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Look at the Rooks


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Look at the Rooks

Posted: August 19th, 2023 | Author: Tommy Lawlor 

In the past, rookies weren’t expected to be key players for Super Bowl contenders. When star QBs started getting mega-deals, that changed. Teams need cheap help. That can come in the form of a veteran, but now we’re seeing rookies be a bigger part of that.

The Chiefs won the SB with multiple rookies helping out in their secondary. They also got help from a rookie pass rusher. The Eagles rookie DT Jordan Davis was one of the best players in the game. UDFA rookies Josh Jobe and Reed Blankenship played a lot on STs.

The Eagles are trying to be a SB team again and have a bigger and better rookie class this time around. I’ve been incredibly impressed with how this crop of rookies has played so far. The future looks very bright.

DT Jalen Carter

We didn’t get any special plays from Carter in this week’s game. He was only in for 7 snaps. There was a highlight moment in the practice vs CLE.


That play got the attention of everyone watching practice. It was a "wow” moment. Rookies don’t overwhelm Pro Bowl linemen like that too often. Carter has huge potential. His issue right now is consistency. He’s kind of like Kyle Schwarber right now. The home runs are great, but the strikeouts need to go down. Still, the key is that Carter has shown the talent that got him drafted so high. When he’s on, he looks like the real deal. I don’t know if he’ll start, but he will be a key role player at the least.

Edge Nolan Smith

This is the rookie we’re all talking about. Great athlete with a non-stop motor. Smith has had a great camp and has shown big potential in the preseason games.

We’re going to hear one thing over and over again in regard to Smith. "How did he fall to 30?”

His lack of ideal size meant the Eagles got an amazing gift at the end of the first round. Thank you to everyone who passed on him. The big question with Smith right now is where he fits in. Josh Sweat and Haason Reddick are the starters at Edge. Brandon Graham is the top backup. The team will have to find snaps for Smith. This is a guy you want on the field, so he can contribute this year and learn for the future. Guys like Derek Barnett and Janarius Robinson either won’t make the team or won’t play because Smith is the guy you want to be out there.

OL Tyler Steen

Steen has started at LT in each of the games. He’s also gotten snaps at RG. Steen has some learning to do, but you can see that he’s a future NFL starter at either spot. He has the footwork for LT. He’s got the size/skill for RG. Cam Jurgens will likely move to C in 2024 so Steen might be the top candidate at RG.

Fran does a great job of explaining the little things Steen did well in the BAL game. This isn’t a guy winning with size or athleticism. Steen looks polished for a rookie. He started for 4 years in the SEC and got good coaching. He’s not a project. Steen can be a good pass protector and run blocker. This year the Eagles will likely have him focus on LT. Jordan Mailata gets dinged from time to time. Steen will take over for him. There are other options at RG.

SAF Sydney Brown

The Eagles brought Brown along slowly. He started the summer on the third team. They started mixing him in with the 2’s. Brown then looked really good in the Ravens game. He played the second half and led the team with 9 solo tackles. He showed speed and range. He was physical. The Eagles then mixed Brown in with the starters after that. He got 35 snaps on Thursday, but was watching the game late. That is a compliment from the coaches. They had seen enough and didn’t want him getting hurt in garbage time.

Brown has a chance to start this year. The Eagles won’t force that because safety is such a challenging position. Mistakes lead to TDs. But Brown has the physical ability to be an impact starter and it seems like he is picking up on the mental side of the game. Adjusting to NFL offenses isn’t easy. If Brown continues to learn and play well, he’ll have a strong case for starting. At the least, he should be the #3 safety.

CB Kelee Ringo

I would describe Ringo as an "arrogant athlete”. He’s had great size and speed for years and that has been enough for him to play at a high level. You could see some holes in his game at UGA. We’re seeing even more now in the NFL. He can’t get by on size/speed anymore. Ringo has to focus on details. Technique. The NFL is full of guys who can fly. The best players are the ones who hone their craft and focus on the little things.

The Eagles knew Ringo would need time when they drafted him. We’ve seen what we expected. The good news is that Ringo came to the right team. The Eagles staff are great teachers. If Ringo is a good student, he’ll look like a very different player next summer. His raw ability is through the roof. He just needs a year of coaching. I do not see Ringo getting on the field much this year.

QB Tanner McKee

McKee was not on my radar as an Eagles target for the draft. Thankfully they listened to their scouts and took McKee in the 6th round. Bo Wulf wrote a good piece on McKee. Finding QBs in the 6th round doesn’t happen very often.

The base rate of success for a sixth-round quarterback, especially a rookie, is very low. Since Tom Brady and Marc Bulger were drafted in 2000, the most successful sixth-round quarterback is Tyrod Taylor (2011), followed by Derek Anderson (2005) and Gardner Minshew (2019). Of the quarterbacks drafted in the sixth round over the last 10 years, there were more who ended up never playing an NFL game than those who had a multiyear career.

Yikes. Finding QBs outside the first round isn’t easy, but that is wild.

McKee was okay in camp, throwing a ton of short passes. He didn’t stand out at all, though. The first play against the Ravens he puts a ball downfield and in the perfect spot. We all sat up and started paying attention. McKee has been the star of the first two preseason games. He’s continued to make terrific throws.

McKee’s vision, accuracy and decision-making are outstanding. This isn’t a QB throwing a screen and watching a backup WR run 50 yards. This isn’t a guy running around and then throwing to an open WR. McKee is sitting in the pocket. He’s running a vanilla offense. He’s finding the open guy and getting him the ball. The placement on some of those balls is just crazy.

Yes, he’s a rookie. Yes, he’s got a lot to learn. But look at the clips again. That is a guy who deserves a chance to compete for the backup job. Bo wrote about that in his piece. McKee has been great and the coaches need to figure out if they think he could play in the regular season this year. Marcus Mariota has experience, but he’s been erratic. I’m leaning toward the guy who is playing lights out.

DL Moro Ojomo

Ojomo got off to a quiet start in camp, but the light went on and he started making plays. He then really flashed in the preseason opener. Ojomo was disruptive, the best thing you can say about a DL. He played the run well. He can shed blocks. He’s also athletic enough to get after the QB. Ojomo looked good against CLE until he got hurt. He left the game on a stretcher, but the Eagles say he’s okay except for a concussion. We’ll have to wait and see when he’s able to get back on the field.

Ojomo will make the team. He’ll be a backup DL and will play regularly this year. He’s outplayed Kentavius Street this summer. Ojomo is another guy who likely fell due to lacking ideal size. Looks like the Eagles got lucky again.


WR Joseph Ngata

He played better against CLE, going 3-39, but I just don’t know that he’s shown enough to make the team. Put him on the practice squad and give him time to develop. Ngata has the size you want, but he’s a limited athlete and needs to be more of a consistent, polished receiver.

CB Eli Ricks

Ricks had the pick-six in the opener. He broke up a pass vs CLE. You can see he’s got good instincts and ball skills. The Eagles are deep at CB so that may push Ricks to the practice squad. He has shown good potential this summer.

LB Ben VanSumeren

The Eagles knew he was a project when they signed him. They wanted Ben for his athleticism and raw potential. We have seen that athleticism and potential in both games. VanSumeeren flies around the field. He can hit and tackle. If the Eagles had a good set of LBs, he might have a shot at making the team. With so much uncertainty, the Eagles need all their LBs to be potential contributors. He’s not ready to play right now. Give him a year and we might have something.


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