An NFL player's second year is often referred to as his "leap year." He had his rookie year, he had a full offseason in an NFL training program, he knows the playbook and now its time to take a leap up. Players often advance more form year one to two more than any other year in their career.
For the draft class of 2011, the leap could be even more dramatic. Thanks to the lockout, these guys had virtually no offseason. That means no learning the playbook, no NFL training program and not even really any chance to get to know their teammates or coaches. So it's very possible that we could see a lot of these guys, here and around the NFL, take a big jump in year 2. Below we'll assess the prospects of each of the Eagles 2011 picks.
Danny Watkins - OL - Watkins didn't even get into camp on time when it finally did start, so he was behind the 8 ball more than anyone last year and it showed. It took until week 5 for him to earn a starting job and really he was a mix of good and bad for the rest of the season. So he's a serious candidate to take a big jump. He's really got all the tools a guy needs to be a really good guard, so an offseason getting stronger and working with Howard Mudd on technique should be very valuable for him.
Jaiquawn Jarrett - S - He simply did not play very much in his rookie year and at this point is a near total question mark. Kurt Coleman has the starting SS job heading into to camp, so it's really up to Jarrett to take it from him. There's been a lot of speculation about how the Eagles feel about him, but be clear... that's all it is. We do not know what to expect from Jarrett just yet. We're going to have to wait and see him play. Here's hoping Todd Bowles knows what he's doing and Jarrett is paying attention.
Curtis Marsh - CB - Marsh only played in 7 games last year and there's not really a lot to be said about him either way. He's seen more or less the same way he was when drafted. He has the ideal tools to be a good corner... great size, long arms & good speed. However, he still has to really learn how to play corner. He only switched there in his Junior year after starting at RB for Utah State in his first two years. It should be very interesting to see how much technique he's developed this offseason to go with his really good physical tools.
Casey Matthews - LB - A lot of people have written Casey Matthews off after his rough start to last season, but my caution has to been to wait and see what shape he shows up to camp in. Matthews still has plenty to learn about being a LB, but for me his biggest problem was that he simply needed to put on muscle. If guys do anything from year one to year, they put on muscle and get stronger after a full year in an NFL training program. Reports are that Matthews is up to 250, which is encouraging. If he's gotten stronger over the offseason without sacrificing his speed, he could actually win the starting WILL spot. He was playing pretty well late last year as a nickel coverage LB. So he has some ability, he just needs the body to go along with it. We'll see if he gets that.
Alex Henery - K - Henery now owns the NFL rookie record for accuracy after what was a pretty solid debut season. There's really every reason to believe he should continue to develop well and the main thing I'll be looking for is to see how much trust Andy Reid has in him. One of the reasons Henery was so accurate last season was that Reid simply didn't put him in a lot of tough spots, certainly not like he used to put Akers in.
We'll look over the rest of the 2011 class later, but of these guys who is your pick to make the big leap in year two?