When the Eagles selected Alex McCalister in the seventh round of the 2016 NFL Draft last year, they clearly weren’t expecting him to be any kind of immediate contributor. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz admitted as much when he talked about how the McCalister needed to gain weight in order to play at the NFL level.
He's still got size to gain every day. I ask him how much he weighs, just because I want him to always have that at the forefront. Always think every day. Believe it or not, there was a time I used to have to eat a lot to gain weight. Those days are long past for me, and the only way to do it to get that feedback every day. It's like, hey, I'm a pound light today and you're sucking down more shakes and eating more and more. He's got that ahead of him. He's got a frame to handle a lot of weight. But it has to be part of his daily routine.
After suffering an “injury” late last summer, McCalister was stashed away on the injured reserve list for the entirety for the 2016 season. He wasn’t allowed to practice with the team but he was able to participate in meetings and work on developing his body.
The good news is McCalister has shown some progress in adding weight. The Florida alumnus said he’s gained at least 12 pounds. Via CSN Philly:
McCalister proudly boasted he weighed in at 251 pounds on Monday morning.
What was he when he arrived to Philadelphia?
"Two-thirty-nine ... and that's just lying probably," McCalister said, breaking into a wide smile. "But this morning I was at 251."
I often receive a lot of questions about McCalister’s progress, so now you have your answer.
But while McCalister claims he’s added weight, my personal observation is that it’s not very apparent. From my practice notes on May 23:
[McCalister] may have added some weight, but he still looks pretty slight for a defensive end to me. Hopefully I’m wrong, but I wouldn’t expect much from him.
McCalister will definitely be a player to keep an eye on this summer. But like I said in my notes, I’d keep expectations low. At best, he has a chance to be the fifth defensive end behind Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Derek Barnett, and Chris Long. And I think Steven Means, who made the roster last year, is ahead of McCalister for that fifth spot. Means had a strong offseason last year and has looked good again this spring. The Eagles kept six defensive ends in 2016, but special teams player Bryan Braman was in that group.
The 23-year-old McCalister might need another year of development. He could be a practice squad candidate for the 2017 season assuming he doesn’t get picked up after the Eagles waive him. Maybe the added strength will help McCalister defy the odds, but we’ll have to see it to believe it first.