After Redshirt Season, Alex McCalister Heavier and Faster at OTAs

Last Aug. 23, several reporters loitered in a loose semi-circle around Dorial Green-Beckham's locker, waiting for an opportunity to speak with the then-newest Eagles wide receiver. 

It was at that time when a player of about DGB's height and build walked through the semi-circle to grab something out of the locker stall. Some reporters got in their stance with readied microphones and questions. 

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Then the player turned around and it wasn't Dorial Green-Beckham. 

It was rookie defensive end Alex McCalister. As McCalister walked away chuckling, a few reporters did the same. But then the realization began to sink in. The wide receiver and defensive end had almost identical body types. 

And then the next realization: If McCalister was going to have any chance to make it in the NFL, he would need to get bigger.

The seventh-round pick out of Florida got that exact opportunity five days later when he was placed on injured reserve with a conveniently-timed left calf tear. 

"Really, it was just a redshirt year," McCalister said after an OTA practice this week, admitting he was completely healthy about two weeks into the 2016 season. While McCalister would have obviously preferred to play during his rookie season, he also admitted he "definitely" needed the extra time to get bigger and stronger. 

McCalister proudly boasted he weighed in at 251 pounds on Monday morning. 

What was he when he arrived to Philadelphia? 

"Two-thirty-nine ... and that's just lying probably," McCalister said, breaking into a wide smile. "But this morning I was at 251."

At 6-foot-6, when McCalister was 239 pounds, his pounds-per-inch was 3.06, actually lower than DGB's 3.08. After adding 12 pounds of muscle this offseason, his number has risen to 3.22, still considerably lower than the Eagles' other defensive ends (Vinny Curry 3.72, Chris Long 3.6, Brandon Graham 3.58, Steven Means 3.51, Derek Barnett 3.45 and Marcus Smith 3.35). 

"I know as far as lifting and stuff, I needed that whole year," he said. "Even last year coming into the offseason program, I needed all that to get strong." 

McCalister still looks skinny. But 12 pounds is 12 pounds. 

And the 23-year-old is convinced he put the weight on the right way. 

Upon his arrival after the draft, one of the first people McCalister was introduced to was performance nutrition coordinator Mike Minnis, who immediately tried to get the rookie on a plan. For the first two and a half months, his team actually prepared all of McCalister's meals until the rookie figured out what he should be eating on his own; then he took over. 

How did he manage putting on weight the right way? 

"Really eating consistently," McCalister said. "At first, I would eat a big breakfast and at night I would just kill myself with food. Now, just eating throughout the day. Spreading it out with the calories I really need instead of just eating at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day. That was killing me."

He needs the fuel because his workouts have become more intense as he tries to add muscle, not fat. 

In the weight room, McCalister said he really tries to focus on dead lifts, a lesson learned from assistant defensive line coach and 15-year pro Phillip Daniels. 

"Dead lifts are my secret," McCalister said. 

It's how McCalister claims that despite putting on 12 pounds, he's actually faster than he was before - "the heavier I got, the faster I felt" - and his miles-per-hour gauge proves it. 

The now-second year player said he can already feel the benefit of the extra weight during practice. He now has the strength to keep the edge on rushing plays and can run to the point of attack instead of constantly bracing for impact. 

From the time of his arrival the first day as a rookie, the Jevon Kearse comparisons have been as unfair as they have been unavoidable. Like "The Freak," McCalister is long with even longer arms. Kearse was actually two inches shorter than McCalister but was listed at 265 pounds, which was probably a stretch for most of his career. 

For now, McCalister is pretty pleased with getting up to 251 during his redshirt season. 

"It really helped me," McCalister said. "I feel like I have a big jump coming into this offseason program, just knowing what the coaches want and how they want it." 

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