Philadelphia Eagles

New year, similar situation for Eagles' Kinne

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New year, similar situation for Eagles' Kinne

Once again, G.J. Kinne has a spot on the Eagles' roster that won't exist when the regular season begins:

The fourth quarterback.

Last offseason, Kinne participated in OTAs and training camp with the Eagles but was always going to be the odd man out after Nick Foles, Michael Vick and Matt Barkley. He spent the season on the practice squad.

Vick isn’t around anymore, but Mark Sanchez is, leaving Kinne in the same uncomfortable position of fighting for a spot that he knows will be difficult to acquire.

Almost all of the talk regarding quarterback competition since OTAs began at the end of May has centered on the battle between Sanchez and Barkley for the backup spot. Kinne so far has been splitting the third-team reps with Barkley.

“I’m not worried about where I take reps,” Kinne said after Tuesday’s practice at minicamp. “I’m just worried about trying to get better. Whenever they put me in, that’s where we go.”

A former standout at Tulsa who went undrafted after finishing his college career in 2012, Kinne has yet to make an active NFL roster.

After spending most of the 2012 offseason with the New York Jets, Kinne played for the Omaha Nighthawks (UFL) and San Antonio Talons (AFL) that season before signing with the Eagles in February 2013. 

Performances at OTAs and minicamp can be held only so highly -- there are no pads or contact -- but Kinne looked sharp in drills during Tuesday’s practice and throughout OTAs.

“It’s been going a lot better than last year,” Kinne said. “I feel a lot more comfortable in the offense now.”

Spending last year with the Eagles -- even if only on the practice squad -- benefited Kinne by getting him acclimated to how NFL offenses are run, especially in a system like Chip Kelly’s that demands a lot out of its quarterbacks.

“We focus on everything [with quarterbacks],” Kelly said. “There's not one thing we look for more. You don’t say, ‘He has a quick release, so it’s OK he doesn’t have a strong arm.’ I think you want the whole package.”

Kinne knows where he stands among the Eagles’ backup quarterbacks. Barkley is a former fourth-round pick who starred for USC, and Sanchez has 62 NFL starts and two AFC Championship game appearances under his belt, leaving Kinne as the least heralded by far.

He tries not to think about that, choosing instead to focus on himself. If anything, having experience with his fellow quarterbacks will further his development.

“Mark, Matt and Nick have all been great to work with,” Kinne said. “Mark is a really good guy and everyone’s really excited to have him.”

Ronald Darby gives glimpse of why Howie Roseman pulled trigger on trade

Ronald Darby gives glimpse of why Howie Roseman pulled trigger on trade

The Eagles trading of receiver Jordan Matthews was met with mixed reviews.

The arguments ranged from fair to, frankly, kind of silly. I definitely understand the numbers. He was crazy productive in his three seasons with the Eagles and became a reliable target for franchise quarterback Carson Wentz. Plus, he's Wentz's bff and Carson was super sad.

But seriously, I don't want to take away from what Matthews meant to his teammates, especially Wentz. But the reality is he's a limited, slot receiver who likely would've commanded too much money to return next season.

Here's the bottom line: Ronald Darby showed on Thursday why Howie Roseman pulled the trigger on trading Matthews and a third-round pick.

So you may wonder, why would the Bills give up on a 23-year-old corner if he's so promising?

You all know the story by now. After having a tremendous rookie season, Darby struggled in Year 2. The former second-round pick was limited with a hamstring injury early in the season and suffered a concussion in Week 12. Factor health in with a Bills defense that struggled as a unit and a team entrenched in turmoil that resulted in the firing of its head coach and GM, and Darby wasn't exactly set up for success.

Darby also didn't fit the mold of what Buffalo is now looking for in a corner. New head coach Sean McDermott utilized long corners when he was in Carolina. After losing veterans Josh Norman and Charles Tillman, the Panthers drafted James Bradberry and Daryl Worley in 2016. Both measured at 6-foot-1 with 33 3/8" arms at the combine. Darby also excels in man coverage. Last season under McDermott, Carolina played more zone coverage than any team in the NFL.

Darby is by no means perfect. The positives: crazy fast, quick feet, tremendous anticipation. The negatives: suspect hands, not a great tackler, gets lost in zone coverage at times. All of that was on display against his former team Thursday.

On his first snap, he missed an open field tackle against LeSean McCoy. Who cares? So have most of the DBs in the league. Besides, his main job is to cover receivers. Give me a corner that can stick an opposing team's No. 1 receiver over one that's a good tackler any day of the week.

With that said, Darby looked explosive in coverage. During the Bills' second possession on 2nd-and-10, Tyrod Taylor was looking for Anquan Boldin on a 10-yard out. Darby breaks up the play and there's so much to like about it. Darby is playing off man, giving Boldin a cushion. Darby has one eye on Boldin and the other on the quarterback. He's able to time it perfectly and use his speed to close the gap quickly. The only thing you'd like to see is him finish the play. It's an easy pick six if he does. 

Speaking of finishing, Darby didn't waste his second opportunity. Still in the first quarter, Taylor decides to take a shot down the field after a LeGarrette Blount fumble. Boldin tries to beat him with a double move but Darby doesn't take the cheese (something he did often at Florida State). Taylor faces heavy pressure from the Eagles' front and heaves it up for grabs. Darby snags it and goes 48 yards on the return.

The most impressive thing on both plays is Darby's ability to keep his eyes on the quarterback while maintaining coverage. That's what allows him to anticipate throws and recognize routes so well. For years the Eagles have lacked a corner with the ability to turn around and play the football. Darby's unbelievable speed and foot quickness allows him to do so.

To keep this in perspective, Darby was facing a quarterback in Taylor that he saw an awful lot of over the last two-plus years. He was also covering the 36-year-old Boldin, who's been with Buffalo for a little over a week. But impressive none the less.

Does one preseason game mean Darby is the next Darrelle Revis? Of course not.

But he has a chance to be a pretty damn good corner.

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."