NFL Draft: Saturday's prospect watch

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NFL Draft: Saturday's prospect watch

If you're an Eagles fan looking toward the 2012 draft, here's who you should be watching this Saturday.

Whitney Mercilus, DE Illinois, No. 85

Illinois vs. Purdue (ESPN212 p.m.)

The redshirt junior end for the Illini currently leads Division I-A in sacks with 10. Mercilus has emerged from obscurity this year after recording a mere two sacks over the past two seasons. He's got prototypical size for a pass rusher (6-4, 265) and is showing incredible quickness when rushing the passer. Mercilus had a strong game against Ohio State's left tackle Mike Adams, an NFL prospect in his own right, last week and should have a field day against a suspect Purdue offensive line. Interesting fact about Mercilus: he lost the fingertip of his left index finger in a weightlifting accident this off-season. He wears a special glove with a built in splint to compensate. His teammates call him Nubs.

Nate Potter, LT Boise State, No. 73

Air Force vs. Boise State (Versus3:30 p.m.)

It seems the Eagles already have a plethora of competent offensive tackles in Jason Peters, Todd Herremans, Winston Justice and King Dunlap. But the Birds have never shied away from adding talent and depth on either line. Potter has impressive size (6-6, 298) with room to grow and excellent athletic ability (he played both lacrosse and basketball in high school). A first team All-WAC selection the last two years, Potter could stand to get stronger and more physical, but the feet and size are there to play left tackle in the pros. In a deep draft, the redshirt senior might slip into the early second round, where the Birds could be in position to grab him with the pick they received from Arizona in the Kevin Kolb deal.

Harrison Smith, S Notre Dame, No. 22

USC vs. Notre Dame (NBC7:30 p.m.)

If Kurt Coleman continues to have days half as good as this past Sunday, safety might not be high on the Eagles list of needs in 2012. Even if that's the case, Smith might be worth considering in the middle rounds as a core special teamer. Smith (6-1, 213) has played both safety and linebacker during his tenure in South Bend, and projects as an in-the-box safety in the pros. He's not a player you want covering the deep ball as he lacks the speed and quickness to stay with receivers. He plays hard and hits harder.

Eagles propose four rules to be considered by NFL next week

Eagles propose four rules to be considered by NFL next week

Next week, when the NFL convenes for its owners meetings in Phoenix, there will be 15 proposed rule changes under consideration by the competition committee. 

While the one proposed rule change would cut regular-season overtime from 15 to 10 minutes (see story), there are 14 others up for discussion. 

Of those 15, seven were submitted by NFL teams. And of those seven, four were submitted by the Eagles

Three of the four rule proposals from the Eagles are safety related. 

Here are the four from the Eagles, per the NFL: 

1. Gives additional protections for long snappers on kick plays. 

2. Prohibits the “leaper” block attempt on field goal and extra point plays. 

3. Expands the “crown of helmet” foul to include “hairline” part of helmet. 

4. Amends the challenge system by granting a third challenge if a club is successful on at least one of its initial two challenges, and expands reviewable plays outside of two minutes of each half.

The first proposed rule would offer long snappers -- Jon Dorenbos included -- some extra protection. It would add this language to Article 6, Unnecessary Roughness: "When a team is in scrimmage kick formation, a defensive player may not initiate contact with the snapper until one second has elapsed after the snap." 

The second proposed rule change is one of the proposals that has garnered the most attention. Basically, the league now allows players to leap over the line of scrimmage on kicks as long as they don't touch anyone. This new rule would completely outlaw the process of leaping over the line. 

It seems like this rule change is likely to happen. The NFLPA has previously asked for this rule to be changed. 

"So the inevitable is going to happen, and just hearing from the players association, Philly now proposing it is really in the best interest of the game," former Eagle and league football operations director Troy Vincent said on a conference call Thursday. 

The next rule does pretty much exactly what it says: it expands the area that is considered to be the "crown of the helmet." 

Here's the new language that would be added to Article 8, Initiating Contact with the Crown of the Helmet: "Lowering the head and making forcible contact with the crown or 'hairline' parts of the helmet against any part of an opponent shall be considered a foul even if the initiating player's head moves after initial contact and the majority of contact occurs with the side or front of the helmet."

Finally, the last proposal isn't a safety one. It's about replay and is pretty self-explanatory for the most part. 

The reasoning given for this rule change on the proposal: "Provides coaches with a greater opportunity to correct subjective officiating errors, but excludes those fouls that have a minimal opportunity for reversal."

NFL owners mull cut of regular-season overtime to 10 minutes

NFL owners mull cut of regular-season overtime to 10 minutes

NEW YORK -- NFL owners will consider proposals next week to cut regular-season overtime from 15 minutes to 10; eliminate players leaping over the line on kick plays; and expansion of coaches' challenges and what can be reviewed by officials.

In what promises to be a busy annual meeting next week in Phoenix that will include discussing the Raiders' potential relocation from Oakland to Las Vegas, the 32 owners also will vote on changing the mechanics on replay reviews and other items intended to reduce downtime during games.

The Eagles proposed four rules changes, including abolishing the leaping techniques that league football operations director Troy Vincent said Thursday "don't belong in the game."

Seattle and Buffalo co-authored a proposal allowing a coach to challenge any officiating decision, whether a foul is called or not.

"That is a significant change to our current replay rule and it is something that will be on the floor and will be debated next week," NFL officiating chief Dean Blandino said.

Another major change would be the reduction of overtime in-season; the extra period in the playoffs would remain at 15 minutes. The powerful competition committee, of which Vincent and Blandino are members, believed it's a player safety issue, noting that number of snaps for games going to OT -- especially deep into the overtime -- is excessive. Especially if a team has a quick turnaround.

"We don't know where a team is going to be playing the next week, it could be four days later," said committee chairman Rich McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons. "We felt we should put an end to it. We don't think it will lead to more ties. Could it? It could, but we are not concerned with that."

As for changing the format of overtime to ensure both teams always get a possession -- a popular topic after how the Super Bowl ended -- Blandino said the league's wants to keep the element of sudden death in the extra period.

The "leaper rule" has taken some priority among competition committee members, the players' union and coaches. Vincent said coaches have begun scheming how to defense it, which can "create a real safety issue."

"It is really in the best interest of the game" to outlaw leaping on kicks," Vincent added.

McKay noted that the NCAA is in the process of passing a similar ban on the technique.

During the meetings that run from Sunday to Wednesday, the teams will be shown plays the competition committee believes should result in suspensions or ejections. Game officials already have had the leeway to eject players, but it rarely has happened; there were three in 2016.

"They don't happen very often, let's give the players credit," McKay said. "We have 40,000 plays in a year. We'll show a tape that will have four or five plays that would warrant suspension. This is not a widespread situation."

Added Vincent, a former NFL defensive back: "When you see the plays, they are catastrophic. We had two players who did not return for the season. They are high-impact plays that belong out of the game. It will be a real point of emphasis this season."