Eagles Could Find Draft Path Back to Oregon

It was a well-traveled road back in the Chip Kelly era, but one Philly hasn't been on much since the coach was fired back in 2015
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Ah, those lazy, crazy Oregon days…Josh Huff, Taylor Hart, Brandon Bair, the love affair with Marcus Mariota.

Chip Kelly wanted them all his former Oregon players with him in Philadelphia, and nearly had them all, too. The Eagles opened their 2014 training camp with eight former Ducks on their roster, a head coach from Oregon, and a few former assistants from Eugene, too.

Mariota was never one of the Ducks posse, but it wasn’t for Kelly not trying really hard to land his former quarterback. The other three wearing Eagles uniforms in that 2014 summer, in addition to Huff, Hart, and Bair, were Jeff Maehl, Josh Kaddu, Wade Keliikipi, Casey Matthews, and Will Murphy.

As Kelly fizzled, the connection with Oregon did, too.

The Eagles have only drafted one player from Oregon since Kelly was fired with one game left in the 2015 season, and that was linebacker Joe Walker in the 2016 draft, and he didn’t come until the seventh round. The Eagles also signed an undrafted free agent that year, too, running back Byron Marshall.

Maybe that changes later this month when the 2021 NFL Draft arrives on April 29.

Oregon has some defensive backs that could be in the mix for the Eagles, beginning with safety Jevon Holland, who is a likely second or third-round pick, but has some Day 3 cornerbacks such as Deommodore Lenoir and Thomas Graham who could be in play, as could another safety, Brady Breeze, and a defensive tackle, Austin Faoliu.

Offensive tackle Penei Sewell? Well, forget him. He’ll be long gone by the time the Eagles hit the clock with the 12th overall pick.

Lenoir and Thomas both said during their pro day availability on Monday afternoon that one of the players they study is Eagles cornerback Darius Slay.

“His ability to play the slot, play the corner, move everywhere to guard the best receiver, I love that,” said Graham, who is 5-10, 193 and ran a 4.48 at his pro day on Friday.

Lenoir is 5-10, 203, and ran a 4.44.

“He’s very smooth with his transitions and he has good feet,” he said of Slay, then described himself as an outside corner.

“I feel like I’m aggressive, man-to-man, press corner,” he said. “I feel like I’m just the best at what I do.”

Holland is the best of the DB group.

He is also one of several Canadians in this draft, which includes Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard, who Holland has been working out with in Santa Anna, Calif.

Holland is 6-0, 207, and ran and tested well heading into the weekend, running a 4.46 with a 35½ vertical, 10-6 broad jump, and 19 bench press reps. His father, Robert, played and coached in the Canadian Football League, and Jevon was born in Coquitlam, B.C., while his dad played for the B.C. Lions.

“When I was younger, I didn’t realize how important it was and how much of an advantage I had,” said Holland. “I just thought he was always on my case because he was my dad and that’s what he did, but he knew what it took to get to the next level. … He knew what it took to get to (the next level) and the level of work and work ethic I had to have and put in.”

Holland opted this past season due to the pandemic, but he was the first Oregon player to lead the team in interceptions in two straight years since NFL standout Jarius Byrd in 2006 and 2007. Holland’s nine interceptions combined in the 2018 and 2019 seasons were tied for the third-most in the FBS over that span.

“I feel like I am a versatile player,” said Holland. “You can kind of put me in any system and I’m going to thrive. I want to be somebody coaches and my teammates can rely on and understand I’m somebody who can make the play when I’m out there, do my job and help the team win.”

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s EagleMaven. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.