NFL

In redshirt season, defensive end Shareef Miller convinced he’s improving

In redshirt season, defensive end Shareef Miller convinced he’s improving

It would be understandable if, three quarters into what looks like a redshirt season, Eagles rookie Shareef Miller was running low on confidence. 

Instead, the opposite has happened. 

Because, sure, Miller hasn’t played a single defensive snap all season. But the fourth-round pick is absolutely convinced he’s a better player now than when he came in the league. And he thought he was pretty good before. 

“If I can get some snaps, they gonna know,” Miller said. “They definitely gonna know. There’s a lot of people out there talking. But I understand it, so stuff don’t bother me. I know what kind of player I am.”

Through 12 games, Miller has been inactive 10 times. In those other two games, he’s played a total of two special teams snaps. 

This isn’t what the 22-year-old expected from his rookie NFL season, but he’s trying to take it in stride, he’s trying to be patient. He has accepted and thrown himself into his role, which means giving the best possible look for the Eagles’ offensive line as a scout team player. 

The Philly native has heard some of his detractors. There are some folks ready to call him a bust, which is probably more indicative of society in 2019 than it is of Eagles fans or any fans, for that matter. Miller tries to not pay any attention to the noise. 

“It really ain’t my fault,” Miller said. “It ain’t got nothing to do with my ability or talent at all. It’s a numbers game. That I learned. I just gotta wait my time.” 

Starting defensive end Derek Barnett is coming into Monday’s game with an ankle injury, so perhaps there might be a small role for Miller in this game. But the Eagles still have Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry and Josh Sweat and Daeshon Hall and Genard Avery. It would be nice to see the fourth-round pick contribute, but there are a lot of bodies in front of him. 

As a scout team player, Miller has been rushing from the left side of the defensive line in each practice. That means going against Lane Johnson daily. 

Miller thinks all those reps against one of the best tackles in the game has really helped him. 

“Hell yeah,” Miller said. “Lane’s the best tackle in the league, so I go against him and get better. I talk to him about rush angles and get his feedback from what he’s seeing from me and stuff.” 

From the time the Eagles used the last pick in the fourth round on Miller, he wasn’t expected to play a very big role this season. This has basically become a redshirt season for the Penn State product. 

At times, it can be hard to stay patient. But Miller doesn’t have much of a choice. 

“I’m good,” Miller said. “I’m young, I’m a rookie, I’m only 22. Still got a lot of time. My time’s gonna come. When my opportunity comes, I’m going to make the most of it.”

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Live stream: Carson Wentz's Eagles press conference at 12:00 p.m. ET Thursday

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AP Images

Live stream: Carson Wentz's Eagles press conference at 12:00 p.m. ET Thursday

Carson Wentz takes the podium before the Eagles' Week 14 matchup with the New York Giants.

The 2-10 Giants are one of the worst teams in the NFL but with the Eagles sitting at 5-7, they can't afford to take any team lightly. Wentz is 4-1 against the Giants in his career.

Wentz and the Eagles are in the midst of a three-game losing streak and are desperately looking to rebound against the struggling Giants.

 

Derrick Gunn's 5 games to watch for Week 1 of the NFL season

Derrick Gunn's 5 games to watch for Week 1 of the NFL season

Here are Derrick Gunn's five matchups to watch for Week 1 of the NFL season.

Falcons at Vikings (Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX)

In 2018, these two teams were projected as division winners, but neither made the playoffs. New year, new hopes. The Vikings and Falcons are capable of putting up a lot of points and playing solid defense. Matt Ryan vs. Kirk Cousins should be fun to watch. The Vikes survive what could be a shootout in the dome.

Chiefs at Jaguars (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS)

Last season, Andy Reid’s Chiefs were the most explosive offense in the league — first in total offense and points. Now add LeSean McCoy to the mix and they could be even better this season. Jags fans have been screaming for a legit QB for years and now they finally have one in Nick Foles. The legacy Foles left behind in Philly is well documented. Now he looks to lead his new team to greater things. The Jags can play defense, but they won’t keep KC out of the end zone. Big Red and his red machine start off 1-0.

Giants at Cowboys (Sunday, 4:25 p.m., FOX)

The Giants have a long way to go in order to climb out of the NFC cellar. Eli Manning is trying to hold down his starting status, but how long will it last with the future in Daniel Jones waiting in the wings? Odell Beckham Jr. is not around anymore to give the G-Men's offense a dose of respectability. Down in Dallas, players like DeMarcus Lawrence, La’el Collins, Jaylon Smith and most recently Ezekiel Elliott have hit the lottery with big new contracts. Old man Jason Witten came out of his brief retirement to provide a safety valve for Dak Prescott. The Cowboys swept the season series last year, but by a total of only eight points. It should be another hard-fought division tussle with the ‘Boys standing tall in the end.

Steelers at Patriots (Sunday, 8:20 p.m., NBC)

It was strange not having the Steelers in the playoffs last season. Meanwhile, it’s become common to see the Patriots go deep into the postseason and win yet another Super Bowl. Experts say this Patriots squad could be even better than the 2018 team. Anytime you have Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger on the same field, something crazy can happen. Since he’s been with the Pats, Bill Belichick is 11-4 against the Steelers while Mike Tomlinson is 3-7 vs. the Pats. Great matchup to kick off Sunday Night Football. The Brady bunch get the W at home. 

Texans at Saints (Monday, 7:10 p.m., ESPN)

This is the first game of a season opening Monday night doubleheader. Drew Brees vs. Deshaun Watson — two very different styles of QBs but both very effective. Houston hopes its offensive line can provide protection better than it did last year when Watson was sacked a league-high 62 times. Keep an eye on two of the elite pass catchers in the game. DeAndre Hopkins finished second in the league in receiving yards in 2018 and Michael Thomas was sixth. The Texans were champs of the AFC South and the Saints won the NFC South. The Saints feel they should have been in the last two Super Bowls. New Orleans goes to 1-0 in its quest to make the third time the charm.

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