Despite being on the Eagles' 53-man roster all of last season, 2014 fifth round pick Taylor Hart did not suit up for a single game. He was essentially a glorified member of the practice squad.
In Hart's defense, he was stuck behind some pretty talented players. Fletcher Cox is young and he's already a beast. Cedric Thornton is great at stuffing the run. Vinny Curry recorded nine sacks while coming off the bench. 30-year-old Brandon Bair wasn't anything special but earned a spot by having a strong summer. He also proved his worth by blocking a pair of kicks in the regular season.
But now it's time for Hart to step up. It would be ideal for the Eagles to see the 24-year-old step up and not only take Bair's place but also prove to be a piece worth keeping for the future.
He might be off to a good start. While the former Oregon Ducks player did not play last season, he still did make use of the time by working on his body. According to Jeff McLane, Hart said he now weighs about 305 pounds. That's roughly 25 more than he weighed at this time last year. Hart should now be better physically prepared to play as a two-gap 3-4 defensive end.
Weight gain hardly ensures Hart's success. Last year it was 2013 seventh round pick Joe Kruger who found himself in a similar situation. After spending his rookie season on injured reserve, Kruger gained over 20 pounds but did little to stand out in the summer. The Eagles then waived him in the first round of roster cuts.
Unlike Kruger, the Eagles seem to be much higher on Hart. Chip Kelly reportedly wanted to draft him in the third round before then-GM Howie Roseman assured the coach his former player would be available later on in the 2014 NFL Draft.
The Eagles have shown faith in Hart. This summer will be an important one for him to step up and return the favor.