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Remembering some Eagles who peaked when training camp started

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It’s better to burn out than fade away

New York Jets v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Around the league, training camps are starting. 2,880 men between the ages of 20 and 41 will participate in them, and among the general population, they are all elite. The United States Census Bureau estimates that there are 48.6 million men between the age of 20 and 41, making training camp rosters just 0.006 percent of men in that age bracket. But unfortunately among their peers, many of these players are far from elite and have little business being on a roster.

Today, we honor those men, looking back at careers that peaked when training camp started. Some maybe could have been something but fell victim to injury. Some were looking for a career revitalization and never found it. A few went on to good careers elsewhere. Others simply weren’t good enough. But at the time, we didn’t know that. We didn’t know that the high watermark of their careers, or in some cases Eagles careers, was the day they arrived.

OJ Atogwe

Throughout the years there have been a handful of players that Eagles fans pined for, either seriously or sarcastically. Anquan Boldin was one such player, and has been intentionally misspelled countless times in comments here at BGN. At one point, OJ Atogwe was one of those players, reaching a peak in 2010 when the Rams reportedly offered him in a package for Donovan McNabb. A year later he would join McNabb in Washington, and then, as if the Eagles were trolling us, in 2012 they actually signed him. He lasted two and a half months.

Lorenzo Booker

On draft day in 2008 the Eagles sent the Dolphins a 4th round pick for Booker, a little used but productive dual threat running back. Billed as a Brian Westbrook clone, the Eagles had attempted to trade up to draft him in the 3rd round in 2007 but failed. Once acquired, they couldn’t stop hyping him up. He’d finish the season with 2.7 yards per carry on 20 attempts, and 6 catches for 11 yards and was cut at the end of camp the next year.

Chip Kelly’s scrub QBs

No, I’m not including Sam Bradford here, even though his greatest game as an Eagle was a preseason game. Instead I’m talking about Matt Barkley and Dennis Dixon in 2013, and to a lesser extent, Tim Tebow in 2015. Barkley was a “steal of the draft” after being taken in the 4th round. Dixon, reunited with his college offensive coordinator and some modest success as a backup with the Steelers, was seen a darkhorse candidate to start and real threat for the #2 spot. Tebow was considered by some to be the perfect gadget player for a coach that people still thought was a brilliant offensive mind. Barkley, whose contract ensured that he would make the roster, was the only one to make a roster.

Ryan Moats

To be technical, Moats’ career peaked not in training camp but on his first carry as a starter when he ran 40 yards for a touchdown. But in looking back on players for who the idea of them was far greater than the actual player, Moats was, like Booker, another theoretical Brian Westbrook that was more like Byron Westbrook. It’s a little like Darren Sproles today: yes, eventually another small but productive multiple threat running back will come along (Tarik Cohen), but good luck finding one in the haystack.

Ifeanyi Momah

For years some asked the Eagles to go get a big WR who could catch a damn fade. Their prayers appeared to be answered in 2013 with Momah, an undrafted free agent who had little production in college, though he missed his senior year to a torn ACL. Such things never matter. He had size, 6’7”, and speed, reportedly running a 4.40 40 yard dash, but that was it. The player Momah couldn’t come close to matching the idea of Momah. He didn’t even make the Eagles practice squad that season, though he did latch on to the Browns and Lions practice squads in 2014 and after a strong showing at the Veteran Combine in 2015, spent three years with the Cardinals as a tight end.

Kenny Phillips

It took the Eagles years to replace Brian Dawkins. They tried and failed with draft picks, and they tried and failed with free agents. Honorable mention to Sean Jones in 2009 but Kenny Phillips was the shinier toy. Phillips had knee injuries in 2009 and 2012, but in 2010 and 2011 he was pretty good for the Giants. In 2013, the Eagles gave him a one year deal as they overhauled their secondary. The hope was that Phillips would bring some much needed quality at safety. The hope should have been that he just be able to make it out of camp. He sat out two preseason games dealing with his knee issues before being released, and wouldn’t play until 2015 when he appeared in three games for the Saints, who had one of the worst defenses you’ll ever see.

Steve Smith

What is it with broken Giants players? Smith had a tremendous season in 2009 for the Giants: 107 catches, 1220 yards, 7 touchdowns. He looked like he was going to be a star. In 2010, he missed half the season with a major knee injury that he never recovered from. A free agent in 2011, he signed a one year deal with the Eagles after training camp had already started. He finished with 11 catches in 9 games and re-injured his knee. He was really good in Madden though.

Jordan Poyer

When training camp began in 2013, Poyer, a 7th round draft pick, was being touted as starting the season as the slot corner. He lost out to Brandon Boykin, and then in October lost his job when he was released. After three and a half seasons as a backup with the Browns, he had a fine season as a safety for the Bills last year.

JaCorey Shepherd

In spring practices, Shepherd turned heads in the slot, and on August 1, 2015, the Eagles traded Brandon Boykin to the Steelers, paving the way for JaCorey Shepherd, who the team had drafted in the 6th round, to take over as the slot corner. On August 10th, he tore his ACL. Chip Kelly would take him with him to San Francisco where he saw some action as a special teamer, but that was the end of his career.

Having surveyed the BGN staff for suggestions, there’s probably someone out there we overlooked. And we all have those guys we loved in theory, (Cornelius Ingram anybody?) or that others got excited about (hey remember Michael Bamiro?) Who were your “favorite” players that got hyped in July and were busts in August?