Eagles Stock Watch: Darby, Clement on the Rise
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Recently acquired cornerback Ronald Darby and undrafted free agent running back Corey Clement headline the list of Eagles who made the best impressions during the team's 20-16 preseason win over Buffalo on Thursday night.
Here all the bulls (stock up) and bears (stock down) heading into the team's joint practices with the Miami Dolphins in advance of the all-important dress rehearsal game with the Fins next Thursday at Lincoln Financial Field:
-Cornerback, Ronald Darby - Darby has a chance to be the final piece to the puzzle on a top-10 defense. His presence has turned an obvious issue into a position that is at least competent.
Darby's sub-4.4 speed was on display as he blanketed the stopwatch-deficient Anquan Boldin, first recording a pass breakup which probably should have been a pick six if Darby had Boldin-like hands and then he did pick off his old friend Tyrod Taylor before showing off his explosion as an athlete with a zig-zagging 48-yard return.
-Running back, Corey Clement - The Eagles' running game has been a sore spot to this point and Clement, a Glassboro native. is the only one who has shown any juice to this point, ripping off a 24-yard run and punching it in from six yards out for Philadelphia's first touchdown of the night.
Before you get too excited Wendell Smallwood has been out for the first two games with a hamstring injury and Darren Sproles has been in bubble wrap. Smallwood, however, needs to get back on the field or Clement might start pushing him for a roster spot. Ultimately, Clement will need to improve his pass-catching skills and prove he can handle himself in pass protection to make the final 53.
“It was a dream come true," Clement said of his first NFL TD. "Having the chance to score at Lincoln Financial Field and all of those years that I drove over the [Walt Whitman and Ben Franklin Bridge] and seeing it from the distance, feeling the crowd behind me was truly an honor. I had to work for it and it wasn’t given so now I’m just looking for the next one.”
-Defensive end, Derek Barnett - The Eagles first-round pick got to the quarterback for the third time in two weeks against Buffalo and nearly had a fourth sack. He's been so impressive that Doug Pederson acknowledged that Barnett should probably get a few more reps with the first team despite the fact that Vinny Curry has been solid at right end.
“I always tell myself if my technique is good, the sacks will come," Barnett said. "So I just try to hone in on my technique and stuff and just try to do what they’ve asked me to do. Because I know if I focus on the little things, the little things take care of the big things.”
Those big things could mean an increased role sooner rather than later.
“It's important," Pederson said when asked by 973espn.com if Barnett needs to get chances against better competition. "Obviously, better tackles, better competition is a sign of where you are in your development process. But you could see how quick he is off the ball. You could see how well he bends. There's just a relentless finish. He plays to the whistle, and that's exciting. So hopefully these next couple weeks, you know, with Miami coming up, we'll give him a chance to roll in there with the first unit again and just continue to watch him grow.”
-Linebacker Mychal Kendricks - Kendricks is obviously not happy being the third linebacker in a two-LB setup but the athletic veteran isn't letting that affect the way he goes about his business.
Kendricks was spectacular against the Bills with an interception, an impressive tackle for loss when he sniffed out a screen to Charles Clay and a 6-yard sack of Tyrod Taylor.
“I’m blessed, and that’s the God’s honest truth," Kendricks said.. There are so many things wrong with this world today and so many things going on that you look at your situation and it’s not that bad. I just try to approach every day with an attitude of gratitude and I keep balling.”
-Defensive end Brandon Graham and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox - Simply put, B.G. always brings it and remains a handful while Fletcher Cox is in the conversation for best defensive tackle in the game not named Aaron Donald.
-Lane Johnson at left tackle - With Jason Peters away handling a personal matter and swing tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai dealing with a knee injury Philadelphia was forced to shuffle things up front. Johnson flipped over to the left side while veteran Matt Tobin made the start at RT.
One of the best right tackles in football, Johnson spent most of the spring on the left side while Peters stayed away from voluntary work and is considered the heir apparent to Peters, but he wasn't good on Carson Wentz's blind side against the Bills, getting caught by a Jerry Hughes spin move and also being chastised for holding by the over-eager Ed Hochuli crew.
-Zach Ertz as a run blocker - The veteran tight end is one of the best pass catchers at his position in football but he's simply not a well-rounded Y-back and struggles at the point of attack when it comes to engaging as a blocker.
-Quarterback Matt McGloin - It's looking less and less likely that the Eagles will carry three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. McGloin has had more than enough opportunities to open some eyes during the first two preseason games and the veteran QB has not seized his opportunity. At this stage, it's likely that Philadelphia goes with Wentz and Nick Foles only with the third signal caller earmarked for the practice squad, be that Dane Evans or another young prospect from outside the organization.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen