May 14, 2024   4 MIN READ

Dark Horse Derby

Three Uphill Climbers To Make Birds 53

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We’ve reached the offseason phase when players begin to take the field and the real roster construction begins to take shape.

The oft-discussed position battles become reality.

With that, OTAs and training camp annually elicit a slew of personal favorite underdogs to follow in their bids to land a roster spot.

Recenty, on X, I asked everyone to choose their favorite dark horse to make the Eagles’ 53-man roster. Three names were among the most common replies.

Tyler Hall

GETTY IMAGES: Don’t sleep on former Raiders CB Tyler Hall to make the 53. He can play multiple spots and excels on special teams.

Gabe Hall, DL

Among the more highly coveted prospects in the undrafted rookie talent pool, Hall signed with the Eagles due to scheme fit and opportunity to compete. For those wondering, the team showed considerable pre-draft interest in Hall, meeting with the former Baylor defensive lineman at the Senior Bowl, NFL Scouting Combine, and again via Zoom. At 6-foot-6, 290 pounds, armed with explosion and power, Hall will likely be afforded every opportunity to impress.

Working in Hall’s favor is that he’s vying for a roster spot at arguably the lightest position in terms of depth. Fourth-year pro Marlon Tuipulotu has flashed in glimpses, most notably over his nine-game sample size in 2022, but hasn’t factored prominently.

Moro Ojomo, a 2023 seventh-round pick, is plenty intriguing but hardly logged enough snaps last season to form a strong opinion. He’ll be a player I’ll be paying close attention to this summer.

Hall, who can play every position on the defensive line, has length and inherent attributes that make him appealing as a developmental prospect. He’s also expected to play a hearty share of snaps in the preseason, where he could set himself apart. Consistency and coachability, however, will be critical in winning over defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

Tyler Hall, CB

Perhaps lost in the shuffle of the Eagles’ offseason additions, Hall will be a name you’ll want to bookmark and follow through the summer. Signed as a free agent following a two-year stint with the Las Vegas Raiders, Hall, who originally entered the league in 2020 as an undrafted free agent with the Falcons, was in high demand on the open market. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound cornerback, who will contend for a nickel role among a crowded room, can also play outside corner as well as safety.

A tough and scrappy defender with plus ball skills, Hall enters a position battle that includes veteran Avonte Maddox – and perhaps recently reinstated Isaiah Rodgers – for a roster spot. It’s also worth mentioning that Hall was a strong special teams player at Wyoming, boasting a career kick return average of 31.7 yards.

Hall, 25, doesn’t carry the injury concerns of Maddox nor does he face the potential of having to master the nickel role in a few short months, like Rodgers. A potentially ascending player who can provide additional value at multiple positions, Hall may not offer household name appeal, but he can play. It would be wise not to forget about him.

Shon Stephens

GETTY IMAGES: Former Ferris State CB Shon Stephens made the Eagles after a tryout at rookie camp.

CB Shon Stephens

The first thing anyone should know about Shon Stephens is that nothing has come easy for the Bakersfield, Calif., native. Still, his confidence never wavered. He’s worked for everything and maximizes every opportunity. The most recent example would be emerging from Eagles rookie minicamp with a contract after impressing as a tryout player.

Stephens, who combined for 16 interceptions over his two seasons at West Liberty and Ferris State, corralled an interception on the first of the two-day camp. He was the only tryout played signed to the 90-man roster, and now joins a jam-packed cornerback room.

The 5-foot-9, 175-pound Stephens, who blazed a 4.3 40-yard dash, will be lining up in the slot this summer, where the challengers include the aforementioned Hall, Maddox and Rodgers.

Stephens, the nephew of Steelers linebacker Joey Porter, has defied considerable odds just to get to this point, but don’t expect the 25-year-old to suddenly become complacent or shy away from the moment. That simply isn’t in his DNA.

Sure, practice reps will be scarce, and he will have to acquit himself on special teams, but Stephens should never be counted out. You can learn more about Stephens here.

– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.

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