5 Eagles candidates to be training camp fan favorite in 2022 originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
Paul Turner, Henry Josey, Rasheed Bailey. Those names and others still hold a special place in the hearts of Eagles fans.
None of them became long-term mainstays for the Eagles but they all had a brief moment of training camp stardom.
The true age of the training camp darling is gone. Back when the Eagles held their summer practices at Lehigh University and fans could watch every session, it was easier for practice lore to grow quickly. This year, the Eagles have just one practice open to fans and it’s at the Linc. Not exactly enough time for an entire city to get behind one unlikely hero.
But through media reports, videos and select season ticket holders and sponsors in attendance, it still seems like at least one name becomes hot every August. A player will have an excellent few weeks, fight for a roster spot and have fans cheering for them the whole way. Typically, these guys are offensive skill players who come out of nowhere to wow.
Here are five top candidates for this honor in 2022:
Huntley, 24, has been with the Eagles since the 2020 season but he didn’t arrive until September of 2020 when he was released by the Lions and claimed by the Eagles. The Lions released him despite using a fifth-round pick on Huntley out of New Mexico State. But because he didn’t get to Philly until September, he played minimally in his rookie season.
But last summer, we really got to see why the Eagles like Huntley so much. He didn’t make the 53-man roster last year — he spent the season on the practice squad — but Huntley was very impressive in training camp. So he has a chance to repeat as a training camp darling in 2022.
Last summer, it seemed like Huntley was breaking off an explosive run about once every day. While the Eagles’ other running backs have burst, Huntley’s acceleration from that position really stood out. He wasn’t invited to the combine in 2020, he ran a 4.37 in the 40-yard dash at the New Mexico State pro day. That speed definitely shows up on the practice field.
WR Britain Covey
One of the Eagles’ most exciting undrafted rookies this season, Covey was an electric player at Utah. At 5-foot-8, 173 pounds, Covey is obviously undersized. He’s one of the smallest players on the Eagles’ roster and it’s fair to wonder how he’ll hold up in the NFL. But in order to hurt him, NFL players will have to hit him. And that’s not a given.
Just how dynamic was Covey in college? Well, he was a good receiver, catching 184 passes for over 2,000 yards and 11 touchdowns in his five seasons at Utah. But where he really shined was as a return man. He took four punts and a kickoff to the house during his college career. For an Eagles team that could use a boost in that department, Covey could provide it.
Of course, Covey is a tad old for a rookie. He’s 25 and missed two college seasons while on a mission trip to Chile. But that trip came between his freshman and sophomore seasons and he finished off his college career strong in 2021.
WR Devon Allen
Speaking of older rookies, this one is 27. Allen hasn’t played football competitively since the 2016 season at Oregon and his best season with the Ducks came way back in 2014. That year he had 41 catches for 684 yards and 7 touchdowns. But you’ll forgive Allen for his long football layoff. He was busy being an Olympian.
Allen is legitimately one of the best hurdlers in the world and has represented the United States at two Olympic Games. It’ll be fascinating to see how that world-class speed on the track transfers to the football field after he’s been away from it for so long.
The Eagles signed Allen this spring after Allen worked out at the Oregon pro day and then made a visit to the NovaCare Complex. The Eagles took notice of Allen when he ran an unofficial 4.35 in Eugene in April. He’s a long shot but the Eagles don’t have much to lose.
TE Grant Calcaterra
The Eagles’ sixth-round pick from SMU is coming off an impressive senior season after he returned to football following a year off. In 2021, Calcaterra had 38 catches for 465 yards and 4 touchdowns after sitting out the 2020 season with concerns about multiple concussions.
Why does Calcaterra make this list? Well, he’s a 6-foot-4 tight end with above-average athleticism who’s known for his ability to catch the football. He needs to grow as a blocker but that’s not what stands out at these practices and it won’t make him a fan favorite. Making some spectacular catches will and he has that ability as an F tight end in this offense.
While his biggest competition, Jack Stoll, is known for his steady ability as a blocker, Calcaterra was known for his ability to make impressive catches in college. All it will take is a few of them to turn heads this summer.
LB Kyron Johnson
The only defensive player on the list is Johnson, the Eagles’ other sixth-round pick. Johnson (6-0, 235) will be battling with last year’s seventh-round pick Patrick Johnson for the backup SAM position during training camp behind Haason Reddick. While it would be foolish to compare Kyron Johnson to Reddick, Johnson said he has modeled his game after the guy he’ll end up backing up in 2022.
Johnson is listed as a linebacker in Philly but he played on the edge at Kansas and will do the same with the Eagles. He had 8 1/2 sacks over his last two college seasons while playing for an absolutely awful Kansas program. The reason Johnson is on this list is because he’s an explosive athlete. He wasn’t invited to the combine but at his pro day ran a 4.40, a 6.98 time in the 3-cone and had a vertical jump of 39 1/2.
But the real reason he’s on this list is because of what we saw from Johnson at the Senior Bowl. Johnson was a late addition to the all-star event but made the most of his time there, especially in 1-on-1 drills when he worked as a pass rusher against bigger offensive tackles. The Eagles came away from Mobile impressed by his explosive qualities and I think there’s a chance those same qualities show up in training camp.
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