Darryl Tapp and Phillip Hunt are at the bottom of the depth chart at defensive end with the Eagles. But they also know that the two players at the top of the chart aren't on the field and that means they have what every on-the-bubble player wants and needs -- a chance to prove himself.
Jason Babin and Trent Cole, the Eagles' Pro Bowl bookends at defensive end, are both sidelined by injuries and that means more reps for Tapp and Hunt, who were on the roster last year, but played sparingly. For two guys fighting for their professional lives, it's a chance they can't miss or mess up.
Both players know this is a crucial time for them, but both said they're focused on themselves, not the players around them.
“I just play ball,'' Tapp said. “It's not in my nature (to worry) because you never know in this league. I've been around long enough that from Day 1 in this league I have seen how the NFL kind of works itself out. The only thing you can do -- and I tell this to all the young cats that get caught up in the situation -- you worry about what you can control and everything else will take care of itself.”
Tapp was acquired from Seattle in 2010 and in two seasons with the Eagles he's recorded 5.5 sacks. Hunt, who signed with the Eagles last season after leading the CFL in sacks with 16, played in nine games -- he was deactivated for seven of them – and finished with two sacks.
But the competition has gotten stiffer this year –- former first-round pick Brandon Graham is another year removed from knee surgery and now the Eagles have added rookie Vinny Curry to the DE mix, drafting the Marshall product in the second round.
“I know those guys are out there, but I can only control what I do and how hard I work and how well I play,'' Hunt said. “Last year was a big learning experience for me and I need to take another big step this year. And every rep I get gives me another chance to take that step.”
Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo was non-committal about the two players' chances of making the team, saying only that “the whole group is in competition and right now they're all competing to be those top eight guys (on the defensive line).''
And now Tapp and Hunt have a better chance to compete because they're getting more chances to compete.
“Reps are reps,'' Tapp said. “No matter who it is you have to go out there and put your best foot forward. The eye in the sky never lies.”
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis on the Philadelphia Eagles from blogger Kevin Noonan, follow @CBSSportsNFLPHI.