NFL Draft: Saturday's prospect watch

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NFL Draft: Saturday's prospect watch

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

Jeff Demps, RB, Florida, No. 28

Florida vs Georgia (CBS3:30 p.m.)

Long gone are the days the Birds rolled with stiffs like Charles Johnson, Torrance Small and Freddie Mitchell. They were plodding receivers compared to the track stars the Birds like to put on display every week now. It's obvious the Eagles love speed -- both on offense and defense -- and what better way to continue feeding that obsession than drafting a real-life sprinter. Demps is a tiny (5-7, 191) running back who has one defining attribute -- speed. The guy can fly, and while the Birds are seemingly set at RB right now with Lesean McCoy and Dion Lewis, Demps might be a dangerous asset to have on special teams. Outside of DeSean Jackson, the Eagles haven't had a real threat in the return game since Brian Mitchell left, and Demps' speed might play well on kick returns. Demps probably won't be an early round selection because he still must improve as a football player, but that speed is too tempting to pass on altogether. If the Eagles can grab him in the last two rounds, it'd be figuratively and literally a flyer.
Devon Still, DT, Penn State, No. 71

Illinois vs Penn State (ABC3:30 p.m.)

The Eagles gravitate towards smaller, penetrating DTs, and they could do a lot worse than Still. While not exactly small (6-5 14, 307), Still isn't much against the run. His lower body strength doesn't seem to be where it needs to be, and he just doesn't look like he wants to fight off other 300-pounders. What he can do though is shoot gaps and use his long arms to make tackles in the backfield. Some mock drafts have Still going in the first round. I just don't see it. But if he's still on the board when the Eagles make their second pick in the second round, Still would be a nice addition.
Markelle Martin, FS, Oklahoma State, No. 10
Baylor vs Oklahoma State (ESPN23:30 p.m.)

Martin is an energetic leader on the field who you can tell just loves playing. Like many players these days, Martin (6-1, 202) is more of a hitter than a tackler. But when he hits you remember it. He covers a lot of ground at the back end of the secondary. Would be a nice pick in the second round.

NFL Notes: Browns plan to 'move on' from WR Josh Gordon

NFL Notes: Browns plan to 'move on' from WR Josh Gordon

BEREA, Ohio -- Browns coach Hue Jackson says the team has "moved on" from suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon.

A day after Gordon said he's entering rehab, Jackson made it clear the Browns have ended their relationship with the 25-year-old, whose off-field troubles have prevented him from building on a breakout season in 2013.

Jackson reiterated that the team supports Gordon, who was on the brink of returning from a four-game NFL suspension for his latest drug violation. Jackson said his focus needs to on "taking care of the players that are here." After fielding a few questions, Jackson, in his first year as Cleveland's coach, said he's done talking about Gordon and said the team "needs to close that chapter right now."

Gordon was eligible to return next week and could have played in the Oc. 9 game against New England (see full story).

Jets: WR Eric Decker out "week to week" with partially torn rotator cuff
FLORHAM PARK, N.J.  -- New York Jets wide receiver Eric Decker has a partially torn rotator cuff that will sideline him for the team's game against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

Coach Todd Bowles announced Friday that Decker will be "week to week" with the shoulder injury.

Decker did not participate in practice all week.

Decker injured the shoulder against Buffalo on Sept. 15, but it worsened last Sunday during the Jets' loss at Kansas City. The wide receiver said after the game that the shoulder was sore, but an MRI revealed that it was worse than that (see full story).

Bills: Team has "major concerns" Sammy Watkins may be out long-term
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins will miss his second straight game due to a foot injury, and Bills coach Rex Ryan admitted he has "major concern" that Watkins could be out long-term.

Watkins underwent foot surgery in the offseason and has been hampered by foot soreness in recent weeks. He had a setback last week when a teammate stepped on his injured foot at a walk-through practice.

Ryan said there is no updated timetable regarding Watkins' return, but admitted his concern is growing.

"Well, there's some ... I don't know if fear's the right word, but major concern," Ryan said.

The fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft, Watkins has struggled with injuries throughout his time with the Bills. In his first two seasons, Watkins dealt with hip, calf, rib and groin injuries.

When he's been able to play, Watkins has been one of the top young receivers in the league. In 31 games, he has 131 receptions for 2,092 yards and 15 touchdowns. He has six receptions for 63 yards in two games this season.

The Bills have struggled to get their passing game going with Watkins at less than 100 percent. Through three games, Buffalo ranks last in the league in passing with an average of 163.7 yards per game.

Receiver Greg Salas (groin), tackle Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle) and center Patrick Lewis (knee) are also out for Sunday's game against New England. Left tackle Cordy Glenn (high ankle sprain) is expected to return after missing the previous two games. Tight end Charles Clay (knee), safety Aaron Williams (ankle) and cornerback Ronald Darby (hamstring) are listed as questionable but expected to play.

Buffalo (1-2) heads to New England (3-0) this Sunday.

