From CFL rookie of year to Eagles camp, Marken Michel one to watch

Ed Kracz

Marken Michel doesn’t like the spotlight. So much so that, even when he signed with the Eagles in the offseason, he didn’t tell anyone in his family, with who he is close and includes his older brother and self-described best friend, New England Patriots running back Sony Michel. Instead, he put the news on Twitter.

“He was kind of upset about that,” said Michel about how Sony saw the news. “He was like, ‘We in the same household, you not going to tell me?’ But he understands. He knows how I am; he got over it.”

If Michel has a training camp similar to the spring practices and minicamp he had, he may need to get used to the spotlight.

The 25-year-old free agent from the University of Massachusetts by way of the Canadian Football League may have stood out more than any of the other pass catchers vying to be the fifth or sixth receiver on the roster. He got plenty of first-team reps with Carson Wentz and the two showed a real chemistry together, hooking up on several throws, including a couple deep ones.

“Carson just throws a damn good ball,” said Michel. “It just doesn’t get any better than. As a receiver you can put a blindfold on, put your hands up and the ball’s probably going to hit you in the hands. He’s a great quarterback.”

Michel, who went undrafted in 2016 but spent training camp with the Minnesota Vikings before being released at the end of camp, also returned punts for the Eagles this spring.

Head coach Doug Pederson has taken notice of Michel, the coach calling him “another young explosive player that we didn’t really know a lot about.”

The Eagles found Michel, who is 5-11, 190, in the CFL, where he played two seasons with the Calgary Stampeders.

He signed with Calgary two years ago and played well enough to get nominated for the CFL’s West Division rookie of the year after collecting 780 yards receiving with three touchdowns. Last year, he had 31 catches for 435 yards and five TDs in just 11 games, but he was placed on six-game injured reserve with a broken scapula and wasn’t able to play in the Calgary’s win in the Grey Cup – Canada’s version of the Super Bowl.

Exactly what led Michel to Canada?

“Honestly it was just my love for the game,” he said. “I had the mindset to just keep playing, to keep going, not to be stagnant, not to stay still, and it was a great opportunity for me up there. I had a great time. I appreciated the Calgary organization for allowing me to go out there and showcase my talent and win a championship while I was up there.”

Michel so enjoyed his time north of the border that he had to think long and hard about accepting the Eagles’ offer after they had him in for a tryout. Obviously, he accepted.

“I was like, man, God opened the door,” he said, “let me see what I can do with this.”

The CFL is a bit different than the NFL. For starters, it is 12-on-12 and the field is wider.

To Michel, it’s still the same premise, though.

“I can only speak as a receiver, when you run your route and the ball’s in the air, you catch the ball and you score,” he said. “That’s all you’re thinking about. You’re not thinking about what league you’re in, you’re not thinking about the size of the field, you’re not thinking about different opponents, you’re just thinking about when the ball’s in the air catch it and score.”

The Eagles feel the same way.

“It doesn’t’ matter what league you’re in, college or pro, there are certain standards and rules on how you get open and the techniques you coach at the beginning of the route, the top of the route and how you make a contested play,” said Eagles receivers coach Carson Walch. “I think there’s a lot of carryover no matter what league you’re in.”

About Michel, specifically, Walch added: “He’s a slot receiver, but he also has some tools to play on the outside. He’s picked up the offense fairly well and he’s got a body to him where he can do some of the dirty work in blocking, can break tackles and be a chain mover for us.”

Certainly Michel will be a player to watch once the August preseason games roll around.