EMU notes: Chris Creighton breaks down former Eagles stars in NFL

Art Brooks
Special to The Detroit News

One former Eastern Michigan player in the NFL now has Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski as teammates.

Another will be trying for a second straight Super Bowl ring. A third will play in Las Vegas at the new Allegiant Stadium. And finally, there's a well-traveled ex-Eagle who is continuing, in his words, a unique journey.

Pat O'Connor

Coach Chris Creighton took time out to provide a scouting report on his former quartet of players, readying for training camp in July, in an email to The Detroit News:

► Pat O'Connor, DT, Tampa Bay: "Blue-collar, hard worker, has a motor that doesn't stop, loves football. Very respected as a leader (by) his teammates. He is long and had/has the ability to play with some athleticism at a high weight level."

► Andrew Wylie, LG, Kansas City: "Great teammate, totally committed to being his best. Team captain. Able to play all positions on the OL. Incredibly hard-working. Very coachable. Freak athletically. At his Pro Day he measured 6-5 (and) a few pounds over 300 ...  and his vertical jump was in the mid-30s. Crazy."

► Maxx Crosby, DE, Las Vegas: "Guys love him, great teammate. Has always believed he could be great. Went against Wylie a bunch his true freshman year and won Scout Team Player of the Year. He is so long and bends/uses his hands so well. He is so incredibly difficult to block. Relentless in his pursuit of the ball, and his ball disruption is second-to-none. He loves football and is ultracompetitive."

► Darius Jackson, RB, Indianapolis: "Amazing athlete – size, speed and ability to catch the ball. Smart and coachable. Really blossomed his senior year, was an absolute beast. His confidence is really high as he has been in the league for several years and knows he can play. Humble and confident at the same time."

O'Connor to face Lions

O'Connor's new pals – iconic quarterback Brady and standout tight end Gronkowski – have elevated Tampa Bay of the NFC South to consideration as a Super Bowl hopeful in the minds of some pundits.

Tampa Bay plays Sept. 13 at New Orleans, taking on quarterback Drew Brees. The Saints won the NFC South last season at 13-3.

The Lions drafted O'Connor in the seventh round in 2017 but cut him. He wound up that year with the Buccaneers and has also been on their practice squad.

O'Connor was in eight games last season, with six total tackles, including four unassisted. He's been in 11 games overall.

In 2020, O'Connor, 26, will earn $750,000. He'll get to go against the Lions at Ford Field in Week 16.

Tampa Bay was 7-9 in 2019.

Wylie's ready to roll

He signed a $750,000 contract in the offseason.

"Coming back with a purpose" tweeted Wylie, from Midland, Michigan, in March.

He sat out the 31-20 Super Bowl victory Feb. 2 over San Francisco at Miami Gardens, Fla.

Counting that game, when Wylie, 25, was a healthy scratch, he missed the final five contests overall, bothered by a high ankle sprain. Stefen Wisniewski, with seven years more experience, including being on a Super Bowl winner at Philadelphia in 2017, took Wylie's place as the starter.

Wisniewski has since signed with Pittsburgh, and a day after that, Kansas City landed veteran guard Mike Remmers in free agency. Whether Wylie gets his starting job back is to be determined.

The Chiefs tweeted June 5, "The coaches came back to the office today. No surprise Big Red (coach Andy Reid) was the first one in."

Wylie's reply tweet?

"I mean, who else is ready to run through a brick wall after hearing this?!?"

Maxx Crosby

Crosby is all business

Here's what he told SiriusXM NFL Radio about how he plans to follow a strong rookie season and deal with the hype that surrounds the move to Vegas: "What we need to focus on is us ... and getting to the level we need to get to, to make a serious run at it this year."

In late February 2019, Crosby turned heads at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis with his athleticism. Then came ...

Being drafted in the fourth round by Oakland as a situational pass rusher ... suffering a broken left hand in an exhibition game ... making his debut on a Monday nighter against Denver and being in on three tackles ... playing his way into a starting role ...

Getting the first of his 10 sacks, including four against Cincinnati and a flamboyant one of Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, where he mockingly did Rodgers' State Farm discount double check TV commercial move ... and finishing second to San Francisco end Nick Bosa for NFL defensive rookie of the year.

Crosby's stats in 16 games, including 10 starts: four forced fumbles, four passes defensed, 47 total tackles of which 36 were unassisted, 16 tackles for loss and 14 quarterback hits.

Bosa's numbers: 16 games, one forced fumble, 42 tackles of which 27 were unassisted, nine sacks, two passes defensed and one interception.

He won over Crosby, 43-4, in balloting by a national media panel for the Associated Press. The Raiders were 7-9 last season, San Francisco 13-3.

Crosby, 22, will make $585,000 this season.

And here's a closing tidbit on Maxx, a dog lover who has his own trading card, in a tweet ... "Almost 12 Pounds At Birth ... So My Mom Decided To Throw Another X On."

Darius Jackson

Jackson still competes

 He was a sixth-round pick by Dallas in 2016. Jackson's been with the Cowboys three times, Green Bay, Cleveland, Tampa Bay and is in his second stop with Indianapolis.

Jackson, 26, has been in four games in his career, running six times for 16 yards and returning four kickoffs for 90. He has a $750,000 deal for this season.

“My journey is unique, and I appreciate every part of the process," Jackson said in an email to The News. "The NFL is an opportunity-based business, and some opportunities are greater than others. Just blessed to be going on year five in this league regardless of the team.

"It’s a feat many have not accomplished. I continue to push myself and stay resilient season-to-season based off of my personal end goal. That goal is to leave the game with my name ingrained somewhere in the history books. When I do that, I will be satisfied."

Where does he see himself fitting in?

“Honestly my role is to just be the best player I can be in every phase of the game," he said. "First and foremost, be the biggest impact player on the field as a running back whether I have the ball in my hands or not. Secondly, do my job to the highest level on special teams. The rest will take care of itself.”

And other ex-Eagles?

Two players signed free-agent contracts.

Cornerback Kevin McGill landed with the Los Angeles Chargers, and offensive lineman Steven Nielsen is with Jacksonville.

McGill was a captain in 2019. Nielsen played mostly left tackle at EMU and grew up near Copenhagen, Denmark.

Since 2015, 19 Eagles have signed free-agent or mini-camp deals.

... Former receiver Sergio Bailey was with the Los Angeles Wildcats of the XFL when it folded in April.

... Denver waived Ka-John Armstrong, a tackle, in April.

Art Brooks is a freelance writer.