Soaring to New Heights: Eagles in the NFL

Georgia Southern has had its fair share of NFL players over the years. From Super Bowl champions like Fred Stokes and Earthwind “And Fire” Moreland to Kiwaukee Thomas and the original Adrian Peterson. But never has the program had so many players in the league at the same time. In 2017, there are 10 Eagles in NFL training camps.

Several are fighting for starting positions. Although Ukeme Eligwe was the only Eagle drafted in May, undrafted free agents like Matt Breida, Younghoe Koo, and Ironhead Gallon are making waves this August for their respective teams. They join established vets like JJ Wilcox, Jerick McKinnon, Antwione Williams, and Edwin Jackson on NFL rosters. Who’s going to make it? What kind of impact should we expect from the ones that do?

 

MATT BREIDA

Matt Breida has come out of nowhere to become the talk of Niners camp. He came in as a virtual unknown to everyone who wasn’t a fan of a certain school in southeast Georgia. He’s been getting work up and down the depth chart. The team is making highlight videos of the guy and posting it on Twitter.

Even Adam Schefter went public and said Breida is a lock to make the roster despite being a UDFA. He could end up being the starting RB for the historic franchise. Eagle fans (and Sun Belt fans) know how dangerous #HeGone AKA Breida the Cheetah is. Breida felt slighted that the NFL did not get invited to the Combine and posted a monster pro day.

Very reminiscent of Jerick McKinnon’s dominating performance at the 2014 Draft Combine. Breida ran a 4.38 40-yard dash (which would have placed 2nd at the combine), bench pressed 225 lbs 23 times (3rd), had a 42 in vertical jump (1st), and a 134 in broad jump (1st). How he ended up both not getting invited to the combine, and going undrafted, remains a mystery to me. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The 49ers open their preseason Friday, August 11 vs. Kansas City. Head Coach Kyle Shanahan had this to say about Breida:

Shanahan also praised Breida, noting: “From the first day he got here, he’s attacked everything – the weight room, the film room and on the field. It’s good to see some of that pay off today for you guys.”

….

“I’m nowhere near where I want to be in the NFL,” Breida said. “I’ve told myself I want to play, get to the Super Bowl, make it to the Hall of Fame, so I’ve got to keep working.”

 

IRONHEAD GALLON


Ironhead Gallon played in the Hall of Fame Game last Thursday vs. Dallas and finished 2nd on the team in tackles with 9 total and 1 tackle for loss. Ironhead made it onto Jimmy Fallon. Although the Cardinals have Antoine Bethea, Tyrann Matheiu, Budda Baker, and Tyvon Branch at safety already. Gallon is trying to prove he’s worth carrying around as a fifth safety. He’s already seen time with the first team in practice. The Cards play the Raiders Saturday night in their 2nd preseason game.

 

J.J. WILCOX
Longtime starting safety for the Dallas Cowboys J.J. Wilcox left and signed a 2 year/$6 million deal with Tampa Bay. Wilcox is known for being a hard hitter but inconsistent in coverage at times. But he’s had a good camp at One Buccaneer Place. He’s moved up to the first team and is even making highlight reel interceptions. Wilcox might get some action early on Friday night vs. the Cincinnati Bengals.

 

YOUNGHOE KOO
Meanwhile, our former Lou Groza finalist kicker Younghoe Koo is battling it out with incumbent Josh Lambo for the newly relocated LA Chargers. So far Koo has outplayed Lambo in camp, who statistically is among the worst in th league. The Bolts might be willing to make the change to Koo. Chargers play their first game at the Stubhub Center Sunday night vs. Seattle.

 

JERICK MCKINNON
The struggles of Jerick McKinnon last year in Minnesota were not entirely his fault. The offensive line was historically bad. McKinnon is physically gifted and averaged 4.9 yards a carry his first couple years in the league. It dropped to 3.4 ypc last year. The Vikings went ahead and drafted FSU standout Dalvin Cook and signed Latavius Murray from Oakland in the offseason to shore up the RB position. Jet is now working with Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur to use his talents in open space more often. McKinnon is a good receiver out of the backfield and is now occasionally lining up in the slot. Vikings play the Bills on Thursday night.

 

ANTWIONE WILLIAMS
Williams made Tim Twentyman’s 5 under-the-radar players to watch list and is competing for a spot at Outside Linebacker. Only Antwione Williams and Tahir Whitehead are left over from last year’s linebacker group in Detroit. He has played as the SAM linebacker with the first team, alongside Whitehead and Jarrad Davis, throughout the early part of Lions camp. The coaching staff likes his 6-3 240 frame and his speed. Lions play the Colts Sunday afternoon at 1:30 on NFL Network. Which leads me to my next guy.

 

EDWIN JACKSON
Edwin Jackson is 2nd string WILL LB on the Colts first depth chart of training camp. Edwin finished last season as a starter for the Colts and racked up 66 tackles. But now with more competition from free agents Sean Spense, Jon Bostic, and Anthony Walker, Jackson isn’t a lock to start. He is a virtual lock to make the roster and still might win the starting job at one of the two ILB spots available in the middle of the Colts 3-4 defense.

 

UKEME ELIGWE

“I think he is going to be a really good player,” Chiefs’ defensive coordinator Bob Sutton added. “He loves to play. I think he has a physical presence in there. He studies—knows the game. He’s just going to get better and better. I think he has a bright future.”

Eligwe has been taking snaps with the first team in Kansas City with veteran Derrick Johnson out of practice due to an abscessed tooth. He has made the most of his opportunity. The 5th round draft pick, who lead the Eagles in tackles last year (104), is impressing the Chiefs coaching staff with his speed and football IQ. His 4.58 speed makes him the perfect type of linebacker for today’s pass happy NFL.

 

BJ JOHNSON III
Unfortunately not all of this is good news. Accompanying Breida in San Francisco is fellow UDFA BJ Johnson III. BJ was making progress in mini-camp but unfortunately suffered a partial tear of his hamstring. The used the waived/injured designation to make room for free agent WR Tim Patrick. If Johnson goes unclaimed on waivers, he will be then placed on the 49ers IR.

 

MONTAY CROCKETT
Acme Packing Company projects Crockett to not make the cut at WR for the Green Bay Packers. He has seen time at kick returner along with Colby Pearson in practice. Their first game of the preseason is Thursday, August 10 vs. Philadelphia.

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About Nick Burgess 62 Articles

M.A. in Teaching, University of West Georgia,
B.A. in Political Science, Georgia Southern University,
Triple Option fundamentalist