And The Winner Is …
2023 Season Preview Series: Which Fringe Player Will Be "All-NovaCare MVP?"
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final story in a 15-part series by Inside The Birds’ Geoff Mosher and Andrew DiCecco previewing the 2023 Philadelphia Eagles season. In Part 15, they identify this year’s “All NovaCare MVP” from training camp).
Geoff Mosher: WR Joseph Ngata
The flashy, most prolific fringe roster player at training camp – a player once dubbed “All Lehigh” when the Eagles held camps at the pristine college campus – is almost always an offensive position player.
In my nearly 20 years of covering the Eagles, I can recall a slew of “All Lehigh” – now “All NovaCare” – performers at either wide receiver or running back, from Hank Baskett to Henry Josey, Lorenzo Booker to Greg Salas, and countless others.
After much deliberation, I’ve decided that this year’s All-NovaCare MVP will be rookie free-agent wide receiver Joseph Ngata, a Clemson product with tremendous athletic traits, the kind of tantalizing size-speed attributes that make fringe players jump out in camp practices and preseason games.
Ngata was a five-star recruit to powerhouse Clemson and clocked a 4.54 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, an excellent time for a 6-foot-3, 217-pound receiver.
Ngata endured some injuries at Clemson, including an abdominal injury and foot injury, and never lived up to his five-star billing, but he’ll look spectacular in shirts and shorts against third-string corners this summer.
He might even pull a Marken Michel and reel in a bomb of 70-plus yards in a preseason game.
The California native will make enough splashy plays to get fans all geeked up with anticipation – and ready to dial into sports-talk radio when the Eagles inevitably waive him at the cutdown date.
But it’ll be a fun few weeks while it happens.
Andrew DiCecco: Ben VanSumeran
Geoff’s choice harkens me back to the sweltering days sitting in the bleachers aligning Lehigh University’s Goodman Campus, a perennial summer destination during the Andy Reid regime, where I was often sought refuge in between two-a-day practices to abstain from the unrelenting sun.
Like Geoff, I also recall the likes of Andy Hall, Lorenzo Booker, Michael Gasperson, Bill Sampy, and Andy Studebaker catapulting from the depths of the unknown to training camp fodder over the years.
And who could forget Trevon Grimes, the undrafted Florida wideout from two years ago, who many fans depicted as the sleeper of his class, his name included in various post-draft roster projections before ever taking a snap.
Last summer, it was wide receiver Deon Cain who fulfilled the role of preseason wonder, leaving many fans clamoring for his spot on the 53-man roster.
To that end, I can absolutely envision Ngata taking the crown of All-NovaCare MVP.
But for me, I feel the hype will inevitably surround a fresh-faced first-year player occupying a position of need: rookie free agent linebacker Ben VanSumeran.
VanSumeran, who also happens to be vying for a spot at the team’s shallowest position, brings with him a gaudy tackle total – on the heels of his lone season of production – and head-turning testing numbers at Michigan State’s Pro Day, including a 42.5-inch vertical leap, 10-foot, 11-inch broad jump, 29 reps on the bench press, and a 4.40 40-yard dash.
His sideline-to-sideline speed and seemingly boundless energy seem like the ideal concoction to generate preseason buzz.
Given the team’s listless positional outlook and VanSumeran’s measurables, it’s easy to see how quickly he could become the apple of Eagles’ fans eyes.
In many ways, VanSumeran represents intrigue and hope at a position in dire need of young building blocks.
It’s worth mentioning, however, that despite his inherently athletic traits, VanSumeran started just 13 collegiate games (two at Michigan, 11 at Michigan State) during his time and it wasn’t until the 2022 season that his production warranted an NFL look.
For VanSumeran to stick, his athleticism must translate into on-field production while his instincts — perhaps his most glaring drawback — unequivocally need refining.
– Geoff Mosher (@geoffpmosher) is co-host of the “Inside the Birds” podcast and Senior staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com. Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
Follow the whole series:
Part 1: Most impactful rookie
Part 2: Biggest second-year player impact
Part 3: Breakout 2023 performer
Part 4: Most significant free-agent addition, offense
Part 5: Most significant free-agent addition, defense
Part 6: Strong position, offense
Part 7: Strongest position, defense
Part 8: Most poised for decline
Part 9: Biggest individual concern
Part 10: Biggest team concern
Part 11: Best camp battle, offense
Part 12: Best camp battle, defense
Part 13: Most improved player
Part 14: Three fringe players to watch
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