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Eagles 2014 NFL Draft Class Needs To Step Up In Year 2

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Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles did not receive a whole lot of positive impact from their 2014 NFL Draft class last season. Only one of the team's seven picks was a full time starter. One player didn't even make the team, and another spent the entire season on the roster without being activated for a single game. The team's first round pick played a mere 105 snaps.

Moving forward, it goes without saying that the Eagles are going to need bigger contributions from these players. Many players make a significant jump after their first year. Now is as good a time as ever for Philadelphia's sophomores to rise to the challenge.

OLB Marcus Smith

Expectations for Smith's rookie season were higher than they should have been. In 2013, the Eagles really only used three outside linebackers: Trent Cole and Connor Barwin were the starters while Brandon Graham rotated in off the bench. Casey Matthews, who is really an inside linebacker, was the fourth outside linebacker back then and he barely played. In 2014, the Eagles returned the same trio of Cole, Barwin, and Graham. In hindsight, it wasn't surprising that Smith didn't get a lot of playing time. Still, for a first round pick to only play 105 snaps and not even really contribute on special teams ... that's not ideal.

In 2015, Graham is replacing Cole as a starter. Graham's old role as a rotational player is now up for grabs. Smith needs to prove he can earn that spot by besting former undrafted free agent Travis Long, whom the team is high on. Smith isn't off to a great start because he suffered a groin injury early in OTA practices, but the good news for him is he's still getting on the field. He even got some first team reps during an 11-on-11 drill this spring. Smith won't be an impact starter any time soon but the team could be counting on him to play if anything happens to Barwin and/or Graham.

WR Jordan Matthews

Matthews was easily Philadelphia's most impressive rookie last season. He racked up 67 receptions for 876 yards and eight touchdowns in 2014. While Matthews ran 92.4 percent of his routes from the slot, his role could be changing in 2015. Matthews has already been seen taking more reps as an outside receiver during practice. It's easy to imagine the Eagles could still use him primarily as a slot receiver, but he might move around the field more than he did as a rookie. Matthews will be tasked with helping to fill the production void left behind by Jeremy Maclin.

WR Josh Huff

Huff didn't get on the field too much as a rookie, but when he did people took notice. When he wasn't making costly mistakes, he was making big plays. The Eagles are hoping he can find a way to continue the latter. Huff is off to a good start. He's spent the offseason working hard. If Huff's hard work translates to a strong summer performance, he should be able to earn more playing time. More Huff on the field probably means less Riley Cooper, which could improve the Eagles' offense. Also look for Huff to continue to be a weapon as the team's kick returner.

DB Jaylen Watkins

The bulk of Watkins' playing time came in the team's Week 17 finale against the New York Giants. He had a difficult time covering Odell Beckham Jr., but the same could be said for almost any cornerback last season. To his credit, he did make a couple nice plays on the ball.

Watkins has reportedly added some weight this offseason to play safety, and he has been seen working with that group during spring practices. However, it seems like he's also still lining up at cornerback in practice, so it's unclear where he's going to stick. Nolan Carroll and Walter Thurmond are currently projected to be starters at cornerback and safety, respectively. Watkins will need to have a strong showing to unseat those players or else he'll be fighting for a depth job.

DE Taylor Hart

Hart was essentially redshirted as a rookie. He wasn't activated for a single game despite being on the 53-man roster. The former Oregon Ducks player has reportedly gained 25 pounds since last year, so he's up to about the 305 mark. Hart will have a tough time making a big impact. Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton are locked in as starters while Vinny Curry comes in off the bench. Last year the Eagles used their fourth defensive end, Brandon Bair, during 17% of their total defensive snaps. Hart could look to take over that role and also contribute on special teams.

S Ed Reynolds

Reynolds was the only player from the 2014 NFL Draft class to not make the team. He spent last season on the practice squad. Reynolds was at disadvantage last offseason because he joined Philadelphia's offseason workout program late due to graduation requirements. Now Reynolds is on level playing field this time around. He has an uphill battle at safety and he'll need to stand out on special teams to earn a depth spot.

NT Beau Allen

Big Beau Allen played a limited but consistent role as the team's backup nose tackle to starter Bennie Logan. It's safe to say Allen will likely assume that role again in 2015.

Undrafted Free Agents

The Eagles didn't get a ton of production from their draft picks, but a few undrafted agents made significant contributions. Tight end Trey Burton was a beast on special teams, which earned him a PFWA honor. He'll be counted on to help replace James Casey's role. Speaking of special teams, Cody Parkey was obviously huge for the Eagles as well. Despite his struggles late in the season, Parkey looks to be a solution to Philadelphia's previous kicker problem.

A few other 2014 undrafted free agents worth mentioning include Kevin Graf and Josh Andrews. Both players spent last season on the Eagles' practice squad, with Graf even making a brief appearance on the 53-man roster (though he was never active on game day). The Eagles' offensive line depth is questionable and these players will have an opportunity to fight for backup jobs.

Overall

It looks like the Eagles didn't get a lot of starting impact from this class. Some players develop into future starters but for now there are a lot of depth players.