The Eagles played 1,574 snaps last year on defense and special teams.
Shareef Miller played two of them.
“It was real tough, man,” Miller said after last year ended. “I’m a real competitor and obviously I wanted to be out there, but it wasn’t my time. My time’s going to come.”
Miller, the Eagles’ 4th-round pick out of Penn State last year, dropped another rung down the chart last week when the Eagles re-signed Vinny Curry.
Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat and Curry played 2,225 snaps last year, and now they’re all back. Daeshon Hall got 51 snaps and late-season acquisition Genard Avery got 33.
You certainly want your 4th-round picks on the field, but Miller was inactive for 15 of 17 games last year. He didn’t play in one of the two others, and he was limited to two special teams snaps in the only game he played - against the Bills in October.
And now, with the Eagles re-signing Curry, Miller is just as far down on the depth chart as he was last year.
Even farther, if you consider that Avery, acquired from the Browns for a 4th-round pick in late October, is back and likely to see an expanded role, and Joe Ostman, who would have made the team last year before he got hurt, is healthy again.
Where does that leave Miller?
The Eagles last year kept six edge rushers on the roster - Graham, Barnett, Sweat, Curry, Hall and Miller - and seven once Avery joined the team. But even six is a lot.
Hall tore his ACL on the final play of the regular season and is currently on the PUP list.
So the healthy defensive ends going into camp are projected starters Graham and Barnett, plus Curry and Sweat, along with Avery, Ostman, 7th-round rookie Casey Toohill and Miller.
“I’m excited for him in Year 2,” Graham said Sunday. “I feel like he’s been really grasping everything, and I feel like he’s moving a lot faster. I’m excited for him because he’s got that chip on his shoulder, and I know all about that. He can’t wait to show once we put the pads on on the 17th.”
But at best Miller is sixth right now out of six. Or possibly five. At worst, he could be in danger of getting cut, especially if Ostman is as productive this summer as he was last summer.
The list of recent Eagles 4th-round picks who haven't played or barely played as rookies - Donnel Pumphrey, Mike Kafka, Jack Ikegwuonu, Gari Scott, Scott Peters - doesn't augur well for Miller.
The last one who bounced back and had a nice career was 1997 4th-round pick Damien Robinson, who never played for the Eagles but had 13 interceptions in six seasons with three other teams.
So this will be tough for Miller.
Last year was tough for Miller in a lot of ways. He’s a Philly guy and attended George Washington High School in Somerton.
Riding the bench in your hometown isn't easy.
“It was kind of hard,” he said. “Being drafted in your hometown, people want to know, ‘What’s up, why aren’t you playing?’ Stuff like that. I had to explain myself. … I had a lot of people saying this and that, lot of people doubting me, but that’s cool. I just want the people who were talking like that to keep the same energy.”
Now, in Year 2, he’s facing more competition and increased odds to even make the 53-man roster.
“I gotta do it,” Miller said. “I can’t talk about it. I could say a million things I’m going to do, but (shoot), I gotta just do it
One thing Miller has going for him is an expanded practice squad.
Because of the unprecedented circumstances, the NFL and NFLPA agreed to expand practice squads this year to 16 players, and that gives the Eagles the luxury of keeping more bubble players than in a normal year. And you would imagine they’d want to keep a 23-year-old 4th-round pick in the fold.
It would mean a big pay cut for Miller - he’s due a $675,000 base salary this year and practice squad generally pays $8,000 a week or $136,000 for the full season.
Miller would also have to clear waivers for the Eagles to be able to add him onto the practice squad.
The Eagles brought Curry back because they know exactly what he can do. And that’s bad news for a young pass rusher who’s never had the chance to show what he can do.
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