Philadelphia Eagles: Celebrating Craig James’ underrated three-year run

(Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images)
(Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images) /

Though training camp is still a few days away, the Philadelphia Eagles are already making moves.

Mind you, they didn’t trade for Jesse Bates III or any of the other hypothetical players they’ve been connected to or make any radical moves like that.  No, Howie Roseman is making moves on the margins, in this case releasing veteran cornerback Craig James in the hopes that he can latch on elsewhere before the season opens up.

Wow, think about that qualifier for a moment – veteran cornerback; I’m old enough to remember when James was a scrappy young cornerback from a small school no one had heard of hoping to latch on as a special teamer. Goodness, how things can change.

So, as Craig James looks for work elsewhere, why not take a look back at his career with the Philadelphia Eagles and see just how we got here? I mean, what better way to celebrate a vastly underrated run?

Craig James made an impact with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Initially signed as a UDFA out of Southern Illinois, James began his career as a member of the Minnesota Vikings, where he played in the Mike Zimmer scheme that Jonathan Gannon also came up in.

Though he didn’t play much, appearing in just three games without a single defensive snap during his 2018 rookie season, James played 25 snaps on special teams and clearly caught the eye of someone in the Philadelphia Eagles’ oeuvre, be that Howie Roseman, Dave Fipp, or someone in the scouring department in the hopes of fortifying their depth chart with versatile cornerbacks who can also provide value on special teams.

If that was the goal, then James delivered.

Appearing in 14 games with one start after being signed to the practice squad and eventually on the 53-man roster in September, James played 68 snaps on defense and 237 on special teams – good for eight and 61 percent of the team’s total snaps – and would see himself elevated to a team captain in 2020 thanks to his efforts in the third phase of the game.

… but then, things took a turn for the worst. After starting out the season on IR, James appeared in four games starting in mid-October before once again suffering an injury that found him on IR once more. He was retained heading into 2021 but because the coaching staff had been near-totally overhauled, with both his defensive backs coach and his special teams coordinator changed, any advantage he had going into the season was wiped away. James was ultimately beat out for his roster spot by Andre Chachere and he spent the entire season on the practice squad.

With a slew of new defensive backs added to the roster in free agency, undrafted free agency, and via the waiver wire, the prospects of having James compete for a roster spot he was very unlikely to win just felt unnecessary for all parties involved; better to have a chance to sign elsewhere now and prove his mettle now than hope to latch on in September.

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Will it work out for Craig James? Will he find a new home and earn a special teams captainship once more, or will he struggle to find a new home that appreciates his talents? Either way, there will surely be a spot available to him on the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice squad as a worst-case scenario baseline, as his abilities and efforts are much appreciated in this part of the football world.