Eagles

From CFL star to Eagles? Alex Singleton has reasons to believe he can win roster spot

From CFL star to Eagles? Alex Singleton has reasons to believe he can win roster spot

In May, Alex Singleton took a break from Eagles OTAs to travel to Canada. The linebacker is fighting for a roster spot here in Philadelphia, but north of the border, he’s a bona-fide star returning for the Grey Cup ring ceremony with the CFL champion Calgary Stampeders.

Now he’s hoping it will be quite some time before there’s a professional reason to go back.

Singleton had a career in the CFL. In three short seasons, he was a two-time All-Star, the Most Outstanding Defensive Player for 2017 and a champion.

And he left it all behind for another shot at the NFL, where he bounced between three different teams in one year as an undrafted free agent in 2015.

“You want to prove to yourself, prove to everybody that you can do it, that you can do the same thing no matter where you are,” Singleton said.

He was walking off the practice field after an especially hot day at Eagles training camp, though not before putting in an extra 15 minutes of work. It was “love of the game” that led Singleton to sign a futures contract with the Eagles in January — clearly, because he requested his release from the Stampeders, who no doubt would’ve preferred the heart of their defense take a long-term extension.

But this isn’t some pipe dream. CFL players transition to the NFL with some regularity, and Singleton is 6-foot-2, 232 pounds, with athleticism that is noticeable on the practice field. He spent time with the Seahawks, Patriots and Vikings during his first NFL season and was a collegiate standout at Montana State, a Division I-FCS program.

Perhaps Singleton was simply overlooked trying to make the jump from a small school to some deep pro rosters.

“What I’ve learned over time is that you’ve gotta be able to do everything as an undrafted guy, a second-chance guy,” Singleton said. “It’s not gonna be easy and no one’s gonna give you a step up. You’ve gotta work for that step, and I’ve learned how to do that as a pro.”

In the Eagles, Singleton chose a team in which he has a legitimate shot to simultaneously develop and contribute immediately.

The starting linebacker jobs for ‘19 likely belong to Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill, with either Zach Brown, L.J. Fort or Nathan Gerry (or some combination of the three) filling out the base defense. Singleton is definitely in the mix for a roster spot though based in part on his special teams prowess.

In addition to 10 tackles for loss, four sacks, six forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, one interception and nine pass breakups, Singleton recorded 17 special teams tackles for Calgary. And because the CFL plays three downs, as opposed to the traditional four in the NFL, he has more experience in the kicking phases than a typical prospect.

“It’s huge,” Singleton said. “That’s what you learn in the CFL because with a three-down game, special teams is a true third of the game. It almost is bigger than offense and defense in some games.

“In the NFL, I don’t know if it’s a full third of the game, but it’s definitely important and it could win or lose games.”

This is Singleton’s first year in a new defense, so expectations for this season may not get much higher than that. If for whatever reason things don’t work out with the Eagles though, or in the NFL period, he has options.

“I had to take the opportunity still being young, only being 25 and my fifth year being a pro,” Singleton said. “Canada, it’s still there for me. I can always go back, but if I would’ve signed another contract up there, in three years at 28, I wouldn’t be able to have this opportunity.”

No matter what transpires, Singleton — a native of Thousand Oaks, California, just outside Los Angeles — is confident he made the right decision to return to the states.

Just don’t mistake Singleton for creating an out or setting easily attainable goals. He went to Canada to make a name for himself, but he beat the odds while there and became a great player overnight.

What’s preventing him from doing the same for the Eagles?

“You want to be a starter, be an All-Pro player, win a Super Bowl,” Singleton said. “I don’t think you should be out here unless those are your objectives.

“If you just put minimal goals on yourself in the long run, you’ll shoot yourself in the foot. I think big picture. Shoot for the stars.”

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Fletcher Cox spills details from Eagles D-line getaway at his ranch

Fletcher Cox spills details from Eagles D-line getaway at his ranch

Eagles defensive tackle Bruce Hector grew up in Tampa, Florida, and went to college at South Florida. Bruce Hector is 6-foot-2, 296 pounds. 

