Jeremy Reaves went undrafted but has chance to make Eagles

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Jeremy Reaves went undrafted but has chance to make Eagles

Jeremy Reaves may have gone undrafted, but the rookie safety was far from unwanted.

“The phone was going crazy,” said Reaves, one of 15 rookie free agents signed by the Eagles. “It was draft 2.0 for me.”

Reaves is accustomed to being overlooked. After drawing interest from multiple SEC schools, he wound up attending a mid-major due in part to an injury. Throughout the draft process, so-called experts said he was too small and too slow. The 2017 Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year wasn’t even invited to the NFL Scouting Combine.

So, when Reaves’ phone started ringing off the hook post-draft, it was unlike anything he had experienced since high school.

“It was a pretty good feeling,” Reaves said. “The feeling of going undrafted, yeah, it hurt a little a bit. But then I had another draft, and it was like, ‘You’re all calling me?’”

More than a half-dozen teams reached out after the draft. The Eagles ultimately won the Reaves sweepstakes, luring the 22-year-old with $30,000 in guarantees.

That may turn out to be a small price to pay for an unheralded prospect with Reaves’ pedigree and versatility.

This was not the first time the South Alabama product was heavily recruited. LSU, Mississippi State and Memphis were among the programs that had interest in Reaves until fate intervened.

“I didn’t get hit, I didn’t hit anybody crazy,” said Reaves. “I just woke up one day and was walking around and my back started hurting.”

Doctors told Reaves he had an L5 lumbar fracture and wouldn’t be able to play football for over a year, if at all.

“I wasn’t really sure if I was supposed to play again,” Reaves said. “It was the middle of my senior year, they said 12 months and then rehab. I was looking at missing pretty much my freshman year of college, and then having to miss a lot more time the following spring.

“It was very uncertain. I didn’t know what was to come.”

Neither did recruiters. Six weeks later, Reaves suddenly felt better and was back on the field, but the damage was done. Interest in Reaves waned until only South Alabama was left.

In a strange way, the injury may have done Reaves a favor. He admits the success started to go his head.

“It sat me down and made me realize that I was taking the game for granted,” he said.

“I have a story, and I try to tell guys all the time, appreciate everything that you’ve got. Appreciate every practice, appreciate every lift. You’re not guaranteed anything.”

South Alabama was also the perfect place for Reaves’ star to shine. After beginning his college career as a cornerback, he moved to the “rover” safety position halfway through his junior season and became the focal point of the defense.

Reaves racked up 104 total tackles, 7.0 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, eight pass breakups and three interceptions as a senior on his way to Defensive Player of the Year honors. He developed a reputation as a ferocious hitter along the way as well.

“That comes from me just being doubted my whole life,” Reaves said. “Everybody saying that I’m too small, or my hands are too small, my arms are too short, I’m too slow, I don’t have the structure to play in this league.

“I’ve thought about that and every time I hit somebody. It’s to show don’t doubt this 5-foot-10 1/2, 205-pound body. It’s coming whistling behind you.”

All those experiences have led Reaves to this point with the Eagles, where he walks into a great situation. The depth chart is wide open behind the starting safeties, and while the club added three more after the draft, Reaves was easily the most notable. 

Reaves has a perfect mentor in Malcolm Jenkins, too, from the standpoint he could fill multiple roles in the secondary.

“I can’t wait to get under (Jenkins’) wing and get some of his wisdom and learn how he’s developed in this game and this league,” Reaves said. “I think he’s definitely somebody that they can see me emulating. That’s definitely somebody I can see myself emulating. He’s a ball player. The film speaks for itself.”

More than the money or the chance to compete for a roster spot, Reaves said there was something else that drew him to the Eagles.

“I could just tell the culture here is everything I’m about,” said Reaves, who works with the same trainer as Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills. “I’m a winner. That’s something inside of me that will never burn out.

“That was a selling factor for me. There’s a reason they won the Super Bowl.”

Breaking down 6 young Eagles Doug Pederson is impressed with

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Breaking down 6 young Eagles Doug Pederson is impressed with

On Thursday, before the final practice of the long spring, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was asked if there were any players lower on the depth chart who have stood out over the last few weeks. 

