Well folks, with the preseason wrapping up on Thursday, it's safe to say we've gotten a decent look at some of the new toys the Eagles picked up this offseason. While preseason and training camp can be a good tool to assess how players will look once the live rounds start flying (see: BGN's collective exhaled breath once the good reports started coming in on Jason Peters), one should not bet the farm that a player who blows it up from June-August will be a Pro Bowler come January. We here at BGN like to have fun with that caveat, honoring the inevitable guy every year who comes out of the woodwork and dominates training camp/preseason with the Na Brown Award.
While it's been fun watching the Na get handed out every year (and then the recipient inevitably disappointing the heightened expectations), it's become apparent that the award is going the way of the Heisman; the majority of Brown trophies have gone to WRs, which probably isn't that surprising, considering those guys tend to look like heroes wearing shells and shorts and not fearing contact. This is all well and good, but I'm the kind of guy who feels a drive-ending sack or forced fumble is more satisfying than a 30 yard back-shoulder pass for a TD-I want to show the defense some love! Thus, in my mind at least, the Phillip Hunt award was born (certain site mods may beg to differ-no names, OKaye?). [Mike Note: It does not exist, but I am a lover of defense so...]
Phillip Hunt, to date, has been the poster child for the fool's gold that training camp/preseason success can turn into. Hunt came into the league as an UDFA out of Houston (hey, Kolb!) and bounced around from the Browns training camp to the CFL, before being signed by the Eagles before the 2012 season. Hunt turned a lot of heads during the 2012 preseason, camping out in the opposition's backfield racking up TFLs, forced fumbles, and sacks, sacks, sacks. This naturally had Eagles fans licking their chops at the thought of our very own Cameron Wake who would be *behind* Jason Babin and Trent Cole in a defensive line that would surely blow the all-time season sack record out of the water. Since you all are Eagles fans I don't need to tell you what happened next, but suffice to say the only things that were broken the 2012 season were the hearts of fans everywhere. Amidst all the turmoil that surrounded the 2012 season, Hunt faded into obscurity, playing little and having minimal impact when he was on the field. Any hope of a bounce-back sophomore campaign was dashed by Hunt being the ~4000th player to tear his ACL during this year's training camp/preseason.
This disappointment led me to "honor" Hunt by lending his name to the award given to the "offseason champ" of Eagles TC/preseason on the defensive side of the ball. Same rules apply to the Hunt as the Na Brown-the player must be unheralded (no first-round picks/high-profile free agents); rookie is optional, but exceptions are rare. Without further ado, I present to you this year's Phillip Hunt Award candidates!
1. Bennie Logan
Logan is probably the most fringe pick as a Hunt candidate-not only is he relatively pedigreed (3rd round pick, big program, prestigious jersey), but he looks primed to produce on the big stage. Bennie has had glowing reviews in camp for his exceptional utility (he's seen looks as a NT, 3-4 end, and 4-3 DT), his motor, and his propensity to swat passes. Has he raised expectations enough for a third round pick to get the nod?
Damion is an interesting cat-from the goliath of college football programs (Bama), seen as a pretty good player, yet went undrafted. The Eagles were quick to acquire his services following the draft, and so far this has looked like a good move, as he has received some love in TC. While he's been a bit quiet in the preseason, he still stands as a candidate to bring home the hardware.
3. Vinny Curry
(Eds. note: I was going to put a picture of VC in game action, but I really couldn't resist when I saw this picture.)
If I was to hear Vinny Curry would be a candidate for the Phillip Hunt in late July, I would have laughed. Although linemen in general aren't heard about in TC, due to the contact-light nature (especially in camp Chip), we had heard pretty much nothing about Curry. Apparently he was biding his time until the preseason, during which he's been an absolute terror through three games. Curry looks like he will have a big role in this rotation-heavy line next year-but we've been fooled before, right Phillip? Does Vinny "Vindaloo" Curry get your vote for the Hunt?
Acho came to the Eagles this offseason as spoils of the Eagles-Browns trade that sent Dion "five-alarm" Lewis on his way to the factory of sadness, AKA Cleveland (where he promptly broke his leg). In his time here, he's already had more of an impact on the new staff than Jamar Chaney, drawing long looks during the preseason games with hustle and a surprising ability to blitz. Him, Jake Knott, and a seemingly-rejuvinated Casey Matthews give the Eagles hope that ILB will be a position of depth, or at the very least, competence beyond the starters.
5. Jake Knott
Him and Acho even have matching pictures of sacking Tebow!
The other half of the "dynamic duo" of ILBs the Eagles brought in this offseason, Jake Knott is a corn-fed machine from Iowa State who has left quite the impression on his alma mater. Like Acho, Knott has been all you hope to see out of UDFA during the preseason games-if you squint really hard (while drunk) when he's flying from sideline to sideline making sure tackles, you can almost picture a white Demeco Ryans. Has the high-motor Knott had an impressive enough debut to earn the honors?
6. Chris McCoy
All offseason long, probably the biggest question on defense has been "do the Eagles have the personnel to run any form of the 3-4?" While we all know (or hope) we have some guys who can rush the passer, the depth at OLBs who can cover has gone something like: 1. Connor Barwin 2. ... 3... Enter Chris McCoy. McCoy and Hunt's stories parallel each other to a large degree-entered the league (he was actually drafted), bounced around, went to the CFL, tore it up, signed by the Eagles. McCoy has shown some pass-rushing chops, but thus far it's his ability to cover that has fans excited. Will McCoy carry the ability he's shown into live action or will he disappoint like his predecessor?
7. Earl Wolff
Possibly as a concession to Eagles fans on suicide watch after seeing the team go 4 rounds without drafting a DB, Wolff was selected by the Eagles with their 5th round pick out of NC state. While his upbringing as a quasi-Philly guy warms the heart, it is more his physical abilities that has fans excited. In camp Wolff has shown up a bit, picking off some passes in TC and earning a share of first-team snaps at FS. Will the lone DB candidate be the first to Hunt the prize?
8. Cedric Thornton
8th in the poll but first in your hearts, Ced Thornton is a strong Hunt candidate that somehow I forgot to include (H/T to W_P? for fixing my stupid). Thornton has the roots that Phillip Hunt winners throughout history (hey, history has to start somewhere!) have possessed: UDFA lack of pedigree, small school, and most importantly, the ability to look like a man among boys (at times) during TC/preseason. Thornton never did the customary tour through the CFL before touching down in Philly, but he did spend time on the practice squad before he got called up for active duty last season. He didn't show much in his live snaps at DT last year, but seems to have come on as a 3-4 end enough to all but lock down the starting role opposite our beloved big Cox. That's quite a leap...does Thornton look like he can make the next one? Vote for him for the Hunt if you feel so!
(Eds. note: Brandon Boykin has had a fantastic camp, but he played a ton of snaps fairly well as nickel last year-he's ineligible.)
Well there it is folks, the case has been made for the candidates, it's now up to you to determine who takes home the coveted Phillip Hunt award in its inaugural year! All we know for sure is it won't be going to the eponymous guy! Results to be announced Monday, September 2nd...