Patience Might have to be the Path for Shareef Miller
Pinned to the top of Shareef Miller's Twitter page is the message "I will be elite!"
The numbers game, however, remains daunting for Miller, 23, so the second-year prospect did all he could with a truncated, virtual offseason.
For Miller, his makeshift MacGyver tools were Zoom and a work ethic.
“I thought he had a very strong offseason," said defensive line coach Matt Burke on a videoconference call on Thursday morning. "... We spent a decent amount of one-on-ones with him, and he probably sent us more (film) clips of his workouts than anyone. He would have guys just take his phone and film him doing some drills or working out."
As a rookie defensive end stationed behind proven veterans like Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry, as well as young players on the rise like Derek Barnett and Josh Sweat, more often than not, Miller didn't even dress in 2019.
The Penn State product and North Philly native, who was a fourth-round pick last year, was active for only two games and played in only one of those - Week 8 against Buffalo - on special teams.
At least a few rotational snaps seemed to be up for grabs with Curry remaining on the open market, but that all changed when Curry got past his half-brother's loss to COVID-19 and decided he wanted another go-round on Philadelphia.
The band is together again, except the brass section got even larger with the Joe Ostman returning from a torn ACL and 2020 rookie seventh-round pick Casey Toohill on hand.
Early in his own career, Curry had to wait his turn to contribute - even as a second-round pick - and that's what the now 32-year-old veteran preached to Miller and the other young defensive ends trying to crack the roster by opening the eyes of Burke and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
"Patience is the key," said Curry on a Zoom call on Thursday afternoon. "...We have a great group in our young guys and patience is the key, and always learning, always keeping your ears open, taking whatever you can take from the guys in front of you."
Burke admitted there hasn't been much to evaluate just yet in a training camp where the pads will finally go on this Monday.
Miller is in a group with Genard Avery, Ostman, and Toohill that will be competing for the perhaps the final spot on the depth chart at DE with the expanded 16-man practice squad serving as a safety net.
"We can’t have enough," said Burke. "Give me them all."
Already, however, Miller may have opened the door to getting noticed even if it's just a crack.
“He was probably the most involved of all the guys in (virtual work) saying, ‘Hey, here’s a clip I’m doing’ or ‘I did this’ or ‘What do you guys think about this?’” Burke said. “And he was very interactive with us on staff trying to use that time to get better. I think he’s coming in pretty good shape. I think that’s shown, that stuff he’s done in the offseason, and so he’s got some length. He’s got some explosive ability for us, which is nice.”
Burke, though, admitted the pads will be the ultimate judge.
“I think it’s just going to be a matter for (Miller) of when we start really practicing and putting pads on and how that shows up for him,” said Burke. “But I’d say that he had a strong offseason in terms of what we did for him to come back in the building ready to show that he’s ready to be a part of the group.”
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Monday and Friday on SIRIUSXM’s Tony Bruno Show with Harry Mayes, and every Tuesday and Thursday with Eytan Shander on SBNation Radio. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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