Give the Eagles’ scouting department credit for one thing, they always seem to find diamond-in-the-rough wide receivers. Travis Fulgham’s emergence has been other-worldly but there have been plenty of impactful spare parts down on the practice squad. Greg Ward has turned into a top slot receiver for Carson Wentz with arguably the best hands on the roster.
Philadelphia released intriguing “all-purpose wonder” Marcus Green earlier this week but there’s another name to keep an eye on — Deontay Burnett. The former Jets receiver was first signed to the Eagles practice squad last December and immediately made his presence known after injuries ravished the receivers’ room.
Burnett hauled in two balls for 48 yards in Week 17, then made one catch for five yards in the wild-card playoff loss to Seattle. He was originally inked by the Titans in 2018 as an undrafted rookie out of USC. He has three receptions for 19 yards in two games this year but hasn’t been on the active roster since Week 4.
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Burnett Better Option Than Arcega-Whiteside
Look, it would be completely unfair to compare Burnett to Fulgham. The two players couldn’t be more different, in terms of size and physicality as well as raw athleticism.
Burnett is listed at just 6-foot and 186 pounds and lacks true breakaway speed. However, the 23-year-old is a sure-handed possession receiver who could take over the role envisioned for J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. With so much uncertainty surrounding Alshon Jeffery, Burnett could easily get called up and earn meaningful snaps down the stretch.
He does have valuable experience: 15 receptions for 210 yards in eight career games — plus he’s faced and overcome adversity having been cut, waived and re-signed five times by four different NFL franchises (Titans, Jets, 49ers, Eagles) in three short years.
“You just got to keep your head up and stay focused and keep your eye on the bigger picture,” Burnett told reporters in 2019, via NBC Sports Philadelphia. “In the back of your mind, you always know you’re talented and you always believe in yourself, you’ve just got to keep the faith and keep the vision.”
Practice Squad Review: Defense
Burnett is the only receiver on the practice squad but the Eagles have a slew of interesting call-up candidates. The team has 17 players stashed down there thanks to expanded roster sizes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The most depth lies on the defensive side of the ball.
The team made undrafted rookie defensive tackle Raequan Williams active last week and he saw 16 productive defensive snaps. They also have veteran defensive tackle T.Y. McGill and his 5.5 career sacks available in a pinch.
Want pass rushers? The Eagles have promising young defensive ends Joe Ostman and Shareef Miller, along with international pathway player Matt Leo, licking their chops for a chance to get in a game. Ex-Cowboys linebacker Rashad Smith was just signed, too.
And injuries to Cre’Von LeBlanc and Craig James have put a premium on the cornerback spot. Philly has three hybrid defensive backs waiting in the wings, including Michael Jacquet, Elijah Riley, Grayland Arnold. Jacquet, an undrafted rookie out of Louisiana-Lafayette, stepped in last week for an injured Darius Slay and held his own at corner. Arnold and Riley project as NFL safeties while excelling on special teams.
Practice Squad Review: Offense
On the offensive side, the Eagles are loaded with explosive young tight ends. The team re-signed Jason Croom and Hakeem Butler to the practice squad earlier this week, plus Caleb Wilson has been sitting down there all year.
While Burnett is the lone wide receiver prospect, there are explosive options at running back in Elijah Holyfield and Adrian Killins. Both were shooting for the fourth rusher spot during training camp and bring contrasting styles. Holyfield is more ground-and-pound, whereas Killins is lightning in a bottle.
Lastly, there are two versatile offensive linemen rounding out the depth chart. Jamon Brown — yes, his first and only call-up was a disaster — brings six years of NFL experience at the guard spot while sixth-round swing tackle Prince Tega Wanogho remains a long-term developmental project. Options galore.
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