August 24, 2012; Cleveland, OH USA: Cleveland Browns linebacker James-Michael Johnson (50) prepares to tackle Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Damaris Johnson (13) in a preseason game at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric P. Mull-USPRESSWIRE

Projecting The 53-Man Roster After Preseason Week 3

3 preseason games, 3 wins for the Eagles, with the latest one coming by a score of 27-10 over their Week 1 opponent, the Cleveland Browns. With just one presesason game left, let’s see how the roster is going to shake out.

Quarterback: 3 (Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Mike Kafka)

Just like in his first two preseason games, Nick Foles turned in another stellar performance last night. The kid’s got real talent. He’ll serve as Vick’s primary backup (and in all likelihood will start a couple games this year as a result). I’m putting Mike Kafka here for now, but Trent Edwards looked good last night and is creeping up on Kafka for the #3 QB job. I know Andy Reid loves Kafka, but they might decide that they want a veteran behind Vick and Foles rather than another unproven QB. Kafka is supposed to play in the final preseason game against the Jets, and I think the battle between him and Edwards will come down to that final game.

Running Back: 4 (Lesean McCoy, Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk)

Stanley Havili did nothing wrong last night, but with both Brown and Polk running well I think the Eagles will try desperately to keep both of them on the roster. Marty Mornhinweg mentioned the possibility of Polk playing some FB, and I think the Eagles will be able to utilize him in short-yardage and as a lead blocker when needed. He’s also much better at pass protection than Brown, which could come in handy if Dion Lewis (or, God forbid, Lesean McCoy) gets injured this season.

Wide Receiver: 6 (Desean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Damaris Johnson, Mardy Gilyard)

Damaris Johnson solidified his hold on a roster spot with a very nice bounce-back game after a tough performance vs. New England. At this point, I can’t keep reserving a spot on here for Marvin McNutt based on his draft status. He had a drop last night and hasn’t shown anything in the games thus far. I think they’ll try to put McNutt on the practice squad. Right now I’ve got Mardy Gilyard on the roster, but it could just as well be Chad Hall since Reid seems to love him. However, I think when Mike Patterson comes off the PUP that Gilyard will be cut since Riley Cooper will be healthy by then and the Eagles will most likely only use 5 WRs in any one game.

Tight End: 2 (Brent Celek, Clay Harbor)

Reid’s not been known to carry 3 TEs in the past, and I don’t see why he would start this year. Chase Ford and Brent Brackett have both been solid for the Eagles so far. Brackett’s more of a receiving threat while Ford is the better blocker. One or both could be placed on the practice squad.

Offensive Line: 9 (Todd Herremans, Danny Watkins, Jason Kelce, Evan Mathis, King Dunlap, Demetress Bell, Julian Vandervelde, Dennis Kelly, Steve Vallos)

The starting offensive line is all but set after another disappointing performance from Demetress Bell. He’ll be the second team LT, Julian Vandervelde will be the backup G at both spots, Steve Vallos nabs the backup center spot, and Dennis Kelly will probably be inactive most gamedays as he serves as a project for Howard Mudd. Kelly did start for Todd Herremans last night and he held his own.

There’s the offensive unit: 24 guys. No changes to the starters from last edition, but I have Chris Polk making it over Stanley Havili and Mardy Gilyard making it over Marvin McNutt in this version.

 

Defensive End: 6 (Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Phillip Hunt, Daryl Tapp, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry)

And that’s the order I’d use them in. You can’t cut any of these guys. They’ve all been outstanding this preseason, with the exception of Babin since he hasn’t played yet. Unless they got bowled over by an offer for Tapp (say, a 3rd round pick), he’s staying on the roster. It’s incredible to think that Vinny Curry, a 2nd round pick this year, might be inactive on gameday for much of the season through no fault of his own. The DE group is just that good.

Defensive Tackle: 5 (Cullen Jenkins, Derek Landri, Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton, Antonio Dixon)

Dixon has been the only defensive lineman who’s played poorly in the preseason, but with Mike Patterson opening the year on the PUP they need depth at the DT position and Dixon will provide it. He’s also a big body who can at least play in some goal line packages on defense, even though he’s struggled to rush the passer since the team adopted the Wide 9 scheme last year. If Patterson was healthy, Dixon would not make this team, and Dixon might get cut when Patterson comes off the PUP.

Linebacker: 6 (Mychal Kendricks, Demeco Ryans, Brian Rolle, Jamar Chaney, Casey Matthews, Keenan Clayton)

Kendricks has been a revelation this preseason and Ryans is slowly seeming to get acclimated to his new system and is one of the defense’s leaders. Rolle’s grip on the starting WLB spot loosened up last night with a disappointing performance, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jamar Chaney (who has dealt with injuries this preseason) replace him at some point. Casey Matthews has been hurt as well, but he’ll be the backup MLB and could see some time in nickel packages. I had Akeem Jordan here over Clayton in past editions because of his special teams prowess, but after Clayton blocked a punt last night it appears their abilities might be similar on special teams. In that case, the Eagles would probably keep Clayton because of his upside and because he could potentially fill in at safety (6-1, 240, ran a sub-4.6 40) if the position goes down in flames this year.

Cornerback: 5 (Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Brandon Boykin, Curtis Marsh, Cliff Harris)

I think the Eagles will give Boykin the starting nickel corner job out of the gate and they won’t need Hanson if that’s the case since he doesn’t play at all on the outside. Marsh will be the primary backup to both Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie on the outside. I’m going with two surprises here: that the Eagles only keep 5 corners rather than 6 and that the 5th corner is Cliff Harris. He had an INT last night, and is a very talented corner from Oregon who likely would have been drafted in the first couple of rounds this year if he hadn’t been suspended for the season due to off-field issues. I think his upside is immensely higher than that of Brandon Hughes or Trevard Lindley, and he also provides another option in the return game if Damaris Johnson’s shaky hands continue.

Safety: 4 (Nate Allen Kurt Coleman, OJ Atogwe, Jaiquawn Jarrett)

I’m not very confident on this position. The first 3 players are all very likely to make the team, but I could see the Eagles going a number of ways with that final spot. Maybe they take an extra CB, RB, or LB and only put 3 safeties on the roster. Maybe they decide to take Phillip Thomas, who is coming on strong after last night, instead of the underperforming Jarrett. Maybe another team cuts a safety that the Eagles pounce on as their 4th safety. We’ll see.

There’s the 26-man defense. In this edition of the roster, I have Keenan Clayton replacing Akeem Jordan from last week and Cliff Harris replacing Brandon Hughes.

August 9, 2012; Philadelphia, PA USA; Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Cedric Thornton (72) and linebacker Keenan Clayton (57) celebrate a sack against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. The Eagles defeated the Steelers, 24-23. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

Specialists: 3 (Alex Henery, Jon Dorenbos, Mat McBriar)

I’m of the opinion that the Eagles brought McBriar in for a reason, and that he’ll make the team over Chas Henry as the punter as a result of that , along with his pedigree as a Pro Bowl punter. The competition’s been very close though.

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