Eagles 53-Man Roster 1.0
While the Eagles are getting ready for their preseason tune-up with the New England Patriots, there are a ton of roster battles that are going to be interesting to watch.
When asked for a little insight into the Philadelphia Eagles’ early bubble battles, defensive coordinator Juan Castillo talked about how hard it will be to make cuts along the defensive line.
“I think what happens is it irons itself out,” explained Castillo. ”You don’t ever know what is going to happen [with] injuries and things here so I think it will iron itself out. That’s why we have those games so those guys can compete and play.”
That’s a good way to look at it right now, because so far it sure looks like the incumbents are way ahead in the polls – but with three games left a dark horse could always emerge.
Some young guys are making an impressive roster push – especially tailbacks Bryce Brown and Chris Polk as is receiver Damaris Johnson. And rookie cornerback Brandon Boykin has been very good, though he doesn’t count as a true “sleeper” because he was a fourth-round draft pick.
While there is a ton of competition, so far, there’s been little evidence on the practice field or in first preseason games that a major shake-up is in store.
It would be a lot of fun to make some bold predictions about the Eagles’ 53-man roster right now but almost all of the veteran players who seemed like they might be in some jeopardy in 2012 have continued to play prominent roles, and play well in them – guys like Darryl Tapp, Akeem Jordan, Joselio Hanson and O.J. Atogwe
In other words, this first run-through of the Eagles’ projected 53-man roster might be considered a tad “boring.”
While it’s still early, the Eagles play a lot of games in a short amount of time. So as we break down how we see the roster battles shaking out right now, we’ll also point out how they can still change – a lot.
In: Mike Vick, Mike Kafka, Nick Foles
Out: Trent Edwards
What Could Change: This one seems to be written in ink. It’s unlikely the Eagles will carry three quarterbacks on the active roster, and while many people think Foles has pushed Kafka for his backup job, he will most likely be inactive on game days. Edwards was signed to push Kafka but so far hasn’t done enough to make the team keep him.
Coach Mornhinweg says: “I know this – he’s [Foles] a gamer. He’s got some natural instincts. The most important thing with quarterbacks is gut instincts, and that’s number one. Then the decision-making, the accuracy, and the timing become just critical factors in a quarterback being able to play at a very high level. I know that he has all of those.
RUNNING BACKS (4):
In: LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk
Out: Stanley Havili, Emil Igwenagu
What Could Change: Polk and Brown could be in competition for a roster spot and Havili could certainly make the 53-man roster as a true fullback. However, if both Brown and Polk continue to shine in practices and preseason games it could be tough to keep them off the team. There has been some discussion about giving Polk, a solid blocker, a shot to play fullback.
However, we’re still giving Polk and Brown roster spots right now over Havili with Eagles OC Marty Mornhinweg saying: ”Certainly that’s been discussed and thought of. “He is a physical player, isn’t he? … I think he is an excellent ball carrier, I think he could be an excellent blocker as well.”
So for now Polk is in and Havili is out.
Coach Mornhinweg says: ”With our backs, our personnel department with [general manager] Howie [Roseman] and the fellas did an outstanding job there with our backs. They all need some reps, first of all to get a game evaluation on them, and secondly to get the reps needed so hopefully they can help at some point if needed.”
In: DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Marvin McNutt, Damaris Johnson
Out: Chad Hall, Mardy Gilyard, Brian Hernandez, Tiger Jones, Jamel Hamler, McKay Jacobson, Elvis Akpla
What Could Change: Yes, you counted right. Six receivers. The thinking here is that Cooper’s injury will have him ready by about week two, so the Saints will save a roster spot for him as long as they have the luxury of a few inactive roster spots to work with early in the year.
Many have asked why the Eagles will need six wide outs, but Cooper is a good special teams player and the team likes him as a wide-out. McNutt is the wile-card here, he was a late draft pick, so if he makes the team there is a good chance he is inactive most Sunday’s.
Johnson vs Hall is an interesting battle to watch the rest of the way, both guys are under-sized receivers who can help in the return game – Johnson is a play-maker and is probably a little better receiver and as a returner, so as of now, he makes the team.
Coach Mornhinweg says: “DeSen Jackson is a premier receiver in this league and I think he’s one of the most dynamic players in this league. He still has some things that he is diligently working to get better at. His work ethic is certainly at an all-time high. This man is a hard worker and has been his whole career since the day we got him.”
TIGHT ENDS (2):
In: Brent Celek, Clay Harbor
Out: Brett Brackett, Chase Ford
What Could Change: Not much. Celek and Harbor are roster locks. If the team chooses to keep a third tight end it would be Brackett. Thought neither Brackett or Ford seem to be able to block much.
OFFENSIVE TACKLES (4):
In: King Dunlap, Demetress Bell, Todd Herremans, Dennis Kelly
Out: D.J. Jones, Thomas Welch
What Could Change: The top three guys seem to be locks. Kelly, meanwhile, has impressed and should make the team as the fourth tackle.
“He has had just a terrific camp,” said Mornhinweg about Kelly. ”He has shown the physical ability and skill to play both tackle and guard.”
The more interesting battle will be to see who wins the starting left tackle spot. Bell was signed to replace Jason Peters who is out for a good portion of the season, with a torn Achilles, was the favorite, but has struggled to pick-up Howard Mudd’s system. Meanwhile, the veteran Dunlap has a shot to open eyes and win the spot with a strong effort against the Patriots.
