Sorry for the delay, but without further ado here’s my roster breakdown for the Eagles’ Opening Day squad after watching the 2nd week of preseason.
Quarterback: 3 (Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Mike Kafka)
This one’s pretty much set in stone. The only question is whether Foles will be Vick’s primary backup or if they’ll stick with Kafka. For what it’s worth, if Tarvaris Jackson or Colt McCoy become available after roster cuts, I’d rather have either of them (particularly Jackson) than Kafka.
Running Back: 4 (Lesean McCoy, Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown, Stanley Havili)
McCoy and Lewis are locks, and Brown has drastically outplayed Chris Polk as a pure runner thus far. However, Polk is a much better pass protector than Brown and could potentially contribute more right away. However, with the 3rd RB spot I think the Eagles are looking for upside, and Brown has oodles of it. The team has discussed using Polk as a FB, but he hasn’t done it in the preseason yet so that doesn’t seem likely. Havili wins the FB job by default right now, but if another FB becomes available after roster cuts don’t be surprised if Havili doesn’t make the team. Polk would easily be a practice squad candidate, but I’d assume another team would sign him off the practice squad. Another option might be to put Polk on IR (remember, he had a shoulder issue that caused him to go undrafted this year), but the safe money says he won’t make the opening roster.
Wide Receiver: 6 (Desean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Damaris Johnson, Marvin McNutt)
The top 4 WRs are locked in, but the bottom two spots remain up for grabs. Damaris Johnson opened the door for Mardy Gilyard (a similar player with more experience) with a poor performance against the Patriots on Monday night, but I still think he makes the final roster. McNutt hasn’t shown much of anything so far, but he was hailed as one of the steals of the draft when the Eagles nabbed him in the 6th round and he’s certainly got upside with his big frame. I’d say he makes the team but becomes inactive on gamedays once Cooper returns from his injury.
Tight End: 2 (Brent Celek, Clay Harbor)
This one is set in stone. Move along. Nothing to see here. The only question is how much more playing time Clay Harbor gets this season after a very strong training camp and preseason, and I think early on his role could be expanded (especially in the red zone) with the absence of Riley Cooper.
Offensive Line: 9 (Todd Herremans, Danny Watkins, Jason Kelce, Evan Mathis, King Dunlap, Demetress Bell, Dennis Kelly, Julian Vandervelde, Steve Vallos)
The starting 5 lineman (Herremans-Watkins-Kelce-Mathis-Dunlap) will all be on the team, as will offseason pickup Demetress Bell, who has disappointed thus far, and 2012 draft pick Dennis Kelly (who will probably be inactive on gamedays). The last two spots on the interior are up for grabs. I think Vandervelde, a favorite of Howard Mudd’s, gets the 3rd guard spot (although the Eagles could move Dunlap inside and Bell to LT if the event of an injury), and Vallos gets the last spot because he played center with the 2nd team on Monday night against the Patriots. This is another spot where I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Eagles bring in some outside help once roster cuts are made.
There’s the offensive unit as I see it, 24 players. Starters: QB-Vick, HB-McCoy, FB-Havili, WR-Jackson, Maclin, TE-Celek, LT-Dunlap, LG-Mathis, C-Kelce, RG-Watkins, RT-Herremans. Backups: QB-Foles/Kafka, HB-Lewis/Brown, WR-Avant/Cooper/Johnson/McNutt, TE-Harbor, LT/RT-Bell/Kelly, LG/RG-Vandervelde, C-Vallos.
Defensive End: 6 (Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Brandon Graham, Phillip Hunt, Vinny Curry, Daryl Tapp)
The Eagles have a bevy of outside pass rushers, but I ultimately think that they find a way to keep all of them on the roster because talent at DE will win out over depth at another position. I could see them trading Tapp to a DE-needy team for a late 2013 draft pick or perhaps (fingers crossed) some depth and potential help at safety because he’s arguably the 5th or 6th DE and he’s got a $2.6M salary. Still, with all the talent at DE, tough roster decisions are a good problem to have for this football team, and it’ll be one of their strong points next season.
Defensive Tackle: 5 (Cullen Jenkins, Fletcher Cox, Derek Landri, Cedric Thornton, Antonio Dixon)
This projection assumes that Mike Patterson will be placed on the PUP list to open up the season. Dixon’s roster spot is the one that’s most in jeopardy here, as Cedric Thornton has dazzled this preseason and Dixon doesn’t look to be a fit in Jim Washburn’s scheme. I could see Dixon being traded for a late round pick like I suggested with Tapp, but I think they ultimately keep him for DT depth until Mike Patterson’s return. If they think Patterson will be ready in Week 1 or 2, Dixon does not make the team.
Linebacker: 6 (Demeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Brian Rolle, Jamar Chaney, Casey Matthews, Akeem Jordan)
Kendricks-Ryans-Rolle is pretty much set as the starting group of LBs. Chaney and Matthews showed flashes last season, enough to keep them on the roster, and Jordan wins the final spot over Keenan Clayton due to his special teams prowess and ability to play all 3 LB positions in the event of an injury.
Cornerback: 5 (Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Brandon Boykin, Curtis Marsh, Brandon Hughes)
The first real surprise here. I think that the Eagles will give Boykin the nickel job outright at the end of training camp, making Joselio Hanson expendable (remember, he didn’t make the team out of training camp last year). Curtis Marsh is the primary backup on the outside, so he makes the team, and they go with Brandon Hughes as the 5th corner. If Cliff Harris can get himself healthy and play well in the next 2 preseason games, he could unseat Hughes for the 5th CB spot.
Safety: 4 (Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, OJ Atogwe, Jaiquawn Jarrett)
I think they want to carry 4 safeties, and have no better alternatives on the roster than Jarrett now that Tom Nelson has gone down with an ankle injury. Simple as that. Jarrett isn’t in the team’s long-term plans.
There’s the defense. 26 players. Starters: DE-Babin/Cole, DT-Jenkins/Cox, LB-Kendricks/Ryans/Rolle, CB-Asomugha/Rodgers-Cromartie, S-Allen/Coleman. Bench: DE-Graham/Hunt/Curry/Tapp, DT-Landri/Thornton/Dixon, LB-Chaney/Matthews/Jordan, CB-Boykin/Marsh/Hughes, S-Atogwe/Jarrett.
Specialists: 3 (Alex Henery, Mat McBriar, Jon Dorenbos)
Henery and Dorenbos are locks, McBriar has outkicked Chas Henry so far in my opinion.
There’s my projection of the 53-man roster. Thoughts?