Super Bowl teams often don’t have to rely on rookies. The Chiefs were an exception. The Eagles fit the mold.
Kansas City was seventh in the NFL with 3,712 rookie snaps — 3,057 on defense.
The Eagles finished 32nd in rookie snaps with 860 — 281 on offense and 579 on defense. The Eagles had 484 fewer snaps than the 31st-ranked team, the Rams.
The Eagles say they are happy with their rookies, despite their lack of play. Judging drafts based on one season’s production isn’t fair to the player or the team. To accurately assess the quality and depth of a draft, you need several years of evidence.
Defensive tackle Jordan Davis, the 13th overall pick, missed four games with injuries. The defensive tackle played 224 snaps, 20.25 percent. He generally was praised throughout the season for his athleticism, talent and work ethic.
The Eagles believe they have a winner in Davis.
- “This year was unique,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “We have a deep defensive line group … We understand that not every year can be like that and that roles will change. And that’s just not on the defensive line, that’s through everybody.
- “And we have so much confidence in Jordan that he’s going to continue to develop as a player. He’s going to take the reps — he’s only going to continue to get better with the reps that he has.
- “He has unusual traits. His unusual size, unusual athletic ability, unusual play strength. And looking forward to him being able to get more and more reps.”
NFL Network senior draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said on a recent conference call to not worry about Davis.
- “Obviously, I think he is still learning how to use what’s in his body,” said Jeremiah, a former Eagles West Coast scout. “It’s all there. He has all the ability in the world.
- “I think he just needs to play. He gets out there and plays more, I think you’ll see that start to emerge.”
BLANKENSHIP MOST SNAPS
Despite his draft status, Davis did not play the most rookie snaps. Undrafted rookie safety Reed Blankenship did. Blankenship played 291 snaps, 26.31 percent — and he didn’t get his first defensive snap until Week 11 against Indianapolis. After safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson suffered a lacerated kidney in Week 12 against the Packers, Blankenship got regular defensive snaps. He played well enough down the stretch to make the Eagles think he will be a solution to a position where they need help.
Blankenship played in 10 games and started four. He had one interception and it was bucket-list worthy. He intercepted the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers on national television.
Second-round pick Cam Jurgens basically took a gap year, serving an apprenticeship under center Jason Kelce. Jurgens only played 35 offensive snaps.
Coaches are confident Jurgens will take over at center when Kelce retires. Jurgens might even play guard next season depending on Kelce and the free-agent status of right guard Isaac Seumalo.
Third-round pick Nakobe Dean only played 34 defensive snaps (3.07 percent). He played 75 percent of special teams snaps, second behind Zech McPhearson. The Eagles received strong linebacker play from T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White, which kept Dean on the bench.
In retrospect, you would think a little more playing time would have been appropriate for “the steal of the draft” as Dean was called.
- “We knew when we were drafting them last year we were drafting them because we thought they were the best players, not necessarily because they were the guys ready to fill spots at a position of need,” general manager Howie Roseman said.
- “So, as we look at our team this year, knowing that those guys can take a step forward and be part of it, and being comfortable with the young players playing and young players that have talent and that have work ethic and get put in that spot.
- “We even saw it this year when we put young players in spots and how they stepped up. I don’t think that’s something we’re afraid of.”
The Eagles had two sixth-round draft picks. Tight end Grant Calcaterra played 227 snaps (19.2 percent) in 15 games. He had five catches for 81 yards. He also was seen providing the push on Jalen Hurts’ quarterback sneaks.
Linebacker Kyron Johnson had 18 defensive snaps and 265 special teams snaps (63 percent). He had eight tackles.
Undrafted rookie cornerback Josh Jobe played 12 defensive snaps and 220 snaps (48.5 percent) on special teams.
Undrafted rookie Britain Covey became the main punt returner. He averaged a solid 9.3 yards on punt returns. In the Super Bowl, he returned a punt 27 yards to the Eagles’ 43, eventually leading to a Jake Elliott field goal and a 27-21 lead.
Undrafted rookie Cameron Dicker played one game for the Eagles, Oct. 9 at Arizona, when Elliott was injured. Dicker made a 23-yard field goal with 1:45 remaining to give the 5-0 Eagles a 20-17 win.
Dicker the Kicker was one sign the Eagles were having a special season.
With the Eagles potentially losing so many free agents, the rookies will get opportunities next season. They will have a full season in the system, plus an offseason of working with the coaching staff. That’s when we’ll begin to see how strong the 2022 rookie class is.