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 are players to watch on Saturday:
Brandon Boykin, CBKR Georgia, No. 2

Auburn vs. Georgia (CBS, 3:30 p.m.)

With Asante Samuel grumbling and Dominique Rodgers-Cromarties subpar showing, the Eagles might be in the market for a CB come April. Boykin is a pure athlete that has the speed to play on the outside and quickness to play in the slot. His size isn't ideal (5-9, 181) and he gets nicked up often, but he has no fear and plays physical football. Boykin would also bring some much needed pep to a very moribund return game. He is extremely dangerous returning kicks, and would probably contribute more readily there early on in his career.

Marvin McNutt, WR Iowa, No. 7

Michigan State vs. Iowa (ESPN2, 12 p.m.)

Who knows what the Eagles are going to do with DeSean Jackson and his expiring contract, but if they do indeed let D-Jax hit the open market, receiving depth will need to be found. McNutt is a big receiver (6-3, 215), who can jump out of the building. Pair that leaping ability with soft hands and you've got the makings of a dangerous red zone target. McNutt has 57 catches for 959 yards and nine scores this season, and is coming into Saturday with three consecutive 100-yard receiving games. McNutt's lack of breakaway speed hurts his stock, but he should be off the boards by the middle of the third round.

T.J. McDonald, S USC, No. 7

Washington vs. USC (FX, 3:30 p.m.)

Nate Allen in 2009. Jaiqwuan Jarrett in 2010. The Eagles have been trying to find solid safety play in the early rounds since Brian Dawkins left two seasons ago. Well, the jury is still out as Allen can't stay healthy and Jarrett just got on the field for the first time last week. McDonald is more talented than both. He's an outstanding athlete and looks just as comfortable playing the deep ball as he does inside the box. McDonald has great size (6-3, 205) and bloodlines (his dad was former Pro Bowl safety Tim McDonald), and if the junior decides to come out, he'll be a surefire first-round pick. If the Eagles continue to play the way they have been, they may have a shot at him in the middle of the round.

Tech's Wilson is the real deal
Watched Virginia Tech RB David Wilson Thursday night and came away impressed again as he piled up 175 yards on 23 carries against Georgia Tech. Wilson cuts back as well as any back I've seen this year and just explodes up the field. I don't think his moves in the open field are quite like Shady McCoy's, but Wilson's the closest I've seen in college ball this season. The one thing he doesn't do though and maybe it's just the Tech offense is catch the ball. Wilson has only 16 catches this season.

Kirk Cousins still cautious of Eagles' defense despite recent struggles

Kirk Cousins still cautious of Eagles' defense despite recent struggles

As Kirk Cousins and the rest of his Washington teammates sit down to watch film to prepare for their second matchup against the Eagles this season, it’ll probably be a very different experience than the last time. 
 
Heading into that Week 6 matchup, the Eagles were widely considered to have one of the best defenses in the NFL. Jim Schwartz’s unit had given up just 12.8 points per game through its first four weeks. 
 
In the eight games since, that number jumped to 24.4 points allowed per game. 
 
So what happened? 
 
“I don’t know,” Cousins said on a conference call with Philadelphia reporters Wednesday. 
 
“I still see a talented defense and the same players who I know are capable of making some impressive plays over and over. All of us in the NFL have moments where we’re up and down and may stub our toe from one week to the next, but it doesn’t really mean that they’re not a stout defense that’s going to be a challenge. I feel like we’ve got our hands full with these guys this week.”
 
Washington didn’t have its hands full in the last matchup. In fact, the Eagles gave up 493 total yards and 230 rushing yards – both season highs – to Washington in the first meeting on Oct. 16. 
 
On Tuesday, when discussing the recent play of the defense, Schwartz said he thought his unit was one of the best in the league through nine games, but is in a three-game slump (see story).
 
What does Washington coach Jay Gruden think happened? 
 
“We’ve kind of gone through a little bit of the same thing,” said Gruden, whose team has lost two in a row. “They’ve been close. They just haven’t made some of the plays they made earlier in the year and offenses are making the plays. And we’re the same way on defense. We haven’t changed a whole lot personnel-wise; we’re still doing some good things, but it’s just third-down plays and chances to get off the field and turnovers, we’re just not doing a good job with that. 
 
“I think the Eagles are probably in the same boat. They still have good players and a good scheme, it just comes down to making plays. And for whatever reason, the offense is making more plays than the defense and that’s our case also.”

Doug Pederson indicates Lane Johnson will start at RT when he returns

Doug Pederson indicates Lane Johnson will start at RT when he returns

Talk about too, little too late.
 
Lane Johnson is due back in two weeks, and Eagles head coach Doug Pederson on Wednesday for the first time seemed to indicate that he’s leaning toward getting Johnson back at right tackle as soon as he returns.
 
Johnson, the Eagles’ best offensive lineman the first month of the season, was suspended by the NFL for 10 games for a second positive test for a banned substance. By the time his appeal was heard and rejected, it was after the Eagles’ loss to the Lions.
 
Johnson hasn’t played since.

The Eagles face the Redskins at the Linc and Ravens in Baltimore the next two Sundays. Johnson is eligible to return to the NovaCare Complex the day after the Ravens' game, which would be Monday, Dec. 19.
 
The Eagles then face the Giants three days later on a Thursday night at the Linc and finish the season on Jan. 1 at home against the Cowboys in a game that will likely have no meaning for either team.
 
Previously, when asked about Johnson, Pederson was non-commital about playing him. But on Wednesday, he seemed to indicate he would move him back to right tackle for the Giants' game.
 
“Listen, he was a big part of our success early in the season,” Pederson said. “So I wouldn’t hesitate to put him back out there.”
 
The Eagles, 5-7 after a 3-0 start, are on the brink of playoff elimination and could well be eliminated by the time Johnson returns.
 
Rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai started the first six games after Johnson’s suspension before getting hurt. Left guard Allen Barbre started the last two, with Stefen Wisniewski moving into left guard.
 
Even though Pederson indicated Johnson would return to right tackle as soon as he gets back, he did qualify the statement.
 
“He comes back on a short week, too, against the Giants, in a couple weeks,” he said. “Got to see where Big V is at coming off an injury and see where that’s at. 
 
“We’re beginning the conversations right now. When he does return, we’ll have to see. We still have some games. Have to get through these two games.”         
 
Johnson, the fourth pick in the 2013 draft, started 44 of a possible 48 games his first three seasons, missing only four in 2014 during his first NFL suspension.
 
After the Lions game, he said he hoped the Eagles had meaningful games remaining when he got back.
 
The Eagles are 3-1 this year with Johnson and 2-6 without him. In his four NFL seasons, the Eagles are 27-22 when he plays.
 
“Stay in shape and hopefully the team is good enough to stay in playoff contention,” he said in the visiting locker room at Ford Field back on Oct. 9. 
 
“Come back and I’ll be fresh and we can make a run for it. That’s the best-case scenario. We’ll see what happens.”