Worst to first? Eagles' years of nightmares in secondary appear over

Worst to first? Eagles' years of nightmares in secondary appear over

A year ago, Rodney McLeod was a St. Louis Ram, Ron Brooks was a Buffalo Bill, Jalen Mills was an LSU Tiger, and Malcolm Jenkins and Nolan Carroll were part of a secondary that allowed the seventh-most touchdown passes in NFL history.

Now look at them.

This disparate group of holdovers, free agents and one late-round draft pick has come together to become the hottest secondary in the NFL.

The Eagles are 3-0, and rookie quarterback Carson Wentz has garnered most of the attention for the quick and unexpected start, but the defense has been astonishing, and the secondary has been a remarkable surprise.

Through three games, the Eagles have not allowed a touchdown pass, have allowed only 13 completions of 15 yards or more and have yet to allow more than 85 net passing yards in the second half of any game.

The Eagles, who allowed a staggering 36 touchdown passes last year — most in franchise history and seventh-most in NFL history — are the first team since the 2009 Broncos to not allow a passing touchdown the first three games of the season. (The Seahawks haven’t either.)

They’ve allowed just one pass play over 20 yards in the second half of their three games and only five pass plays longer than 13 yards after halftime.

They’re also one of only 10 teams since 1978 — nearly 40 years — to record three or more interceptions while allowing no touchdown passes through three games.

The three starting quarterbacks the Eagles have faced — Robert Griffin III, Jay Cutler and Ben Roethlisberger, all Pro Bowlers at some point in their lives — are a combined 16-for-41 for 193 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions in the second half. That’s a 33.9 passer rating.

Don't forget, from 2009 through last year, the Eagles became the only team in NFL history to allow 25 touchdown passes in seven straight years.

Now they’re at zero.

How can a secondary that just formed this spring be playing at such an astounding level?

Obviously, they benefit greatly from the best defensive line in football. When there’s that much pressure on the quarterback, it makes life simple for the back end.

But this goes way beyond that.

Credit goes to Howie Roseman for putting this group together, holdover secondary coach Cory Undlin for giving them their swagger, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz for finding the best ways to use them, and to the players themselves for making up for their lack of experience together with tireless work on the practice field and film room.

The Eagles may have just gone from the worst secondary in football to the best.

“It’s just guys out there trusting other guys and having confidence in each and every guy in the secondary and knowing that the guy next to you is just going to line up and do his job,” Mills said.

“We over-emphasize communication at practice because we know when we get into the Linc it’s going to be crazy loud, the fans are going to be on their feet yelling and screaming and giving us all their energy, so we know our communication has to be on point.  

“Our preparation also comes off the field. Extra film study as a group. Going out and eating together. Having more than just football time. Just learning guys and getting close to guys.”

The Eagles have allowed just 27 passing first downs, fewest (on a percentage basis) in the NFL. Opposing QBs have a 66.1 passer rating, third-lowest in the league (behind the Cards and Chiefs). And the Eagles have allowed the eighth-fewest passing yards, which is nuts considering the Eagles have had early double-digit leads in all three games, forcing teams to throw.

“I still think we have a lot of room to grow,” Carroll said. “We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves. It’s three games, but I feel like every single week we keep improving, keep fixing our mistakes.

“We really play with a different type of attitude. I think we need to continue to do that every single week and just focus on one game at a time and it’s going to help us down the road.”

We are seeing cornerbacks playing aggressive and tight to the ball, which has resulted in a few pass interference calls but also has dramatically limited big plays. We’re seeing exceptional tackling, which has tremendously reduced yards after the catch. And the safety play has been outrageous. McLeod has playing at a Pro Bowl level, and Jenkins has been off the charts.

Consider this: Roethlisberger has the eighth-highest yards-per-attempt of any quarterback in NFL history at 7.9.

On Sunday, he averaged 5.8 yards per attempt, and in the second half he averaged 4.2.

The Eagles are off this weekend before playing four of their next five games on the road.

They’ll face a huge challenge a week from Sunday from Lions quarterback Matt Stafford, one of two quarterbacks who threw five touchdowns against the Eagles last year.

Then it’s Washington and Kirk Cousins, undefeated Sam Bradford at the Linc, record-setting Dak Prescott in Dallas and two-time Super Bowl-winner Eli Manning at the Meadowlands.

So things sure don’t get easier. It will be fascinating to see how this group, which should get corner Leodis McKelvin back for Detroit, responds to the challenge.

“I don’t think we have a ceiling,” Mills said. “As long as we stay focused and keep grinding every day, I don’t think we have a ceiling.”

Can this defensive backfield go from worst to first in one year? Remains to be seen. There’s a lot of football left to be played.

But it sure seems like years of secondary nightmares — from Nnamdi to Cary Williams to Byron Maxwell — are over.

“I can’t speak for anyone else or on anything else that happened before,” Brooks said. “But we are just playing ball, having fun, and kicking ass while doing it.”

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