The Eagles protected three practice-squad players for Week 11, all of them should be familiar names by now. The team will have defensive back Grayland Arnold, defensive tackle Raequan Williams and tight end Caleb Wilson at their disposal against the Browns if they choose to elevate them up to the active roster.
Perhaps the most intriguing player is Arnold, the undrafted rookie out of Baylor. The Texas native was a dual-sport star in high school (basketball, football) before morphing into an All-Big 12 selection at cornerback in college.
The Eagles view Arnold more as a versatile safety and special-teams player who might be able to make an impact as a punt returner. He was explosive in that role at Baylor where he fielded 12 punts for 149 yards and one touchdown during his senior year. He posted a 4.59 in the 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Arnold has been thrust into action on special teams already this season for the Eagles. The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder has played on 43 snaps over the course of three games. CBS Sports named Arnold the Eagles’ “best undrafted free-agent signing” way back in May.
Arnold is one of my favorite undrafted free agents. He may play cornerback, he may play safety. It does not matter. He has an innate ability to be in the right place at the right time and shows good athleticism. His career may begin on special teams but Arnold has lasting power.
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Eagles Have ‘Confidence’ in Greg Ward, Jalen Reagor
The numbers might not jump off the page but the Eagles feel confident in their punt returners. Greg Ward has been the main guy, with Jalen Reagor sporadically filling in. It’s clear the rookie has much to learn as he continues to get important reps at practice, ones that two separate injuries forced him to miss during training camp and early in the year. Drops and fumbles have been an issue, too.
“Why do I have confidence in these guys? We do practice, we practiced outdoors last week,” special-teams coordinator Dave Fipp told reporters on Tuesday. “We were able to do that, we’re able to get out there and hit these guys balls. I mean I’ve seen them catch balls in practice, they caught the ball well in warmups, in the pregame, all that stuff.”
Greg Ward Jr. out runs EVERYONE on this punt return. pic.twitter.com/GWBI4Pq2Or
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) March 17, 2019
Ward has fielded 11 punts for 72 yards while Reagor has taken two punts for six yards, plus another ill-fated one for DeSean Jackson that may have ended his season. Boston Scott has been the lead kick returner (11 returns for 202 yards), along with a sprinkling of rookie Jason Huntley (two returns for 36 yards) and veteran Corey Clement (one return for 22 yards).
Kick returns can be a lot of boom or bust, according to Fipp. The Eagles had no punt returns last week versus New York while Scott averaged 17.5 yards on two kickoffs.
Fipp said: “But I would say at the end of the day, a lot of it is like a boom or bust, right? You have a bunch of 20 something yard returns and then you’re hoping to pop the big one and the teams that pop the big one have the best average drive starts and the best average return yardage. But I thought our guys did a good job.”
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