NFL draft 2020: Eagles’ pick Davion Taylor furiously playing catch-up in sport he loves

NFL draft 2020: Eagles’ pick Davion Taylor furiously playing catch-up in sport he loves

Davion Taylor would crack his window or open the back door just to hear the faint sound of the PA announcer. He would invite every roar from the crowd that made it to his family’s Magnolia, Mississippi home, about 2-3 minutes from South Pike High School. 

For the Eagles’ third-round draft pick, that was about the extent of his high school football career. 

Taylor, the linebacker whom the Eagles drafted with pick No. 103 on Friday night, was not allowed to play high school football because of his mother’s religious beliefs. They were members of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, which didn’t allow Taylor to participate in sporting events from Friday night through Sunday morning. 

Taylor loved football but wasn’t able to suit up. So before games, he’d sometimes clean the field, picking up water bottles and litter. And then he’d be stuck in his house, listening to the sounds of football, hoping to one day get a chance to play.  

I’d also have people at the game texting me updates and everything, like we just got scored on, we wish you was here and everything,” Taylor said on Friday night, after getting drafted in the third round. “It hurt me like not being able to get on the field, but I tried to support them as much as I can or the best way I can.

Taylor, now 21, decided to give football a real try after he turned 18. He tried out for the football team at Coahoma Community College. Taylor said he prayed on it; if he made the team, he’d play football; if he didn’t make the team; he wouldn’t. 

Taylor made the team. And after two years at the JUCO program and two years at Colorado, he became a third-round linebacker with a ton of upside. 

And with a lot of work left to do. 

“We're not drafting this guy in the third round because we don't think he's going to be a serious contributor in his rookie contract,” GM Howie Roseman said about the athletic linebacker. “We're certainly hoping that he's going to get out on the field as quickly as possible. The defensive staff coach is really excited about him, and we also think he can be a difference maker on special teams.”

It’s easy to see why the Eagles are intrigued with him. VP of player personnel Andy Weidl saw Taylor play against Oregon and his speed jumped out. Taylor ran a 4.49 at the combine and then ran a 4.39 at his pro day. 

No question there’s upside. But now it’s up to Taylor and the Eagles help him fulfill that potential. 

Taylor said he arrived to JUCO with an insatiable appetite for football. He wanted to learn everything he could. He asked questions, he watched film, he would often seek out extra help. 

Then Taylor arrived to Colorado and did the same thing. He played in 24 games for the Buffs, but is still obviously a work in progress. 

“But I still have that itch just to keep on learning,” he said, “and I feel like the more I learn the more I'm going to be able to compete and just become a better player.”

Taylor said that during the pre-draft process NFL teams wanted to make sure he wasn’t “burned out” on football after playing catch-up for four seasons. 

Not the case, Taylor says. 

“And I was just telling teams, I really want to learn the game,” he said. “I will probably get on their nerves because I will ask for extra meetings, I will ask for extra work, because I want to become a better player and I want to be on the field. So, I'm going to go do anything I can, and whatever I can do to become a great player and be productive on the field and just help bring the Eagles some wins.”

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Randall Cunningham joining Las Vegas Raiders organization

Randall Cunningham joining Las Vegas Raiders organization

Former Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham is reportedly joining the Las Vegas Raiders organization.

While Cunningham, 57, can still likely throw bombs to Raiders receivers, he'll be guiding them spiritually as the team chaplain, according to ESPN.

"I'm elated, flabbergasted," Cunningham told ESPN on Friday. "I've already been in on some [Zoom] meetings with the team. I plan on spending a lot of time with the guys when it's OK. I've talked with Marcus Mariota, Nelson Agholor. What an amazing group of people Mark Davis and Jon Gruden have put together."

Cunningham played his college ball at UNLV and coached high school football in Las Vegas for a couple of seasons a few years back.

Randall has spent much of the past few years working with daughter, Vashti, and son, Randall II, in their quest for Olympic dreams.

The former NFL MVP is highly regarded around the league and will be a solid addition to the Raiders organization. His Twitter account, which is mostly dormant, has the handle "PastorRandallC."

Randall worked with Raiders head coach Jon Gruden during his playing days in Philadelphia.