Coach Mornhinweg says: ”Big King [Dunlap] earned an opportunity to have this chance, and he’s making the most of it,” Mornhinweg explained. ”I think he has had several excellent days. He’s right there as well. There is excellent competition there, and at many spots. That’s certainly one of them.”
In: Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Danny Watkins, Julian Vandervelde
Out: Dallas Reynolds, Steve Vallos, Allfred McCullough, Brandon Washington, Mike Gibson
What Could Change: The three starters are set. However, the back-ups are up-in-the-air. It looks like Vandervelde has the edge as the back-up guard/center over Reynolds and Vallos.
“He’s doing an excellent job,” said Mornhinweg about the play of Vandervelde. “He was snapping for all of last year as well. He was doing an excellent job and he’s learning from one of the best in the game in Jason Kelce. He is going through some of the learning process. I have great confidence in Vandervelde there, yeah.”
Washington could make a strong push, though, after being drafted in the sixth round this year from the the University of Miami, he could find himself on the practice squad.
Coach Mornhinweg says: “He’s [Watkins] so far ahead of where he was last year, there is no comparison. Again, all of our players right now and even the veterans, we have an awful lot of work to accomplish before we are ready to go before our regular season game. He’s right there and is getting better every day still. I would suspect that he is going to be one of the fine guards in this game.”
DEFENSIVE ENDS (6):
In: Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham, Darryl Tapp, Phillip Hunt
Out: Monte Taylor, Xavier Brown
What Could Change: The Eagles could elect to keep just five ends, with Tapp vs Hunt the likely battle in that case. I think the Eagles like Hunt and have him signed for a few more years. Tapp is a guy that offers good versatility – but I wouldn’t be surprised if he were traded.
Coach Castillo says: “You’ve seen [DE] Phillip [Hunt] move inside and [DE] Brandon [Graham] can,” defensive coordinator Jun Castillo said. ”Really the good thing is we have a few guys there. Really we have eight starters and nine if we take nine into a game and from there Wash will mix and match and get the best [situation]. Sometimes it depends on what he is calling [and] what is being run with the front and who is going to be where.”
DEFENSIVE TACKLES (5):
In: Cullen Jenkins, Fletcher Cox, Derek Landri, Cedric Thornton, Antonio Dixon
Out: Frank Trotter, Ollie Ogbu
What Could Change: The Eagles can probably afford to keep five defensive tackles. But when Mike Patterson comes back, one of these guys could definitely be the odd man out – especially since the Eagles have the ability to use some of their ends at tackle in many pass-rushing situations.
That means either Thornton or Dixon could be in jeopardy, depending on how they perform – and on what the Eagles need. They’re two very different types. Dixon is a big run-stuffer, while Thornton is a more athletic pass rush specialist. It’s a coin toss right now, but Dixon isn’t being helped by a poor camp so far.
Coach Castillo Says: “Cedric is a good athlete,” Castillo said. ”When you’re an athlete like that and you’re being coached by a good coach things are going to happen.”
In: DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Brian Rolle, Jamar Chaney, Casey Matthews, Akeem Jordan
Out: Keenan Clayton, Ryan Rau, Monte Simmons, Adrian Moten
What Could Change: There’s still time for Clayton to make this team over the veteran Jordan, but my guess is Jordan is a better special teams player and that gets him on the roster.
Chaney and Rolle will battle for the starting weakside linebacker spot. Kendricks will get the start at strong-side linebacker with Ryans in the middle.
Coach Castillo Says: “DeMeco is a leader. He is a professional,” said Castillo. ”Besides just the playing part he’s done a lot for those linebackers. Being able to help them and just a guy who has done it [and] a guy they can respect. He’s a guy that can lead the whole defense. That’s really what he brings to the table right now for us.”
In: Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Joselio Hanson, Curtis Marsh, Brandon Boykin, Brandon Hughes
Out: Cliff Harris, Kevin Thomas, Trevard Lindley
What Could Change: Probably not much. The top five guys have separated themselves so far. Marsh will be the back-up outside corner while Hanson looks like he will be the slot corner. Rodgers-Cromartie has been the most impressive on the roster, which is great for the Eagles after letting Asante Samuel go in the off-season.
Harris has a shot to make the team as a returner after a great college career, he looked solid at Lehigh, but as struggled with injuries. Thomas has an outside shot as a former third-round pick who was traded for earlier in camp.
Coach Castillo says: “The confidence and understanding the scheme and being more comfortable. Last year I think Dominique and him [Marsh] were pretty close to all of the pass breakups in training camp. He just feels more comfortable with some of the adjustments we are making and some of the things we are doing where last year it was easy for him when we were in man to man. Just understanding some of the other schemes he feels more comfortable and understanding the defense.”
In: Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Oshiomogho Atogwe
Out: Tom Nelson, Phillip Thomas, Wade Bonner
What Could Change: Colt Anderson who was one of the NFL’s premier special teamers before his ACL injury should make the team when he is ready to play. That could mean that second year player Jarrett could be the odd-man out. He still could be if he continues to struggle as much as he has. The only reason he is on the roster at this point for me is that he was a second round pick last season; otherwise Nelson makes the team over him.
Coach Castillo Says: “J.J. is a competitor and really the next practice that we had at Lehigh he came out there and showed the type of physical presence he can be. We expect him to come back and do a good job.”
In: Alex Henery, Mat McBriar, Jon Dorenbos
Out: Chas Henery
What Could Change: The Eagles look like they found a gem in kicker Alex Henery. Dorenbos is one of the best in the game and McBriar looks like he has a lead over Chas Henery to be the punter.