Pederson started by mentioning some players who came into the league last year. Eventually, he named six guys. 

Let’s take a look at each of them. 

Rashard Davis
The first name to come out of his mouth. Not bad for a first-year player from James Madison. Davis is 5-foot-9, 175. The receiver also has the ability to return, something we’ve seen him do since he’s been with the Eagles. 

Davis was signed as an undrafted free agent a year ago and spent most of the 2017 season on the practice squad. He was signed to a futures deal after the completion of the season. 

At JMU, Davis was a standout receiver and returner, on his way to being named an FCS All-American. Davis returned four punts for touchdowns and had 42 catches for 530 yards and three more touchdowns as a receiver. 

With the Eagles, he faces an uphill battle to make the roster, but they seem to like his versatility. 

Greg Ward
Pederson mentioned Davis and Ward in the same breath and it’s easy to see why. Both are smallish slot receivers who were a part of the same undrafted class. Ward’s story is slightly different though. At 5-11, 186, Ward was a prolific quarterback at the University of Houston but is making the transition to receiver at the NFL level. 

He was signed as an undrafted player last year and spent the season on the Eagles’ practice squad, at times taking over scout-team QB reps to imitate mobile quarterbacks. 

While at Houston, he proved to be a dual threat. He was a good passer, but his legs made him dangerous. This spring, Ward got some run with the first-team offense and the Eagles seemed to like his trick-play potential. This past week, we saw the offense run some trick plays with him, where he became the passer. On one, he even threw the ball to Nick Foles, sort of like the Philly Special. 

Shelton Gibson 
Last year, Gibson was a fifth-round pick out of West Virginia, but he didn't get to play a ton. He caught just two passes all season and they came in that regular-season finale against the Cowboys. 

But Gibson has looked good this spring (see story). That's a really good sign because he had a terrible spring and terrible summer as a rookie. It was probably in part because he came from a really simple college offense and had to pick up the Eagles' complex scheme. 

This year, he's thinking less and making more plays. 

Rasul Douglas 
It seems a little weird to put Douglas on this list after he was a third-round pick a year ago and then started five games in the Super Bowl season, but he’s buried on the depth chart. 

The thing that hurts Douglas is his body type. He’s strictly an outside cornerback. So while Sidney Jones, De’Vante Bausby and D.J. Killings have gotten first-team reps in the slot, Douglas is planted firmly behind Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby at outside corner. He’s probably behind Jones either way. 

That’s gotta be tough for Douglas, going from starter to being back on the bench. But he’s the perfect example of the depth this team has at the position. Pederson says Douglas has “emerged” this spring. 

Dallas Goedert
It’s no surprise Pederson is bullish on Goedert, whom he said is “going to be a nice fit for us as a tight end.” The rookie from South Dakota State had a great spring. He caught everything and is an athletic specimen. 

There’s a really good chance Goedert can be a monster in the red zone (see story).

Still, a long way to go, and we’ll see what happens when the pads go on, but there’s no reason to think Goedert can’t be a huge contributor as a rookie. 

Aziz Shittu
Probably a name you haven’t heard in a while, but Shittu has stood out as much as any defensive tackle can in non-padded practices. 

Shittu came to the Eagles as an undrafted free agent from Stanford in 2016. But thanks to that stupid college graduation rule he missed all those spring practices. That allowed another undrafted rookie (Destiny Vaeao) to get in front of him and Shittu never recovered. He was brought back to the practice squad in 2016 and then signed a futures contract before last season, but then suffered a knee injury in May and was placed on IR. 

It appears he’s healthy now and is showing some of that burst that made him intriguing to the Eagles in the first place. 

Eagle Eye: The Eagles got some really big rings


Eagle Eye: The Eagles got some really big rings

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks discuss the Eagles' Super Bowl rings. How does it compare to what Barrett got with the Steelers championship winning team in 2006? How will the players spend these coming weeks off? And the guys get you ready for the weekend.

1:00 - Eagles get their rings.
5:00 - Should Gunner and Barrett have gotten rings?
8:30 - What are those parties like?
11:00 - How hard is it to move on from last year and look ahead?
13:00 - This is when Super Bowls are won.
15:00 - Guys get you ready for the weekend with some weird news stories over this week.

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