"He's going to take care of the guys in Las Vegas," Raiders owner Mark Davis told ESPN.com. "Jon had him address the team in a team Zoom [recently] and he did a really good job of setting the stage for the team in Las Vegas.

Just last week, NBC Sports Philadelphia ranked Randall as the second best quarterback in Eagles history.

If DeSean Jackson sits, Eagles have an intriguing but risky option

If DeSean Jackson sits, Eagles have an intriguing but risky option

If the Eagles are without DeSean Jackson for any or all of the next football season, which certainly seems within the realm of possibility at this point, there’s one person on their roster who has a similar skill set.

But he comes along with a ton of question marks.

Marquise Goodwin is definitely not DeSean Jackson, but at his best, when he’s healthy — which hasn’t been very often — he can do some of the same things as Jackson.

Over the past four years, Goodwin has only four fewer catches of at least 40 yards than Jackson, and in his one full season, he was among the league’s best big-play practitioners.

In their statement Friday, the Eagles made it clear that if Jackson doesn’t commit to showing genuine growth following what the team called “absolutely appalling” social media posts, he’s gone.

If the Eagles are forced to play regular-season games without Jackson, Goodwin could turn out to be a huge addition.

Jackson of course is one of the greatest deep threats in NFL history. His 31 career TDs of 50 yards or more are second only to Jerry Rice.

Over the last four years, Jackson has 13 catches of at least 40 yards — including two long TDs against the Redskins on opening day last year, his only significant action of the year. Goodwin during the same four-year span has nine 40-yard catches. Only 14 receivers have more during that stretch.

Jackson’s career average of 17.4 yards per catch is highest among active receivers and highest in the NFL over the last 35 years. But Goodwin is 5th on that list at 16.6, behind only Jackson, Josh Gordon (17.2), Mike Williams (17.1) and Kenny Golladay (16.8), with a minimum of 100 catches.

Goodwin, acquired for virtually nothing in a draft-weekend trade with the 49ers, is one of only 11 active players with more than one career 80-yard touchdown. He also has TDs of 67, 67, 59 and 55 yards.

So his resume is solid. He’s fast and he’s a deep threat. He can score from anywhere on the field.

And he’s an Eagle.

The problem is injuries.

Lots of them.

He missed four games in 2013 with a broken hand. He missed six games in 2014 with a concussion and hamstring and rib injuries. He missed 14 games in 2015 with a rib injury. He suffered three more concussions in 2016 and a fifth in 2017. He missed five games in 2018 with injuries and seven last year with a knee injury.

He’s only managed 30 or more snaps in 13 games the last two years.

The only time Goodwin played 16 games was in 2017 with the 49ers, and he had a career-high 962 yards, finished 3rd in the NFL at 17.2 yards per catch and had five 40-yard catches — 7th-most in the league.

But in his six other seasons he’s averaged 14 catches and 226 yards. He has only 35 catches for 581 yards over the last two seasons, although he does have 5 TDs.

So which Goodwin did the Eagles get? 

The one who is one of the NFL’s top deep threats or the one who’s often injured and can’t stay on the field?

The Eagles have had a hard time keeping anybody healthy lately, so relying heavily on a guy with such a long injury history is a risk.

But when it comes to stretching the field, there aren’t a lot of options.

Alshon Jeffery has 20 career receptions of at least 40 yards, but 17 were with the Bears, none since 2018. And we don’t even know when he’ll be healthy enough to play.

Greg Ward had a promising start last year but he’s an inside slot guy and had only had one catch longer than 15 yards last year, a 38-yarder against the Cowboys that set up a Miles Sanders TD.

Deontay Burnett only played 15 snaps last year and had a 41-yard catch against the Giants, but who knows if he’ll even make the team. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is more of a big-frame possession guy than a deep threat and of his 10 passes as a rookie none were longer than 30 yards. 

Jalen Reagor has the potential to be a big-play threat, but he’s still an unknown quantity, a rookie without offseason programs and perhaps without preseason games. Quez Watkins and John Hightower are speedy, but it’s never easy for late-round rookies to get on the field, more so this year.

The reality is the Eagles need Jackson on the field. A healthy Goodwin is the next-best option. But based on his recent history it’s not one they can depend on.

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