherry on Sunday, pending a physical, a league source told CSNPhilly.com. ESPN's Adam Caplan first reported the deal.

Cherry, 21, first signed with the Bears after going undrafted in the spring, but was cut by Chicago in June. 

The 6-1, 240-pound Cherry was an All-CAA selection as a sophomore, junior and senior. During his time on the Main Line, he was credited with 331 tackles, 46 1/2 tackles for loss, 14 sacks, seven forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and an interception. 

Even with Cherry, the Eagles are still light in the depth department at linebacker. After starters Mychal Kendricks, Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham, the team has Najee Goode, Deontae Skinner, seventh-rounder Joe Walker and a couple of other undrafted free agents. 

After cutting wideout Jonathan Krause on Friday, the Eagles had three vacancies on their 90-man roster. They're filling another of those openings with former Alabama safety Nick Perry, according to a league source. The perry deal was first reported by Al.com's Matt Zenitz. The 6-1, 211-pound Perry spent last season on the Ravens' practice squad after going undrafted in 2015. 

Eagles training camp kicks off Monday, and the first full-team practice is Thursday. 

5 Eagles with the most at stake during training camp

5 Eagles with the most at stake during training camp

Training camp officially kicks off on July 25, when rookies, QBs and select vets report. Three days later the Eagles have their first full team practice. 

For the weeks after that, the team will be formed, and we’ll finally get a better understanding of the 2016 Eagles. Some players will definitely make the roster. Some already have their starting positions locked up. 

Then there are the players with the most to prove during the few-week camp. There are way more than five guys who need to impress during August. There are players who will make the team and who will lose the team, who will win starting gigs and lose them. 

But here are five on the roster that I’ll be watching closely: 

Josh Huff
Huff is a curious case. He’s super talented; he really is. He just hasn’t figured it out yet, and it’s fair to wonder if he ever will. He’s going into his third season and has just 35 catches in his first two years. There’s a chance he could win a starting job. Then again, there’s a chance he could lose his roster spot, though that’s probably much less likely. In Doug Pederson’s offense, receivers get moved around a lot, something Chip Kelly refused to do. I’d like to see Huff be given a chance to play in the slot. Obviously, Jordan Matthews has shined in that position, but if he lines up outside, Huff might be a good fit. 

Chris Pantale
During the spring, Pantale often lined up as a fullback with the first team, which meant the Eagles want to see if he can be a lead blocker. But training camp is where they’ll find out. Can he take a hit? Can he deliver one to a linebacker? The coaching staff will be looking to answer those questions. If Pantale can prove he’s a capable fullback, he can earn a spot on the roster and force the Eagles to either keep four tight ends or cut Trey Burton, who will also be given a shot to prove himself as a fullback. 

Isaac Seumalo
Through no fault of his own, the rookie offensive lineman is behind. The third-round pick was stuck at Oregon State because of the arcane NCAA graduation rule and missed all of OTAs. “I definitely think that will be tough for him,” Allen Barbre said when asked about Seumalo’s catching up this summer. For now, Barbre is the starting left guard, but Seumalo — along with Stefen Wisniewksi — will have a chance to challenge him for the position during camp. 

Eric Rowe
During OTAs and the mandatory minicamp, Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks were the Eagles’ two starting cornerbacks, and Rowe came on the field as an outside corner in the nickel package, while Brooks slid into the slot. That means Rowe isn’t really a starter after he came on strong as a rookie a year ago. He’ll have to have a good camp to retake his starting job.  

Kenjon Barner
Barner looked pretty good this spring. In fact, he even took some first-team reps at running back. But that doesn’t mean he has a job locked up. Last season, he was the fourth running back behind DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. This year, with Murray gone, he’s in the mix with Mathews, Sproles and rookie Wendell Smallwood. Will the Eagles keep four backs again? If they do, Barner has a very good shot to be on the team. But if the Eagles keep three, they might elect to keep a promising fifth-rounder in Smallwood over him. 

NFL Notes: League to review domestic violence allegations against Ezekiel Elliott

NFL Notes: League to review domestic violence allegations against Ezekiel Elliott

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The NFL says it is reviewing domestic violence allegations against Dallas Cowboys rookie Ezekiel Elliott.

A police report says Elliott denied allegations that he assaulted his girlfriend early Friday in Columbus, Ohio, causing bruises and abrasions. The report says he wasn't arrested because of conflicting versions of what happened.

Three witnesses told police they didn't see Elliott assault the 20-year-old woman. Elliott says the woman got the bruises and abrasions in a bar fight.

The player's father, Stacy Elliott, said in a statement Friday that the claims are "completely false" and that his son has cooperated with the investigation.

Ezekiel Elliott is a running back who played at Ohio State. He turned 21 Friday.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy says the allegations will be reviewed under the league's personal conduct policy (see full story).

Colts: NFL suspends Art Jones for 4 games
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts defensive lineman Arthur Jones has been suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Jones has struggled to stay on the field since signing a five-year, $33 million contract in 2014. He missed seven games in his first season with Indy with an injured right ankle. He missed all of last season with an injured left ankle he sustained during the preseason.

Jones won't be eligible to return to the team until Oct. 3 but will be allowed to participate in training camp and preseason games.

His brother, Jon, a UFC fighter, also has run afoul of that league's anti-drug policies.

Vikings: Ribbon cut at new $1.1 billion stadium
MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph spent his first three seasons playing in the Metrodome, a cramped, dingy noise box that tested the patience of fans and players alike.

The home locker room only had five bathroom stalls for 53 players and dozens of coaches and support staff. So when he walked around U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings' new $1.1 billion stadium that is set to open this season, he said comparing the two was like "ground chuck and filet mignon."

The Vikings held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday to mark the official beginning of life in their new home. The celebration featured current coach Mike Zimmer blowing the gjallahorn -- a huge horn used in Viking lore -- with coaching legend Bud Grant by his side and fireworks after a host of speakers praised the new stadium.

With a cutting-edge design that includes a translucent roof to allow in the daylight, a wall of glass with 100-foot doors that open to let the autumn breeze in and a locker room that is twice the size of their former home in the Metrodome, U.S. Bank Stadium has thrust the franchise into the 21st century (see full story).

Bears: Charles Tillman retires with Chicago
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Charles Tillman is officially retiring as a member of the Chicago Bears.

The two-time Pro Bowl cornerback signed a one-day contract and called it a career with the team that drafted him in 2003 on Friday.

He had announced Monday on Twitter that he was retiring. The 35-year-old Tillman, known for his "peanut punch" after forcing 44 career fumbles, spent his first 12 seasons with the Bears and went to two Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl with them.

He started 12 games last season with the Carolina Panthers before suffering a season-ending knee injury and missed the team's run to the Super Bowl.

Chicago also terminated defensive back Omar Bolden's contract on Friday.