Steven Means Continues to Push for Roster Spot, Impresses in Preseason Opener

With Marcus Smith out for Thursday's Eagles preseason opener, Steven Means made the most of his opportunity. 

The journeyman defensive end finished with a tackle, a sack and a forced fumble in the 17-9 victory over the Buccaneers -- and his biggest contribution didn't even show up on the stat sheet.

Means forced his way into the backfield on a 3rd-and-9 pass in the second quarter, making Bucs quarterback Mike Glennon move off his spot. While Glennon managed to escape his pursuer's grasp, the end result was an ill-advised heave downfield that wound up going for a Chris Maragos interception.

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"The inside guy told me he wanted me to come inside so he could wrap around me," Means said describing the play.

"Got there, didn't make the sack, but I've got great teammates on the back end and Chris Maragos was able to save me and come out of there with the interception."

Plays and overall performances like these obviously enhance Means' chances of making the team, especially when Smith -- his primary competition for a roster spot -- wasn't even able to suit up because of a concussion. The second-year veteran isn't looking at the situation like that though.

This time around, Means doesn't feel his success is coming at the expense of a teammate. It's coming at the expense of offenses.

"Maybe a couple years ago I would probably say something like that, but this year I've got a different mindset," said Means. "I'm not competing with any specific player on defense. We're all defense. I'm competing against whoever I line up against.

"If I handle my business that way, I feel like I'll be good."

Already with his fourth NFL team since he was drafted by the Bucs in the fifth round out of Buffalo in 2013, Means is no stranger to these training camp battles. The 6-foot-3, 263-pound pass rusher was signed by the Eagles last December after stints on the Ravens' and most recently the Texans' practice squads. 

With defensive depth a little lacking for the Eagles, Means has a legitimate shot at not only cracking the club's 53-man roster, but carving out a regular role in the rotation.

"It was a blessing," Means said of his Eagles debut. "I thank God for being able to have another opportunity after bouncing around so much, and he really blessed me to be here at this time."

Means called the wide-9 front employed by defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz "the best system to fit me," and it's hard to argue. The 25-year-old was having a strong camp already, and it seems to have carried over with a disruptive preseason opener.

The Eagles already have a deep rotation at end between Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry. However, the team will carry at least four, if not five ends, and while Smith entered camp ahead of Means, that's certainly subject to change. The 2014 first-round draft pick disappointed his first two seasons in the league and was considered far from a lock prior to his injury.

Of course, Smith hasn't had an opportunity to show what he can do in the new scheme yet, and Means admits he still has plenty of work to do.

"I need to capitalize," said Means. "I got to the quarterbacks a couple of times, I just need to finish. Condition more, I was a little winded out there. I've got a lot to improve on."

Despite being in the league since '13, Means has appeared in just 11 games, recording six total tackles. If he continues on this current trajectory however, he might be heading toward more than a spot at the end of the roster this time around.

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