Philadelphia Eagles

Three years later, Eagles nailed Malcolm Jenkins vs. Jairus Byrd

Three years later, Eagles nailed Malcolm Jenkins vs. Jairus Byrd

INDIANAPOLIS -- As the NFL combine gets set to kick into high gear this week, the league offered a cautionary tale about free agency. 

On Tuesday night, news broke that the Saints are going to cut safety Jairus Byrd, according to a report by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, three years after they signed him to a monster six-year deal. By cutting Byrd, the Saints will save cap space, but they'll also take on plenty of dead money just to move on. 

Just three years ago, Byrd was the hottest safety on the market. He was the guy a lot of Eagles fans targeted. They wanted Byrd, not Malcolm Jenkins. 

Well, this one worked out well for the Eagles. While Byrd's first season with New Orleans ended after four games with a knee injury, Jenkins has become one of the Eagles' best players. 

Byrd has missed more games the last three years (15) than Jenkins has missed defensive snaps for the Eagles (eight). To Byrd's credit, he did play all 16 games in 2016. 

But even when they're both on the field, Jenkins has been the much better player, being named to the Pro Bowl in 2015. He has eight interceptions over the last three years to Byrd's three and Jenkins has returned half of those interceptions for touchdowns. Byrd hasn't had a pick-six since 2011. 

The Eagles rewarded Jenkins with a five-year extension before the start of the 2016 season. 

This story should be on the minds of Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas this week in Indianapolis as free agency approaches. It's not always about the biggest splash; it's about finding the right fit for a team. 

Even if the Eagles really wanted to make a splash this year, they might not have a lot of room to work with. They're strapped in terms of salary cap space, but they do have some options. This week will serve as an opportunity to meet with the representatives for several of their players already under contract like Connor Barwin, Jason Kelce, Ryan Mathews and Mychal Kendricks. Trades or cuts would free up plenty more space. 

There won't be a break after the combine this year thanks to a congested schedule. Almost immediately after the Eagles return to Philly, the legal tampering window will begin on March 7 and free agency opens on March 9.  

With this cautionary tale in mind, the Eagles have to avoid signing a Jairus Byrd and instead sign a Malcolm Jenkins. Easier said than done. 

Source: Paul Turner out for another three weeks with fractured scapula

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Source: Paul Turner out for another three weeks with fractured scapula

Eagles receiver Paul Turner, who has been missing from Eagles practice since Aug. 2 with a shoulder injury, will be out for another three weeks. 

Turner's injury is more serious than previously thought. He actually has a fractured scapula, a league source told CSNPhilly.com. 

Turner, 24, initially made the Eagles' roster out of training camp last year but was cut when the team claimed Bryce Treggs off waivers. He then spent the first 10 games on the practice squad before being signed to the 53-man roster. He ended up catching nine passes for 126 yards in four games as a rookie. 

During last year's training camp, Turner instantly became a fan favorite as a rookie out of Louisiana Tech. He shined in practices and then was the NFL's leading receiver last preseason with 17 catches that went for 165 yards. And he also had a tremendous one-handed grab. 

With another three weeks added to his recovery time, making this year's roster will be incredibly hard for Turner, who is buried on the depth chart. Three weeks will bring us right to the start of the regular season. 

Other players have been making a push for the final roster spot at receiver. Marcus Johnson, in particular, has shined this summer. 

The rise of Steven Means and his sack celebration of many names

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The rise of Steven Means and his sack celebration of many names

Some of Steven Means' teammates call his sack celebration The Hammer. Some say it's The Nail In the Coffin. Assistant defensive line coach Phillip Daniels calls it The Undertaker.

Means says he likes them all. 

"The Atomic Bomb," interjected fellow defensive lineman Destiny Vaeao, who was listening in from the next locker. "Because when it hits …" 

That might be the new leader in the clubhouse. 

Whatever it's called though, Means has been doing the emphatic celebration much more often in recent weeks. That's a good sign for the 27-year-old and his chances to make the Eagles' 53-man roster. 

In the Eagles' preseason opener, Means had a half sack. Last Thursday against his hometown Buffalo Bills, Means picked up two more.

And after each sack in games and in practice (yes, he does it in non-contact practices too), Means celebrates with what has become his hallmark. He first points both fingers toward the sky, "giving God the glory," before it looks like a surge of pure energy flows through his body, starting with his toes until he releases it with a leg kick and one swift downward chopping motion with his hands. 

Means started doing the celebration during OTAs last season. It wasn't something he planned — "It just happened," he said. But he liked it and has continued it since, including last season in the fourth quarter against the Vikings, when he picked up his first-career regular season sack. 

"I don't know," Means said smiling. "I'm just out there having fun, just trying to make plays. And keep doing [the celebration]. If I'm doing it, I know I'm doing the right thing." 

This training camp, Means is a part of an extremely deep group of defensive ends. Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry are the starters. Chris Long and Derek Barnett and next up. And then there's Means and last year's seventh-round pick Alex McCalister. There seems to be a chance that just one between Means and McCalister will make this year's team. 

Even though they're competing for a roster spot, Means doesn't really think about his fellow defensive ends as competition. His brain just doesn't work like that anymore. His only competition is the offensive linemen he faces during games. 

So when McCalister picked up a sack of his own Thursday night, Means looked even more pumped about it than he did. 

"Seeing us come from where we come from and being successful at this level, I'm ecstatic for anybody when they're out there making plays," Means said. "And if I'm out there with them, I'm probably going to be more excited than them every single time."

When the time comes for the coaching staff to decide on the 53-man roster, Means will have at least one advantage. During this training camp, he's worked at defensive end and has also taken some reps at defensive tackle. DT is a new position for Means but he's excited about adding some versatility to his résumé.  

"One of the big things we've done with Steven, obviously, he's gotten a few more opportunities," defensive line coach Chris Wilson said. "And he's taking full advantage of it. That's one thing he does consistently. He's physical, he's smart, he plays with a great motor. He's always in position to make plays and when he's had opportunities in the game."

Since entering the league as a fifth round draft pick of the Buccaneers in 2013, Means has become somewhat of a journeyman in the NFL. He was with the Bucs, Ravens and Texans before joining the Eagles in December 2015. 

When he signed with the Eagles, he joined a coaching staff with Chip Kelly and Billy Davis that was on its last legs. Kelly was fired three weeks after Means got to Philadelphia and Davis was let go after the season. 

Then something great happened for Means. New head coach Doug Pederson brought on Jim Schwartz as his defensive coordinator and Means got a chance to play in an incredibly aggressive defense that allows defensive linemen to attack quarterbacks. 

"I'm just going to be 100 percent honest with you," Means said, "I wouldn't rather be anywhere else. Wherever Schwartz is, that's where I want to be."

Now entering his fifth NFL season, Means laughs thinking about how far he's come and about "how bad [he] probably was" as a rookie. Means finally looks like he's found a good spot in Philly. 

He's taken over the fourth quarters of both preseason games. In these two games, he has 2 1/2 sacks, 4 quarterback hits, 2 passes defensed, 2 tackles for loss and 4 combined tackles. 

Means has been filling up the stat sheet and turning heads along the way. 

"Letting God just play through me instead of trying to make something happen myself," said Means, who is vocal about his faith. "I'm a lot more comfortable and confident."

It shows every time he gets a sack and The Atomic Bomb hits.