Eagles

Eagles' Villanueva 'feels like a football player again'

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Eagles' Villanueva 'feels like a football player again'

It’s been a while since Alejandro Villanueva could call himself a football player.

For Villanueva, a former U.S. Army captain who spent the past four years in the military (see story), the Eagles’ OTAs over the past three weeks have been the first time he's participated in football activities since a tryout with the Cincinnati Bengals following his senior season at Army in 2009.

“I feel like a football player again,” Villanueva said following the Eagles' OTA on Tuesday. “I feel like I’m doing all the requirements that all the other players are doing, so I feel like I’m part of the team.”

However, his time with the Eagles so far hasn’t had much in common with his football experience at Army.

At 6-foot-9 and 277 pounds, Villanueva’s size and speed were so uncommon for Army that his coaches were never quite sure how to best maximize his abilities. He played three positions in four years, starting off as a defensive lineman, developing into a starting left offensive tackle as a junior before converting to wide receiver as a senior and leading the team with 34 receptions, 522 yards and five touchdowns.

The Eagles have determined that his size will be best spent as a defensive end, a decision that is perfectly fine with Villanueva. After the constant shuffling in college, he is looking forward to finally being able to develop at one position.

“[Playing defense] is a lot different but the coaching has been great, so I’ve been able to learn from all of them,” Villanueva said. “If they think I have a better chance of playing defensive [line], I’ll play there.”

Having not played defense since the beginning of his sophomore year of college, Villanueva has relied heavily on his new teammates to learn defensive coordinator Billy Davis’ scheme, particularly two-time Pro Bowler Trent Cole and second-year defensive end Brandon Bair.

Although his height would seem to give him potential as a pass rusher, Villanueva has concentrated mostly on learning the run-stuffing techniques that come with playing defensive end in the 3-4.

“[Defensive line] coach [Jerry] Azzinaro has been adamant about the key points I can focus on,” Villanueva said. “In our scheme, striking and using my legs are those things. As we progress, hopefully I can put those things into play and improve from where I started.”

In reality, Villanueva’s focus is not on what position he plays as much as it is simply making the team.

A team captain his senior year at West Point, Villanueva's biggest adjustment has been adapting his mindset to fighting for a roster spot after being a key player in college.

Earning a spot on special teams will likely be his best chance to make the final roster; he spent much of Tuesday’s session practicing with the kick return unit.

“Playing football at Army is pretty special and obviously I have a lot more experience there,” Villanueva said. “[Playing for the Eagles] is a different situation. At Army I played four years and was always able to contribute and now I’m just trying to make the team.

“Making the team [is my goal], so if they put me on all the special teams that would be the best news.”

In his few weeks as an Eagle, Villanueva has already received numerous questions from his teammates about his time in the Army. He served three tours in Afghanistan during his four years of service.

Although he is eager to move on with this new chapter in his life as a professional athlete, Villanueva has no problem with teammates asking him about his past. If anything, the camaraderie in the locker room has been his favorite part of playing football again.

“Sometimes they ask about it (being in the army) when they have a question that’s been burning them,” Villanueva said. “Usually they have a question about how things are run. It’s a learning experience for a lot of them. My teammates have been awesome, so it’s been pretty fun overall.”

Former Eagles Dawkins, Owens named Hall of Fame semifinalists

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Former Eagles Dawkins, Owens named Hall of Fame semifinalists

Brian Dawkins and Terrell Owens are again one step closer to making it to the Hall of Fame.

Both former Eagles were named as two of 27 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's 2018 class.

Their inclusion on the list Tuesday is not a surprise at all. Both were on the list of finalists last year, but did not make the 2017 class to the dismay of Eagles fans.

The 15 finalists will be announced during January and Hall of Fame voters will cast their votes for the inductees on Super Bowl Saturday.

This is Dawkins' second year of eligibility and Owens' third. Traditionally it has been difficult for safeties to make it into the Hall of Fame, which might have hurt Dawkins. Owens has likely been hurt by his abrasive personality. Both are very worthy candidates and have a shot to be inducted this year.

Joining them on the list of semifinalists are six who made it on their first years of eligibility: DB Ronde Barber, OG Steve Hutchinson, LB Ray Lewis, LB Brian Urlacher, WR Randy Moss and DL Richard Seymour.

The original list of 108 nominees was cut down to 27 semifinalists instead of 25 because of ties.

Here is the full list of semifinalists:

S Steve Atwater
CB/S Ronde Barber
OT Tony Boselli
WR Isaac Bruce
S LeRoy Butler
Coach Don Coryell
RB Roger Craig
S Brian Dawkins
G Alan Faneca
WR Torry Holt
OG Steve Hutchinson
OT Joe Jacoby
RB Edgerrin James
Coach Jimmy Johnson
CB Ty Law
LB Ray Lewis
FS John Lynch
C/G Kevin Mawae
LB Karl Mecklenburg
WR Randy Moss
DE Leslie O'Neal
WR Terrell Owens
DE Simeon Rice
DE/DT Richard Seymour
LB Brian Urlacher
CB Everson Walls
WR Hines Ward

Former Eagles CB Dexter McDougle signs with Saints

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Former Eagles CB Dexter McDougle signs with Saints

Former Eagles cornerback Dexter McDougle has found a home with another one of the top teams in the NFC. 

McDougle on Tuesday signed with the New Orleans Saints, who, like the Eagles, are also on an eight-game winning streak. 

McDougle, 26, came to the Eagles in a trade with the Jets for safety Terrence Brooks in late August and even signed him to a one-year extension in early September. 

The former third-round pick in 2014 played more than the Eagles likely anticipated during his eight games active in Philly. 

In total, McDougle played 55 defensive snaps, and just three weeks ago played 32 of them in a pinch against the 49ers. He also played 135 special teams snaps (50 percent through the Denver game). 

McDougle was waived last week when the Eagles brought in linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. McDougle was expendable as Ronald Darby returned from his dislocated ankle. The only game McDougle was inactive was the opener, before Darby's injury. 

Without McDougle, the Eagles still have plenty of corners. They have five on the roster, including Jaylen Watkins, who is listed as a safety but has played corner this season.