By Ed Benkin

PHILADELPHIA (CBS)–The Eagles rookies are all getting a chance to start on an even playing field.

On Friday, the team kicked off a weekend rookie mini-camp in South Philadelphia.  All eight of the Eagles draft picks are in attendance along with a host of undrafted free agents.  Coach Doug Pederson had a message for the newcomers when they first arrived at the mini-camp.

“We’re excited to get the rookies in here this weekend,” said Pederson.  “My message last night to the rookies was that I played 14 years and I was an undrafted free agent.  So stick to it, work hard and show us what you can do here.  Great things are going to happen.”

Greatness is expected for Derek Barnett.  The first round draft pick is expected to make an immediate impact on the defensive line.  Barnett may get a chance to work on both sides of the line and was also given some work with the special teams on Friday.  Barnett is more than willing to do whatever it takes to help the Eagles in 2017.

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Credit: Ed Benkin

“I’m trying to play anywhere I can help contribute,” Barnett said.  “Anywhere there’s a need, I’m willing to play that position.  I played both sides in college.  To me, defensive end is defensive end.  If you can play, you can play.”

While Barnett won’t have to worry about earning a roster spot, the undrafted free agents know the odds are against them making an NFL roster.  One undrafted player looking to open some eyes this weekend is Corey Clement.  The rookie running back played his college football at Wisconsin, but played his high school ball in Glassboro, New Jersey.

“High school wasn’t full of all of the distractions,” said Clement.  “I was enjoying myself in high school just going out every day and enjoying it.  Now I’m here.  It’s a dream come true and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

Rasul Douglas is one rookie who could be battling for a starting sport in the defensive backfield.  With the Eagles thin at cornerback, Douglas may have a chance to earn one of the top spots on the depth chart. However, Douglas knows there is a lot of work to be done before he can worry about beating out the veterans for a starting role.

“I need all of it,” Douglas said.  “I need every rep and every connection I can get right now to reach where I want to reach.”

As the rookies begin work on the practice field, one veteran’s name has surfaced in recent reports concerning a contract situation.  There is speculation Defensive End Brandon Graham wants to restructure his deal, but Pederson said he is not worried about any issues with Graham.  However, Pederson could not guarantee Graham would be at the team’s voluntary OTA later in the month.

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Credit: Ed Benkin

“I love Brandon,” said Pederson.  “Obviously, Brandon and I have got a great relationship.  This is a voluntary off-season program.  This is out of my hands, but he’s a guy that’s valuable to the football team and I’m not worried about him at all.”


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