The majority of the Philadelphia Eagles' 53-man roster is already a given. However, there are a few lingering questions as far as the numbers game goes, and there are a few spots that will be decided through competition.
When it comes time for the final cuts, coaches have difficult decisions to make. This is where the roster numbers game comes into play.
Should they go light at one position so they can keep a player at another position just because they really don't want to let him go? Is it more important to have depth at certain positions over others?
Teams usually have to cut players they like and hope they clear waivers so they can add them to their practice squad. The tricky part is guessing which guys have the best chance to slip through cracks in the waiver wire.
Under coach Andy Reid, the Eagles' roster breakdown has usually been like this—initially, after the final cuts:
QB - 3
RB - 3
FB - 1
WR - 5
TE - 3
OL - 9
DL - 10
LB - 7
CB - 5
S - 4
K - 1
P - 1
LS - 1
Last year, the Eagles juggled the numbers a little bit and went light at tight end (2) and linebacker (6) so they could go heavier in the secondary (6 CBs, 5 safeties).
Will there be similar juggling this year? One thing is for sure, the coaches will definitely have some hard decisions to make once again. Here's my early stab at the initial 53-man roster along with a notable cut or two.
QB (3) - Michael Vick, Mike Kafka, Nick Foles
RB (4) - LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis, Chris Polk, Bryce Brown
WR (6) - DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Marvin McNutt, Chad Hall
TE (2) - Brent Celek, Clay Harbor
OL (9) - Demetress Bell, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Danny Watkins, Todd Herremans, King
Dunlap, Dennis Kelly, Brandon Washington, Steve Vallos
DL (10) - Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham, Phillip Hunt, Cullen Jenkins,
Fletcher Cox, Mike Patterson, Derek Landri, Antonio Dixon
LB (7) - Demeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Brian Rolle, Casey Matthews, Jamar Chaney,
Keenan Clayton, Monte Simmons
CB (6) - Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Brandon Boykin, Curtis Marsh,
Brandon Hughes, Cliff Harris
S (3) - Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Jaiquawn Jarrett
K (1) - Alex Henery
P (1) - Chas Henry
LS (1) - Jon Dorenbos
Notable cuts: Joselio Hanson, Akeem Jordan, Moise Fokou, Stanley Havili, Darryl Tapp, Trent Edwards
Starting season on PUP or IR: Jason Peters and Colt Anderson
Reasoning for a few of the cuts:
What? No fullback? For my explanation on this, I'll defer to this article that I wrote a few weeks ago about the extinction of the fullback position on the Eagles. The quick summary is that the percentage of plays the Eagles used a fullback decreased by 50 percent from 2010 to 2011.
In 2011, the Eagles used a fullback on only 16 percent of their offensive plays. Why devote a roster spot for that? Plus, the Colts didn't keep a fullback for most of Howard Mudd's career there due to his unique offensive blocking scheme.
Havili will likely be added to the practice squad again, just like last year.
Darryl Tapp is a player that becomes the victim of the numbers game. When you add up his salary, talent and potential (future value), it's just not enough to keep him over someone like Phillip Hunt.
The Eagles always keep 10 defensive linemen and usually the split is six ends and four tackles. I have them at five and five this year because Cox can and will play DE in some situations, thus making Tapp expendable.
Probably my biggest surprise is keeping Monte Simmons over Fokou and Jordan. This will be a tough call because Jordan has value on special teams and is an experienced backup.
However, Simmons showed promise in training camp last year after he signed as an undrafted free agent with the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers are deep at linebacker so Simmons couldn't crack their roster and spent last year on their practice squad.
Simmons actually played defensive end in college and finished with 21.5 sacks. He projected to outside linebacker in the NFL due to his size at 6' 1", 226 lbs. Here's a quick blurb on him from Inside the 49ers after watching him in some drills during training camp last year:
Two more players stood out in this drill – Will Tukuafu and Monte Simmons. Tukuafu gets a good push on whoever’s blocking him – more of a push than Ricky Jean-François.
Monte Simmons was ferocious in this drill. He’s the fastest outside linebacker around the edge, and he’s also the most violent. Jim Tomsula gave him a lot of reps and was pleased with his work, giving him atta boys and pats on the butt.
Simmons is light for an outside linebacker – just 226 lbs. But he could fill a need as a situational pass rusher. He’s an undrafted rookie from Kent State, and his jersey number is 47. He’s someone to monitor throughout the preseason.
One thing is for sure, the Eagles could always use more violent players on defense.
Many players can look good in practice but never translate it to the filed (aka, the Na Brown syndrome). However, after looking a little closer at Simmons, I think he has a decent shot at making the roster.
Keeping Simmons over Jordan is might be a long shot, but Jordan is far from assured a spot on the roster.
Hanson is another guy I see as on the bubble, and I see that bubble bursting. The only thing he has going for him now is experience, but I believe UDFA Cliff Harris will show good enough potential in camp and preseason to warrant keeping him over Hanson.
Once training camp starts and we start to separate the men from the boys, the roster picture will work itself out. And, of course, injuries are always a huge factor in reshaping rosters as well.
But as for right now, do you see the roster turning out differently than the above? If so, how?