Looking for a Roster Surprise? Try LaRoy Reynolds
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Even in a football-crazed city like Philadelphia, there is one under-the-radar player who is likely earmarked for the 53-man roster that most fans know little about.
Veteran linebacker LaRoy Reynolds, a former special-teams standout in Jacksonville, Chicago and Atlanta, was a late signing in the spring agreeing to terms a week before two developments changed the landscape of the position for the Eagles, one which was expected and another that wasn't.
On the first day of offseason work, the Eagles released Mychal Kendricks in a salary-cap move and then lost his potential replacement on the weak-side of the base defense when Paul Worrilow, a free-agent signing with extensive starting experience in Atlanta and Detroit, went down with a torn ACL.
In the modern NFL where 11 personnel is the base formation for nearly every NFL team, Jim Schwartz covets coverage ability in his linebackers which is why there is a theme among the developmental prospects at the position: undersized and athletic. Players like Nate Gerry, who played safety at Nebraska, and Kamu Grugier-Hill, a rover-like player at Eastern Illinois, exemplify that.
Reynolds' forte, on the other hand, is as a special-teams player who can fill in on the defense in a pinch. He's tied with Justin Bethel as tops in the NFL with four fumble recoveries on ST since 2013 and has been a so-called core-four guy on ST units since entering the league as an undrafted free out by Jacksonville out of Virginia in 2013.
The Eagles have been after him since the 2017 offseason when Reynolds decided to re-up with the Falcons where he recovered a fumble in each of Atlanta's playoff games, against the Los Angeles Rams and the Eagles.
"Honestly [the Eagles] were just the most consistent reaching out and wanted me to be here," Reynolds told 973espn.com when asked how he arrived in Philadelphia. "So after talking with my agent we felt it was best to come here. Even last year when I was a free agent and re-signed with Atlanta I had a chance to come here."
Although special teams is his calling card Reynolds has also filled in seven times over five years as an emergency starter, where he brings size at 6-foot-1 and 240 pounds as well as energy to any defense.
"I think the key for me is being versatile," Reynolds explained. "I think that's something that coach Schwartz emphasizes a lot. I've been able to play all three positions throughout my career so I'm able to learn the defense, step in and play each spot."
The more you can do in the NFL the more valuable you become and the Eagles are in need of special teams players with Bryan Braman gone and Chris Maragos on the PUP list as he continues his recovery from knee surgery. Reynolds showed off his acumen there on Saturday in practice when he stoned veteran tight end Richard Rodgers for an extended period in one-on-one ST drills.
"I've always been in all four phases since my rookie year -- five if you want to count field-goal block," Reynolds said. "I try to get out and do all I can on special teams."
Another positive sign for Reynolds isn't worthy of Scientific America but it is worth noting. His jersey number points to the Eagles planning on him being part of the team on Sept. 6 when they square off against his old team, the Falcons.
When Reynolds was signed and Kendricks was still here while Worrilow was set to be the top backup at LB, he was issued a number in the 40s. He then took Kendricks' old No. 95 for a brief period before ending with his current No. 50, the number Worrilow was originally scheduled to wear.
"You don't want him playing on defense a ton," an NFC scout told 973espn.com, "but he's the kind of player everyone needs. He will be one of Philly's best players on all four special teams units."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen