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Top 10 Under-The-Radar Eagles For 2015

This feature is a weekly piece on titled From The Eagles, featuring Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro. The intention is to provide a perspective directly from the Philadelphia Eagles in this forum for the great fans who visit BGN.

It isn't just about quarterback Sam Bradford and running back DeMarco Murray and cornerback Byron Maxwell. The success the Eagles are going to have in 2015 is about a full roster of contributors, and with that here is my list of 10 under-the-radar players to keep an eye on as Training Camp begins and the preseason beckons ...

MILES AUSTIN, wide receiver

He isn't the same guy who made the Pro Bowl in Dallas. I get it. The expectation isn't that Austin is going to catch 90 passes for 1,300 yards and 15 touchdowns. Austin is a 10-year veteran who is already proving to be a benefit for the young Eagles receiving corps. He's healthy and had a strong spring. I see Austin in the rotation, using his experience to create separation and keep the chains moving. Austin can help in the red zone with his ability to go up and get the football. The future at wide receiver for the Eagles is Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff and Nelson Agholor leading the way. Austin is a "bridge" kind of player. His numbers won't wow, but Austin will be a positive impact when he's on the field.

TREY BURTON, tight end

There may not be a player on the roster who has improved his all-around game as much in the offseason as Burton. He's gotten stronger and more explosive. He's worked very hard on his blocking and is a more complete player. And while Brent Celek and Zach Ertz are going to be the featured tight ends, Burton may get a few shots as the Eagles look to create matchups. With James Casey released in the offseason, Burton is expected to be a force on special teams.

JaCOREY SHEPHERD, cornerback

It wouldn't shock me to see Shepherd on the field before second-round draft pick Eric Rowe. Why? It's not a knock on Rowe, whom the Eagles feel will be a big-time player. I just think that Shepherd is going to push for playing time, specifically at the nickel position. Yes, that's the job that Brandon Boykin has played, and played well, the last few seasons. Shepherd impressed a lot of people in the spring and at 5 feet 11 and 199 pounds, he's an inch taller and 14 pounds heavier (according to their listed heights and weights) than is Boykin. Yes, these things matter when you want the cornerbacks to play press coverage at the line of scrimmage. Let the competition begin.

BRAD JONES, linebacker

A veteran who was once a starter in Green Bay, Jones was an unheralded signing in free agency. Suddenly, he may be a key piece at linebacker because of his versatility and his experience. He's just a really solid player. The Eagles need to prove they have depth on the edges at linebacker. Who is next in line behind Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham? Where does Marcus Smith fit into the equation? He needs to step up, because nothing is going to be handed to him. Jones? Why not? Keep an eye on him.

RYAN MATHEWS, running back

OK, so he's not really under the radar, but in the context of the star power of Murray and Darren Sproles in the backfield, not a lot of people are talking about Mathews. They should. He's 230 pounds and he's dynamic. More than anything, he's healthy, and if Mathews can stay that way then he's going to get his touches and he's going to be a major factor for this offense. I'm not suggesting you use an early-round fantasy football draft pick on Mathews, but he's going to put up some yards and be a threat in the red zone for the Eagles.

TAYLOR HART, defensive end

A rookie last year, Hart was inactive every week in his "redshirt" season. He's 20 pounds bigger, much stronger and he knows the game. The coaches rave about Hart. Now it's time to see him play and see if he can push for substantial playing time. The Eagles are largely unheralded up front, but that's only because the defensive line doesn't put up a lot of numbers. Hart has a chance to become a pretty darn good football player here.

EARL WOLFF, safety

Is this a start-or-go-home kind of summer for Wolff? Well, it could be. Injuries have held Wolff down since his rookie season of 2013 and he didn't get many reps in the spring as he rehabbed his knee. But Wolff is healthy and ready to compete for what appears to be a wide-open starting job at safety next to Malcolm Jenkins. Wolff has to stay healthy. He has to stay on the field. He has to take good angles, a part of that game that plagued him as a rookie. He has to be physical. This is a huge summer for a player who seemed, at times as a rookie, to be on the way up in the Eagles secondary.

MATT TOBIN, offensive guard

Tobin represents every player who lines up at right guard in the summer. They're all important. They're all relatively unknown. And they all have question marks. Who is going to emerge as the starting right guard here? Tobin is a talented kid who is still learning how to play the right side after playing much of his collegiate career at Iowa. The difference is in the lean, and while it's subtle and not entirely noticeable for the fans and the media, opposing coaches and players jump on every movement and slight lean. It could be Tobin at right guard. It could be Andrew Gardner. It could be John Moffitt, signed a few weeks ago. Somebody needs to be solid at right guard for this line to come together.

MARK SANCHEZ, quarterback

We know him. We know that Sanchez played pretty well last season but that he turned the ball over too much and that he has a history of giveaways. All understood. Sanchez threw the ball better in the spring than he did a year ago and he's planning to challenge Bradford for the starting quarterback job. At some point, as you know, Chip Kelly could turn to Sanchez and say, "You're in. Go." And then we're watching Sanchez. Can he curb his mistakes? Can he throw the ball deep with some zip and accuracy?


Here is a key player who people kind of take for granted. Jones is in his 12th NFL season and he's been a reliable, outstanding punter for the Eagles. His directional abilities are outstanding. He allowed only 29 returns last season and he dumped 34 of his punts inside the 20-yard line, tying his career best. But here's a number that bears watching: Jones had a net average of 38.9 yards per punt, 1.5 yards less than in 2014. Maybe that means something. Maybe it doesn't. Maybe that's just the way it worked with all of those inside-the-20 punts. For a team that was first in the NFL in collective special teams play last year and that has designs on greatness in 2015, Jones' performance is critical.

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