Eagles' Clayton working hard to earn starting gig


Monday, June 27, 2011
Posted: 2:06 p.m.
By Dave Zangaro
CSNPhilly.comEVESHAM, N.J.Keenan Clayton doesn't know what his sophomore season in the NFL will be like. Clayton's hoping to earn a starting spot as the Eagles weak-side linebacker, but because of the lockout, he just isnt sure. I hope so, Clayton said. Its what Im working toward. But I know that eventually me and Jamar Chaney will be out there together, some way, somehow.It remains to be seen if Clayton will join Chaney on the field whenever the 2011 season begins, but there they were on Monday, both on the field, working out together.Clayton, for the first time since several Eagles began training and working out at the Memorial Sports Complex in Marlton, N.J., joined his teammates to take part in several drills. The 23-year-old linebacker joined Chaney, Austin Howard, Trevor Laws, Eldra Buckley, T.J. Brennan (a hockey player from Moorestown, N.J., who is in the Sabres organization) and trainers from Power Train in Cherry Hill, N.J., on the artificial turf in the New Jersey suburb. The group did agility work in and out of cones, weight training with a sled and several rounds of sprints in a workout that lasted around 45 minutes. While Clayton has been working out throughout the off-season, Monday was the first time hes really been around his Eagles teammates. Just to get around Chaney a little bit because I know Ill be next to him on the field next year, hopefully, if we can both get in there and secure a spot, Clayton said. But just to be around some of the guys Im gonna be with, kind of like college. You work with your guys in the summer to just to see what type of guys they are on and off the field. And me just being around them a little more helps us also.The Eagles selected Clayton with the 121st selection (fourth round) in the 2010 draft and he recorded 12 tackles in seven games played, but it seems unlikely that the Birds will bring back Ernie Sims, last years starter, which seemingly opens the door for Clayton.So does he think hellget the nodon the weak side? Its hard to say, Clayton said. We have a new defense, a new coordinator. Well have to see how it goes. Im trying to play. I dont know whats going to happen or how theyre going to use me, but Im gonna give it 110 percent.Clayton has spent time this off-season training at his alma mater, Oklahoma, where he said he felt like a college kid again. The 6-foot-1, 229-pound Clayton hopes to be a starting linebacker in the NFL but acknowledged that some think hes better fit at another position.
The weak side is probably more natural to me now, but I grew up as a safety, he said. I still feel like I could do that, but to be more natural, Id be at weak-side.The lockout has been especially tough for Clayton. He wants to earn a spot, but without much experience and without knowing what to expect from the new defense and new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, he is just determined to keep working hard. It would have helped a lot to go through minicamps, but it didnt happen, he said. I learned a lot from last season, to stay more confident and it will help me out in the long run and it also helped me to make more plays. Im trying to play. Thats what I came here to do. Thats why they drafted me. Im just gonna keep working and see what happens.If Clayton isnt a starter on defense, hes determined to make a name for himself on special teams. If push comes to shove, at least I know Ill be on special teams, he said, but hopefully Ill get enough time in to get out there and make something happen on the field. E-mail Dave Zangaro at dzangaro@comcastsportsnet.com.Related: Eagles' Jordan charged with assault and batteryFrank: Most overrated and underrated Eagles: DLs

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