Bruce Hector had never ridden a horse. Of course he hadn’t. 

That changed in May when Fletcher Cox hosted most of his defensive line teammates at his ranch in Texas. 

Hector and Derek Barnett rode horses for the first time. The guy shot skeet — “everybody sucked at first until about 20 minutes into it,” Cox said — and Malik Jackson, whom Cox affectionately referred to as a “Cali Kid” got to spend some quality time with mosquitos and flies. 

It was one of those things, it was very important to me that I did that, to let those guys know ‘hey, I’m here for you, let’s all get together and get it done,’” Cox said. “Once the guys got there, we had everything laid out, food, places to stay. And guys enjoyed it.

In addition to all the activities Cox’s ranch has to offer, the Eagles’ defensive linemen also worked out together while trying to stay safe during COVID-19. 

Aside from the horses who had to support 300-pound linemen, the real MVPs of the getaway were Stephanie and Sue, two women who work on Cox’s ranch and were in charge of making sure everything was clean for the Eagles as they got together during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Eagles’ Pro Bowl defensive lineman said Stephanie and Sue “really stayed on top of it.” 

“I asked them, ‘hey when guys wake up go in their room, make sure you’re spraying everything down, make sure you’re washing the bedspread, making sure that everything is getting sprayed every day,’” Cox said. 

And they did. 

Aside from that, the only people working out on the fields were Cox and his teammates. In an offseason where the Eagles lost all of OTAs and minicamps, Cox felt like he had to step up and get the group together. Without those workouts, the Eagles’ defensive line wouldn’t have been together until training camp this month.  

“I knew I had the place to get all the guys down to my place in Texas,” Cox said. “I reached out to all the guys. I told the guys, ‘hey if you feel safe coming down, let’s all get together as a group, as a D-line unit and try to knock some things out.’ Let’s get a couple days where we can get some work in and just kind of hang out and be around each other.”

Cox, 29, has really grown into his role as a leader on the team, similarly to Carson Wentz, who got a group of receivers together this offseason in Houston. 

On Wednesday, Cox said the defensive line will need to lead the Eagles in 2020 and he’s probably right. That makes his role even more important. He’s the leader of the group that has to lead the team. 

Give him a lot of credit for getting his teammates together during a difficult and unusual offseason. Give that horse a ton of credit too. 

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John Hightower patterns his game after 1 particular NFL star receiver

John Hightower patterns his game after 1 particular NFL star receiver

If there’s one NFL receiver Eagles 5th-round pick John Hightower patterns his game after it’s Stefon Diggs. 

Throughout the last few months, I’ve heard Hightower say that several times, both before and after he got drafted. But on a Zoom call last week, I got a chance to ask Hightower a question. 

Why Diggs? 

“Stefon Diggs’ routes are phenomenal,” Hightower said. “He makes great cuts, he catches the ball very well. He’s an intelligent player.” 

Fair enough. 

While Diggs has never been a Pro Bowler, he has become one of the best and most consistent receivers in the NFL, known for his route-running and technique. 

Like Hightower, Diggs was a 5th-round pick. Diggs came out of Maryland in the 5th round in 2015, made an immediate impact as a rookie and put together five really impressive seasons in Minnesota before getting traded to the Bills this offseason. 

Take a look at the comparison between Diggs coming out in 2015 and Hightower this season: 

Aside from their physical similarities and getting drafted in the same round, Hightower and Diggs both grew up in the same area, in the DMV.

Diggs is from Gaithersburg, Maryland, and went to Our Lady of Good Counsel and Hightower is from Landover and went to Riverdale Baptist. 

“It’s really good to see that,” Hightower said of watching a guy from his area make it the way Diggs has. “Obviously someone from the area making it to the place the Stefon Diggs made it to. Pretty much growing up everybody knew Stefon Diggs was going to be who he is today. It was great to see him from high school to college and then now in the league to still do what he’s been doing.”

Hightower hopes to continue following Diggs’ path. 

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