Cox photo

The Eagles' Fletcher Cox (91) celebrates after sacking Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo on Nov. 11 in Philadelphia.

Michael Perez

PHILADELPHIA - The Eagles are getting a lot of use out of their 2012 draft class.

Five rookies will be in the starting lineups and three others are scheduled to get significant playing time when the team tries to snap a six-game losing streak against Carolina on Monday night.

Running back Bryce Brown, quarterback Nick Foles and right tackle Dennis Kelly will start on offense against the Panthers. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and outside linebacker Mychal Kendricks will be part of the starting defense, as usual. In addition, cornerback Brandon Boykin, defensive end Vinny Curry and wide receiver Damaris Johnson are expected to play key roles.

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"There really is no substitute for experience," offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. "And some of the players are certainly accumulating some of that very quickly here."

Here's a look at the eight rookies who will try to help the Eagles beat the Panthers.



Quarterback Nick Foles (third-round draft pick): In a perfect world, Foles would have spent the entire season on the bench behind Michael Vick. He was thrust into the lineup when Vick suffered a concussion against Dallas on Nov. 11 and will make his second straight start against Carolina.

As expected, he's had some ups and downs since taking over for Vick. He threw his first touchdown pass, a 44-yarder, to wide receiver Jeremy Maclin against Dallas, but Maclin didn't catch any passes in last Sunday's loss at Washington.

Like Vick, turnovers have been a problem for Foles. He's thrown three interceptions and lost a fumble in six-plus quarters. He's also only completed 55.1 percent of his passes.

Tackle Dennis Kelly (fifth round): He was also supposed to be a backup this season, but that was before the offensive became decimated with injuries.

Kelly got his first NFL start against Atlanta on Oct. 28 at right guard in place of second-year starter Danny Watkins, who remains sidelined with chronic ankle soreness. Until that game, Kelly's only experience at guard had been in a preseason game. He was a tight end in high school and a tackle in college.

After seeing him struggle to make the adjustment, the Eagles finally moved him to right tackle last week, where the 6-foot-8, 321-pounder can take advantage of his size and athleticism.

Running back Bryce Brown (seventh round): Brown gets the call in place of Pro Bowler LeSean McCoy, who suffered a concussion against the Redskins.

He served as McCoy's primary backup for the first 10 games, rushing for 141 yards on 32 carries (4.4 yards per carry) and catching one pass for 8 yards. He's been working hard on his receiving skills since training camp and should catch a few passes Monday while sharing playing time with second-year running back Dion Lewis.

Brown, 6-foot and 220 pounds, faces his biggest challenge as a blocker. He will be called upon to help protect Foles from blitzes.


Wide receiver/punt returner Damaris Johnson (free agent): Johnson has been terrible as a punt returner, averaging just 7.7 yards per return. He lost the job as the punt returner but regained it when Mardy Gilyard suffered a strained hamstring.

Johnson wasn't getting much playing time as a receiver but has stepped in and stepped up for Jason Avant, who is sidelined with a strained hamstring. Johnson had a 32-yard catch against Dallas and added a 21-yarder against the Redskins. He could have a big game against the Panthers because he has developed a rapport with Foles.



Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (first round): Cox took over as a starter in the seventh game of the season and is quietly having a solid rookie season.

He leads the Eagles' defensive line with 50 tackles and his three sacks are second most on the team behind defensive end Jason Babin's 4.

Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said Cox has faced more double-teams in recent weeks, but it hasn't slowed him down much. The 6-foot-4, 298-pounder posted a career-high 10 tackles and got a sack against the Redskins.

Linebacker Mychal Kendricks (second round): Kendricks has been inconsistent.

The strongside starter is third on the team with 58 tackles and ranks second in both tackles for losses (six) and pass knockdowns (six) but also has committed some costly penalties and other mistakes.

Kendricks did not start against Atlanta after being late to a team meeting and was penalized twice upon entering the game.


Cornerback Brandon Boykin (fourth round): Boykin's been improving as a defensive back, but has been a major disappointment as a kickoff returner.

He's spent most of the season as the team's No. 3 cornerback behind starters Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. He's been burned on occasion and has missed some tackles, but the Eagles think enough of his potential to keep him in the lineup ahead of Curtis Marsh and Brandon Hughes.

He was billed as an explosive kickoff returner but has yet to show it. He was averaging 22 yards per return before being demoted last week in favor of Brown.

Defensive end Vinny Curry (second round): A lifelong Eagles fan, he will finally get a chance to play for his favorite team.

The Neptune, N.J., native was deactivated for the first 10 games behind Babin, Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, Phillip Hunt and Darryl Tapp. He will make his NFL debut against the Panthers.

Contact David Weinberg:


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