Jul 24, 2012, 12:36 AM EDT
While they are constantly tinkering with the 90-man roster, it’s not always the Eagles make a move of consequence in late July. This week, there might be two.
The Birds tried out four punters on Monday, including two-time Pro Bowler and former Dallas Cowboy Mat McBriar, who Reuben Frank believes will eventually sign in Philadelphia. Then on Tuesday, the team is set to host Visanthe Shiancoe, while Tim McManus of the newly formed Birds 24/7 blog reported there is also interest in Jeremy Shockey, implying a veteran addition could be on the way at tight end as well.
All of which might amount to competition for Chas Henry and Clay Harbor — or it could mean the writing is on the wall for one or both.
The news at tight end is certainly the more interesting of the two developments. Harbor had been rumored to be locked in a position battle for the backup spot behind Brent Celek since minicamps, but the only competition as of now is Brett Brackett and Chase Ford, a pair of undrafted rookies. According to Football Outsiders Almanac, the Eagles used either two tight ends or six offensive linemen 30% of the time in 2011, so it’s a fairly significant roster spot.
Harbor’s blocking is mainly what seems to be under fire, which accounted for roughly two-thirds of his snaps last year according to Pro Football Focus. A fourth-round pick in 2010, Harbor has nice size and athleticism, and it translated well the few times he was targeted on a route last season (13 rec on 19 att for 163 yds, 1 TD — via FO). However, that accounts for so little of his action, while the blocking has become a more prevalent role as the offense continues its transition to more singleback formations under OL coach Howard Mudd.
While both are into their thirties, either Shiancoe or Shockey might represent an improvement in that department. Both are more accomplished receivers as well.
After starting his career with the Giants to little notoriety, Shiancoe played the last five seasons in Minnesota, averaging 42 receptions and 485 yards. He also caught 11 touchdowns in 2009. Shockey is the more renowned — and disliked — of the two. Selected 14th overall by the Giants in the ’02 Draft, Shockey made four Pro Bowls in six seasons with New York. He’s not the threat he once was, but he still caught 37 balls for 455 yards and four TD for Carolina last year.
Given his natural abilities, it would be a shame if Harbor doesn’t pan out. Coming from small-time Missouri State though, it will not come as a huge shock either.
Things aren’t looking so hot for Henry either, who will almost certainly find himself out of a job in the wake of another signing. An undrafted free agent out of Florida last year, where he won the Ray Guy Award for best punter in the nation, Henry had a mediocre rookie season in the NFL. He ranked 29th in average distance (42.9 yds), 33rd in net average (36.9), and 25th for kicks inside the 20 (19).
The Eagles just released a rookie punter prior to the start of camp (no, I’m not looking up his name), and they tried out veteran Brad Maynard back in June, also one of the four at Lehigh on Monday. Roob says it’s likely McBriar though, who last made the Pro Bowl in 2010, but was bothered by a foot injury last season.
Obviously we generally don’t think of the punter as a big deal, that is until he’s terrible anyway. Maybe Henry can pick up with another team should he be released, but whatever improvements the Eagles can make, however minor they are, they have to consider them all.
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