The start of Eagles training camp is now five days away, and everyone's getting whipped into a frenzy of excitement and anticipation. Philadelphia is an epicenter of intrigue around the league and for fans in general thanks to Chip Kelly. What's he going to do, how's he going to do it, OH MY GOD WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN? You know, stuff like that. I've already made my feelings known on a few topics, namely that Nick Foles will win the QB competition (an opinion I've maintained for six months) and we'll see a transition to TE/WR hybrids as the offense evolves.
For this article, I thought I'd profile a player on defense who's somewhat flying under the radar, at least hype-wise. Cedric Thornton was a popular pick to break out last season, and I championed his cause in my articles. Our new Editor in Chief and Dear Leader Jimmy Kempski felt the same way, he even told me so as we talked prior to kickoff of last season's Eagles/Brown opener. It didn't happen for Thornton exactly like we predicted, but, hey, I'm sticking to my guns and re-upping on the Kool Aid for 2013.
I didn't know anything about Thornton until the 2011 Senior Bowl, but his small school profile and combination of enticing tools caught my eye while watching practices:
Raw. Very raw. But, man, does this kid have the tools, to go along with size and length. His brute strength, athleticism, quickness, ability to bull rush/get leverage, and nonstop effort were on full display during the week of practice, and he caught the eyes of numerous scouts and player personnel executives. Thornton will be a developmental prospect, but it sounds like the potential to be an effective player at the next level is definitely there. He could play defensive tackle in a 4-3 or end in a 3-4, and that kind of versatility is undoubtedly an attractive quality. All reports indicate that he has the right attitude and is very coachable, which should further endear him to NFL teams. If I'm running a team's draft, Cedric Thornton is a guy I keep a close eye on in the following months. Depending how the workouts and interviews go, I might even pull the trigger on him as early as the fifth round.
Thornton didn't go undrafted based on talent. There were some character concerns, which largely remain unknown. Anyway, the Eagles liked what they saw in him from a talent perspective and have been waiting, patiently, for their investment to pay off. At 6'4", 309 pounds and now 25 years old, hopefully year three is the one where Thornton blossoms, as it seems like Billy Davis's new scheme should be perfect for his skill set and versatility. Thornton saw a lot of time with the first team defense during minicamps, but he will have to continue earning his keep in training camp, preseason and the regular season. If he shows the kind of ability he's flashed in the past, he'll be a regular cog all over the defensive line and play more than the 37.7% of snaps he did in 2012. One thing is for sure, #72 made himself noticeable on a number of occasions last season, and he'll have every chance to establish himself as a big-time contributor for this remade Eagles defense in 2013. Count me in as a believer.
Personal note: For the past nine months I've tried to further my career aspirations and get my foot in the door with the Eagles organization in some capacity. I toed the line between persistence and annoyance and, with the help of a very gracious and generous connection, was lucky enough to be granted an interview. On Monday I was offered, and accepted, a training camp internship with the team as part of the website/publications/digital media department. I'll be serving pretty much as a beat reporter and working with Chris McPherson and Bo Wulf. It's a unique, exciting opportunity, one which I've doggedly worked to obtain, and I can't wait to get started. As such, I'll be taking a mini sabbatical from Bleeding Green Nation through August, but I'll be back for the regular season. I'm happy to announce that our very own Brandon Lee Gowton (LOOK, MOM, LAST NAME!) will be taking my spot as BGN's training camp representative. He's earned this, and I know he'll do an awesome job. Also, Brandon is a freakish 6'9" and will be an emergency fill-in at WR. The White Momah, I call him. See you in September, friends.