OTA PROFILES: DENHAM, DOUGLAS LEARNING THE ROPES
The road to a productive NFL career can have many turns, we see it every year with kickers and punters, who drift in and out of the league, team to team until they finally connect.
Offensive linemen often take years to find a spot in a starting lineup.
Eagles tight end Anthony Denham is hoping Philadelphia is a place he can eventually call home.
The 6-foot-4, 235 pounder has had a rocky road to get here both on and off the field.
Denham was placed in foster care at the age of 11. His mom was dealing with drug addiction and he father was never around. Denham spent his high school days in a lonely, tough situation.
Still Denham made a promise to himself to be successful.
“I didn’t want to be poor,” Denham told ESPN in 2014 while he was trying to make the Houston Texans roster as a free agent. “I kind of lived that life. I didn’t want to struggle. I know if I kept going on that path, I would be either dead or in jail. I’m more someone who, if I set my sight on something, I’ll go and get it to the best of my ability.”
He was signed by the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent in 2014 and made the practice squad. He played college football at Utah.
He was signed by the Houston Texans, and called up from their practice squad on December 3, 2014. On September 3, 2016, he was released by the Texans.
During his time with the Texans Denham saw limited action in four games, playing special teams and coming up with two tackles.
On October 13, 2016, Denham was signed to the Eagles’ practice squad. He was released on December 2, 2016 but was re-signed on December 13. He signed a reserve/future contract on January 2, 2017.
Realizing this could be his last chance to make an NFL roster, Denham has focused on what he seems to do best and that’s catching the football.
During OTAs this spring Denham has stood out making fingertip catches in tight spaces. Obviously field situations change quite a bit when the pads come one but so far so good. Denham said the coaches have told as much.
“They’re happy with me in camp or OTA so far,” Denham told Footballstories at his locker after a recent practice. “At the end of the day, with me it’s every opportunity counts. Whenever the ball’s in the air, I have no other option but to catch the ball or fight and do my best to get the ball. That’s my main focus right now, besides learning the blocking plays, and running plays as well. But at the same time, I know I am more of a passing tight end instead of a blocking tight end. I have to take advantage of what I’m good at and be great at it.”
Denham says he knows he must learn plays and blocking techniques as he is about 30 pounds lighter than most of today’s NFL tight ends.
“Learning the plays – blocking and passing – it a big, essential, I’d say a vital point for me,” Denham said. “When teams look at me and try and stop me they ‘say, well he’s (not) a blocking tight end so when he’s in they wouldn’t fear the run. If could get better at blocking, that’s going make me a 50-50 tight end, instead of them knowing what I’m known for (now).”
Denham says he is learning patience and knows he can only work on what is in front of him.
“Right now I’m just focusing on catching the ball just because it’s spring,” he said. “But come camp, that’s when I am going to have to really focus on blocking.”
He will also likely have to knock out an incumbent. Zach Ertz, Brent Celek and Trey Burton have been a productive group over the last few seasons. Denham says he knows he has an uphill battle.
“Those are all great guys,” Denham said. “(Zach) Ertz, Trey (Burton), Brent (Celek), they’ve all been playing together and they have a good chemistry together. Just learning from them playing behind them, seeing what they do good, learning from mistakes, just getting a basic understanding of each play. Learning from them, asking questions as I go.”
Denham says he knows he in not just trying out for the Eagles, but the entire league.
“I’m getting on film, showing all 32 (NFL teams),” Denham said. “But main point is to be an Eagle.”
Cornerback Rasul Douglas was drafted by the Eagles in the third round, 99th overall this year out of West Virginia. Out of all the rookies, Douglas may be needed the most to have an impact right away.
The Birds parted ways with both starting corners from last year and will not have the services of second round pick Sidney Jones, who is out for the year with a Achilles tear suffered at a combine workout.
Douglas is long, fast and has a nose for the ball coming up with eight interceptions his senior year to lead the nation.
Douglas says he is aware of the mindset he will need to be a successful cornerback in the NFL
“When you’re a cornerback there’s no way you’re going to give up a pass, you know when you mess up…next play,” said Douglas, listed at 6-2, 209. “You have to erase that and try and get another one.”
He also said the drills are starting to slow down for him.
“I’m starting to get my feet, get more comfortable,” Douglas said. “I know more where to be, what’s going on.”
Douglas talked about what it’s like playing for Jim Schwartz in the short time he’s been here.
“I mean, he trusts you,” That’s why he brings you here,” Douglas said. “That’s you came here, that’s why he brings you here. He trusts you to play man (defense); at West Virginia I played a lot of it behind coach (Tony) Gibson. Coach Gibson and Coach Schwartz are kind of the same character. They love the game a lot, and they love to blitz and they love to play man. I like it.”
Douglas said he wants the coaches to know he hates to lose.
“You don’t want a guy who is not competitive,” Douglas said. “Because if they lose, it won’t mean anything to them. So to me, I don’t like losing, period. I just want to win every time. He (Schwartz) knows you’re out there trying to compete, he knows you’re trying to make a play.”