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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."

LeSean McCoy as good as ever, building Hall of Fame case

LeSean McCoy as good as ever, building Hall of Fame case

After running four times for 21 yards and catching an 11-yard pass against his former team, LeSean McCoy contemplated his cameo performance in the Eagles-Bills preseason game.

"Felt good," he said. "If it was a real game? I probably would have gone for about 130."

He hasn't changed.

McCoy, the leading rusher in Eagles history, has been gone for three years now, and in the relative anonymity of Orchard Park, N.Y., is quietly putting up some staggering numbers, building on his six years with the Eagles.

Hard to believe McCoy is now starting his ninth NFL season, but he just turned 29 and at least based on last year is as good as ever.

If not better.

"When I was younger I could eat bad and hang out and then still be LeSean McCoy," he said Thursday night in the Bills' locker room. "Where now I'm older so I've got to watch what I eat, get some sleep. Small things that you didn't think would matter that really do matter."

It seems to be paying off. McCoy last year ran for nearly 1,300 yards with an NFL-leading 5.4 average, 14 touchdowns and 50 catches. He became the fourth-oldest back in NFL history to average at least 5.4 yards per carry and the first from that group in 70 years to also score 14 TDs.

McCoy's 5.4 average last year was fifth-highest in NFL history by a back 28 or older.

He said he feels like he's as good as ever.

"Yeah, for sure," he said. "I'm sure a lot of defenders from different teams and coordinators will tell you that. This year, I have to prove myself again. It's one of the things that I've been doing since I've been in the league when I was a rookie. And I look forward to the challenge.

"But the cool thing about it is is that it won't be as hard because of the guys I have around me. My linemen are really good. They give me opportunities in space to go 1-on-1 with defenders."

McCoy, whose 4.7 career average is tied for 10th in NFL history among non-quarterbacks, said one of the keys to his late-career success — which is rare for running backs — is the lessons he learned from former teammates like Brian Westbrook and Darren Sproles.

"Just talking to different guys," he said. "A guy like Westbrook telling me different things. You actually see it. Sproles is always talking about it, 'Take care of your body,' telling me that the whole year, even the offseason, you want to stay at the same weight. So right now I'm probably 209, 210, and I started out at 209, 210, so that's great."

McCoy has the 10th-most yards ever by a running back before his 29th birthday, and seven of the eight ahead of him who are eligible for the Hall of Fame are already in.

With three more years at his career averages — 1,119 rushing yards, 48 receptions — he'll be over 12,000 rushing yards and 500 catches, and all four backs who've done that (LaDainian Tomlinson, Marcus Allen, Emmitt Smith and Marshall Faulk) have been enshrined in Canton. And Shady has a far higher per-carry average than any of those four.

Because of his consistency and explosiveness, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has become a realistic goal for the Eagles' second-round pick out of Pitt.

He said he doesn't think about that stuff.

Well, sometimes.

"I think the biggest number that you want to get is a ring," he said. "This team, we haven't been in the playoffs in quite some time (since 1999). Hopefully, we get that established, accomplish that, and then if I get lucky and get a ring, man, then I start thinking about the numbers.

"But it's always in the back of my mind. I use that to kind of motivate me, whether it's a ring or chasing different yardage, it keeps me motivated."

McCoy is surrounded by familiar faces in Buffalo. New Bills head coach Sean McDermott was here with him in Philly, as was offensive line coach Juan Castillo and offensive assistant Chad Hall. Jordan Poyer and Jordan Matthews were with him in Philly. Even new Bills PR director Derek Boyko was with him all six years with the Eagles.

"All my old guys," he said. "I was excited when Sean got the job, I'm familiar with him, I know what type of attitude he'll bring here — which we need. All the coaches and guys here, we have our Philly stories. It's a special place, and a lot of people who come from here always show love and speak highly of playing with the Eagles and that's something I've shared here.

"No complaints. Some of the best times of my life were here. That's something me and Sean kind of share and have in common and that makes me more comfortable, having all those guys being in Buffalo."

McCoy would still be an Eagle if it weren't for Chip Kelly, and although he's finally moved on, he still has a home here and lots and lots of friends.

"It's always special getting back to Philly," he said. "This is my home and the fans and this organization were great to me since I got here at 20 years old, so it's always going to be special to me.

"I miss my house here, a lot of my family is from Harrisburg, which is an hour away, got a lot of Philly family, so it's always going to be like a second family for me, for sure.

"Started my career here, stay in contact with Duce (Staley), Sproles, we chat and text, (Brent) Celek all the time, a lot of friends here, a lot of good people that I know. This is a special place to me. Always."

Ronald Darby's strong debut should ease some concerns about Eagles' secondary

Ronald Darby's strong debut should ease some concerns about Eagles' secondary

Despite coming up with an interception, Ronald Darby wasn't quite satisfied with his Eagles debut.

"My next one, I'm going to end up in the end zone," Darby said following the Eagles' win over the Bills on Thursday night.

Don't be surprised if he follows through. Darby actually had two opportunities to score a touchdown during the Eagles' second preseason contest. There was the interception the third-year cornerback returned 48 yards before he was finally cut down at Buffalo's 18-yard line.

"It was a double move," Darby said. "I played it well, stayed patient, stayed over top and I made a play on the ball."

Darby had another opportunity at a pick-six earlier, but couldn't hang onto the pass after getting a nice break on the receiver's route.

"They tried to run a speed-out," Darby said. "I was trying to undercut it, react to him first and make sure that's actually what he was running. I got my head back around, got my hand on it, and dropped it."

That was all in the first quarter, by the way. Not a bad start for Darby, who the Eagles acquired less than a week ago in a trade for wide receiver Jordan Matthews and a third-round draft pick.

"It's very impressive," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. "Very exciting. Encouraging, obviously. He's definitely going to help us there in the back end.

"It's great to see our defense come up with takeaways and put the offense in good situations."

After all the questions about the Eagles' cornerbacks entering training camp, Darby's performance should put a lot of minds at ease.

"I just have to keep on making good impressions," Darby said. "I want to carry it over to the season, keep learning, and make my mistakes early so when it's time to really go, I'm on top of my game."

The transition has not been as easy for Darby as he made it look.

The trade went down exactly one week ago last Friday. Not only did Darby have to come into a locker room and new scheme, but six days later, he was also lining up against his old teammates.

"It was one of the hardest things I've had to do," Darby said. "I was with them since OTAs. Since I was drafted, that was my team.

"It was difficult, but on to new things."

There's also something to be said for going out and showing the team that just traded you away exactly what they are going to be missing.

"It's a great feeling to do good against the team you were just with," Darby said.

Darby seems to be embracing the change in scenery, right down to the vibe at Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday. Attendance was relatively strong for an exhibition game, and the loudest cheer of the night was for Darby's 48-yard interception return.

Afterward, Darby called the fans "great," adding that the play, in particular, gave him an adrenaline rush.

"It was a great feeling," Darby said. "Felt like prime time. You get a lot of energy. They build you up."

So what's next for Darby, besides finishing a play for a pick-six? Coming off a whirlwind seven days, a break would probably be nice.

"This whole week has been fast, fast, fast," Darby said. "I need a lot of rest."

The way Darby was zigging and zagging across the field during that interception return, who can blame him?