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Air Force veteran Chad Hall off to high-flying start with Eagles

Air Force veteran Chad Hall off to high-flying start with Eagles

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PHILADELPHIA - The Eagles' regular-season roster always includes some surprises.

In addition to the veterans and draft picks, there are at least one or two unheralded players who started training camp at the bottom of the depth chart but found a way to rise.

Chad Hall could be one of those players this season.

The former Air Force Academy player collected 159 total yards as a running back, wide receiver and returner for the Eagles in Friday's 28-27 preseason victory over Jacksonville at Lincoln Financial Field.

"They lined me up all over the place and gave me an opportunity to show what I can do," Hall said. "I really appreciate it. It felt good to get my feet wet, and now I just have to keep working hard and keep trying to make the most of my opportunities."

Hall's feet have been dry since 2007, when he was the Mountain West Conference offensive player of the year for Air Force. The 24-year-old spent the last two years fixing jets as a second lieutenant stationed at Hill Air Force Base in Salt Lake City.

If not for the black grease smeared under both eyes, Hall could have passed for a towel boy in the Eagles' locker room after the game.

At 5-foot-8 and 187 pounds, he is considerably smaller than fellow wide receivers Hank Baskett (6-4, 220), rookie Riley Cooper (6-3, 222) and Kelley Washington (6-3, 217), all of whom are fighting for roster spots behind DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant.

Hall's value is his versatility, which was on prominent display against the Jaguars. At wide receiver, he caught two passes for 60 yards, including a 57-yarder from rookie quarterback Mike Kafka that set up a fourth-quarter touchdown. He also rushed for 22 yards on two carries as a running back, averaged 21 yards on three kickoff returns and had 14 yards on a pair of punt returns.

"We thought that when given the opportunity, he could play all of those positions," coach Andy Reid said after the game.

"And I thought Chad excelled in all of them. It looked like he made good decisions as a returner. He had a nice play from the receiver position, and he ran the ball well. I thought he had a productive day."

Hall will need more productive days to make the team.

Jackson and Maclin are both talented punt returners. Cornerback Ellis Hobbs once led the AFC in kickoff returns. Cooper and Washington have an edge as receivers and are regarded as special-teams standouts.

"I don't worry about that stuff," Hall said. "I can't control the depth chart or the numbers. The fact that I'm still here is enough. I've seen guys cut on the first day, after one practice, so I'm just gonna keep working as hard as I can."

Reid said he was pleased with virtually the entire team, with the exception of the kickoff coverage units. Jaguars returners Deji Karim and Scotty McGee averaged a whopping 36.7 yards on seven returns.

There were plenty of bright spots. New starting quarterback Kevin Kolb led the offense to a pair of field goals on two possessions. Jackson and Maclin both got free for long gains during the drives. Center Mike McGlynn fared well in his preseason debut at that position, anchoring a line that did not allow a sack and opened enough holes for running back LeSean McCoy to rush for 30 yards on eight carries.

"I think we were all excited to be out there," McGlynn said. "We all feel like we have something to prove. There are a lot of people doubting us and saying we're rebuilding. We don't look at it like that. We are here to contend and in order to do that, we have to get better every time we get on the field, every opportunity."

The Eagles' defense was so good Friday, it didn't have many opportunities.

Reid and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott want to use the starters for only the first quarter.

Led by cornerback Asante Samuel and linebacker Stewart Bradley, the first-string defense was only on the field for six plays and allowed 10 total yards. In both series, the Jaguars ran three plays and punted.

"The players have been working their tails off (in training camp) and it showed," McDermott said. "I like how they came out. They played intense football and they swarmed (to the football). There's a lot of work we've got to do, but I was pleased."

So was Reid, who bought into the "new look" theme of this season's team by donning a sleek, black shirt for the game, as did the rest of the coaches.

The players, most of whom are in their early to mid-20s - the average age of the team is 24.1 years, according to Reid - displayed an enthusiastic attitude not normally seen in the preseason. Eventually, even the veterans got caught up in the excitement.

"From my standpoint, it seemed the same as (previous years)," said Reid, who is starting his 12th season as the Eagles' coach.

"I put on a new-wave, bowling-type shirt, and I went out and coached.

"But it seemed like there was great energy and confidence among the players. It was great to see the guys on the sideline who were not in the game supporting the younger guys. That was encouraging. I liked the energy. That was a good thing."

Extra points: Free-agent running back Martel Mallett was the Eagles' leading rusher Friday with 60 yards on 14 carries. Cooper topped the team in receiving with 61 yards on three catches.

Safety Antoine Smith suffered a Lis Franc sprain on his left foot Friday and was scheduled to undergo an MRI this weekend.

Safety/kickoff returner Quintin Demps left the game in the first quarter with a sprained knee. His status will be updated today.

The Eagles return to Lehigh University for three days before breaking camp Tuesday. They are scheduled to have two practices today, at 8:15 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. The wide receivers will sign autographs after the morning practice.

Contact David Weinberg:



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