Prior to this year's training camp, the most Milo Eifler was known for in the NFL was his headshot appearing in the lineup announcement during the Washington Commanders' Sunday Night Football matchup against the Dallas Cowboys rather than the linebacker saying his name and college, which is normally what happens on the NBC primetime show.
Fans are a little more familiar with Eifler now.
Eifler, a late addition to the Commanders' roster in 2021 who re-signed with the team in March, was likely not a betting favorite to survive the team's final cuts. However, the second-year pro stood out in August and made the cut as one of four linebackers on the initial 53-man roster.
And there's a good reason Eifler earned a spot, according to fellow linebacker Cole Holcomb: "He's got some athletic ability that not a whole lot of people have."
"He's a freak," Holcomb told reporters Aug. 30. "As camp went on, you saw his growth and understanding of the defense."
Physically, Eifler checks off plenty of boxes for what the Commanders want from a linebacker. At 225 pounds, he is one of the slimmer players at the position, but he makes up for that with his strength in the weight room. Holcomb said he has seen Eifler squat about 500 pounds with no belt to support him. He described Eifler as "strong as hell," which seems like an accurate way to put it.
Eifler stood out just as much on the field. His speed, according to Ron Rivera, stood out the most. He saw a mix of Holcomb and 2021 first-round pick Jamin Davis in terms of his pursuit to the football. That also helped him as a pass-rusher and a blitzer, which are two areas of his skill set that Holcomb praised during his press conference.
Eifler finished the preseason with seven tackles (one tackle for a loss) and a pass breakup on 52 snaps.
"He showed great progress and development," Rivera said. "I think Milo just earned that spot. He did some really good things on special teams. I think he's a guy that once you get a chance to watch him and watch him on tape, you see him progress."
One example of that pursuit came in the preseason finale against the Baltimore Ravens, when quarterback Anthony Brown delivered a pass to running back Nate McCrary in the fourth quarter. Eifler sniffed out the play immediately, and as McCrary tried to juke and make Eifler miss, the linebacker broke down and grabbed him by the leg to force a loss on the play.
Another play -- his pass breakup against the Panthers -- forced a third-and-8 that ultimately resulted in Carolina punting the ball away.
Holcomb also noticed that Eifler's ability to learn and adapt to the defensive system played a key role in his growth.
"He would make a mistake one day, [and] you didn't see him make that mistake again," Holcomb said. "That helped him in that aspect, because...he started to do some really good things for us."
Eifler played in three of the team's final five games in 2021 with all his snaps coming on special teams. That is a role he is expected to retain in his second season with the team, as his speed will be of use on punt and kickoff coverage.
However, based on how Eifler rose to the occasion during training camp, he showed that he can handle a larger defensive role if required to do so. And with just five linebackers currently on the active roster, his is a contribution the Commanders will need this season.