The current Philadelphia Eagles roster features 90 players, the maximum number of players that the NFL allows to teams at this point of the offseason. Head coach Chip Kelly and his coaching staff have brought a number of new faces to try to improve the Eagles roster from last season, when the team jumped from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense and from a more traditional to a high-tempo, spread offense.
By the end of August, the Birds will have to trim their roster down to 53 players. These 53 will be the ones to wear the midnight green jersey during the 2014 NFL season.
Trying to predict the final Eagles roster in mid-May is like shooting in the dark. The training camp is two months away. The team won’t play a game before August 8, when the first preseason games are scheduled to be held. Nevertheless, let’s give it a try and see how accurate this prediction will be 100 days later.
This is probably cast in stone. Nick Foles was spectacular in 2013 and he is the starter for Philadelphia. Mark Sanchez was brought in this offseason as a backup to Foles and to help with Matt Barkley’s development.
LeSean McCoy was the NFL’s leading back in rushing yards last season. Chris Polk was great in limited carries in 2013 and he is expected to assume a bigger role going forward. Darren Sproles was acquired through trade and he will see playing time both at running back and as a slot receiver.
Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin will be the starters. Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff will see the field as the third receiver and a special teams player respectively. The fifth and sixth spots are up for grabs. I think Kelly will choose Jeff Maehl, a player he is familiar with from collegeand Kadron Boone, who has “boom” potential.
Brent Celek and Zach Ertz are both valuable assets to the Eagles. Celek is great at blocking, but can also help as a receiver, while Ertz has Rob Gronkowski potential in him. James Casey is a special-teams ace and his fully guaranteed salary makes him a lock to be on the final Eagles roster.
Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans and Lane Johnson will be the starters for the second straight season. Allen Barbe and Matt Tobin were the first options at tackle and guard last year and since no serious competition was brought in this offseason, they have a good chance to make the 53-man roster. Julian Vandervelde is on the bubble, but his versatility (can play both guard and center) could earn him a spot.
Bennie Logan, Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton formed a solid line in 2013 and they are projected to be the starters going in the 2014 season. Vinny Curry was also great as a situational pass-rusher and if he improves against the run, he might get a shot as a starter. Beau Allen and Taylor Hart were both picked in the draft and both are solid backup options, while Joe Kruger has more potential than Damion Square and the rest of the linemen currently on the roster.
Connor Barwin and Trent Cole will resume the roles of the starting OLBs. Marcus Smith was selected in the draft to replace Cole in the long term. Brandon Graham will most likely earn one last chance to prove he can contribute to the team and Bryan Braman was signed to be a force in special teams.
DeMeco Ryans is the quarterback of the defense and despite his slowly declining performance, he is still the best option at inside linebacker. Mychal Kendricks will start next to Ryans and the Eagles hope he continues to improve. Najee Goode is the best backup on the roster. Emmanuel Acho and Casey Matthews have the inside track in the race for the last two spots due to the former’s potential and the latter’s special-teams expertise.
Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher will go to the training camp as the favorites to start outside for the Eagles. Brandon Boykin is one of the best (if not the best) nickel corners in the league, while Nolan Carroll is a solid backup and experienced special teams player. Jaylen Watking will probably use this year to learn from the other cornerbacks, with the hope of assuming a bigger role in 2015.
Malcolm Jenkins, Earl Wolff and Nate Allen will fight for the two starting safety spots. Chris Maragos is a stud in special teams. The last roster spot will be a decision between Ed Reynolds and Keelan Johnson, but the latter is better in run support and can play special teams.
Donnie Jones was re-signed during the offseason and will remain the team’s punter. Kicker Casey Spear (also known as “Murderleg”) will beat the weak legged Alex Henery in trsining camp and will replace him as the kicker on the Eagles roster. Jon Dorenbos is a reliable long snapper and he is a long time member of the Birds.