Philadelphia Eagles Roster Projections, Notes and Training Camp Battles
I can't help myself. I'm bored. Viable football topics and discussions are slim pickings. So as many before me have already done, I'm going to project a 53 man roster and add a few notes of this, that and what not.
I would love nothing more than to be surprised by a player like Trent Edwards. He's a player I like. I think he has unreached potential in the right situation. And he's the type of player that has flashed a higher level of play at times in the past. He has the measureables and aptitude to be a very productive prototype quarterback in the NFL.
But he's still a long-shot to make the roster.
So to all the players I cut on my 53 man roster, fret not. This is not official. Bring your game to camp and shock the world.I'll be rooting for you like a good Eagles' fan.
QB - Michael Vick, Mike Kafka, Nick Foles (*Trent Edwards)
Vick is entrenched at the moment. He's the leader of this Eagles' offense. A successful 2012 season hinges on the good fortune and centrifugal chemistry of Michael Vick and his bounty of weapons. Vick is basically everything to the Eagles right now. Enough said!
The two prototype youngsters, Kafka and Foles, will have an opportunity in the not so distant future. Youth and developmental potential will logically win-out the QB depth competition—thereby excluding Edwards. In this (pardon the cliche) quarterback driven league, teams need a pipeline of developmental quarterbacks.
*Edwards is intriguing, but he will have to be absolutely amazing in camp and preseason to have a legit shot at making the roster. Yet, the Eagles like to have a veteran back-up on stand-by. Could they make a move by trade or free agency for an alternative veteran? They have cap space to bring on a second or third contract veteran. Could they keep four?
That is unlikely, but as I see it, not completely out of the question if you think about it. Although, if the Eagles feel as comfortable with Kafka as they represent, they may forgo their desire for a game-hardened veteran in reserve.
I personally like a lot of what I've seen from Kafka. He reminds me of Kevin Kolb.
And I have no idea what that is supposed to mean.
RB - Lesean McCoy, Dion Lewis, Chris Polk, Stanley Havili (*Bryce Brown)
I think we might start to see a preservationist time-share for Lesean McCoy. The Eagles have indicated that they do not want to wear him out. Either way that goes, Shady is still going to be the man and some combination of Lewis, Polk, Brown and/or Havili (principally a Leonard Weaver-esque fullback) will spell and complement him from time to time.
*The somewhat mysterious Bryce Brown may have been drafted where Polk was not, but in speaking with General Managers around the league (I didn't really do that, it just sounded good), Polk is the more coveted player league-wide. He would be the less likely to clear waivers and ultimately find a spot on the practice squad. That's where I see Brown safely landing.
A little postscript on the running backs: The Eagles have cap space, so it wouldn't surprise me if they made a deal for a veteran player and possibly a running back to spell Shady (McCoy). Once camps progress, teams will begin to release more talent and offer up more high-end trade bait for cheap. Once the Eagles have had time to evaluate their young running back prospects, they could make a move.
Don't be too surprised if it happens.
WR - Desean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Marvin McNutt (*Chad Hall, Mardy Gilyard)
Jackson, Maclin and Avant are our proven trio. If the Eagles offense clicks in 2012, I expect over 3,000 combined yards from them. They are all unquestioned locks to make the squad and Maclin is primed to break-out. He's playing for his second contract too.
Expect a big season from him—everyone else is.
Still, the Eagles lack height at receiver. And that can be a great resource for a shorter quarterback.
What I like is the Eagles having already taken a close look at some personnel packages using the greater height of both Cooper and McNutt. And that dynamic makes a lot of sense. Especially in the red-zone where we like to pass and have had some struggles inasmuch. Let's see if these big guys can go up and take the ball.
*Chad Hall and Mardy Gilyard are intriguing, but they will need to show something special to find a spot in this receiving group. And I'm not buying the Damaris Johnson hype—say practice squad.
TE - Brent Celek, Clay Harbor (*Brett Brackett)
Celek and Harbor have worked well in Marty Mornhinweg's offense and I wouldn't expect to see any changes there. If healthy, Celek could produce Pro Bowl numbers and Harbor is primed to break out.
*Andy has used three tight end packages in the past, but not so much under Mornhinweg's coordination. Brackett or another tight end prospect will get stashed on the practice squad. That's how the Eagles do it.
OT - Demetress Bell, Todd Herremans, King Dunlap, Dennis Kelly (*Thomas Welch, DJ Jones)
Jason Peters will almost certainly end up on injured reserve and that's a blow to my eternal optimism. You just can't replace a guy with that kind of ability, execution and consistency. But the next man up (apparently another former Bill, Demetress Bell) will have to step-up under the renowned tutelage of Howard Mudd while the dependably solid Todd Herremans will once again hold-it-down on the right side.
Dunlap has proven to be a serviceable back-up. Expect him to be joined by rookie draft pick Dennis Kelly in a reserve role.
*DJ Jones is kind of impressive. He and Welch may pose a significant challenge to Dunlap and Kelly for their roster spots. And the Eagles could also opt to keep five tackles, particularly if they feel that one or more of these guys can kick inside to guard. The Eagles like to make tackles into guards. Dunlap did that a few times last year and right tackle Todd Herremans was a long-time interior lineman for the birds before kicking outside full-time.
I wouldn't be too surprised if the Eagles used some cap space to acquire another veteran offensive lineman, especially if they don't love what they see in Bell.
OG/C - Evan Mathis, Danny Watkins, Jason Kelce, Brandon Washington, Julian Vandervelde (*Dallas Reynolds, Mike Gibson)
Incumbent starters Mathis, Watkins and Kelce will not likely see their roles subordinated. Under Mudd, they were solid last season and played better as the season went on. Rookie draft pick Brandon Washington and second year guard Julian Vandervelde are the leading candidates to back up the interior line. Washington's draft stock fell quickly after a sub-par season playing offensive tackle. He was rated much higher in his previous years when he played interior line as he will in Philadelphia.
*Reynolds and Gibson may not be household names, but they have been around the Eagles organization for a significant time now. Both have a background at center and guard, so it stands to reason that one may find their way onto the 53 man roster or back to the practice squad. In any event, Jason Kelce is the only other player on the roster listed as a center.
DE - Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Darryl Tapp, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry (*Phillip Hunt)
Pro Bowlers Cole and Babin are locked up long term. I don't think Jim Washburn could dream up a much better pair of defensive ends for his system. Besides those two, Tapp is the only other proven defensive end on the roster and from my perspective, he has simply been too effective in rotation to be cut loose. Salary Cap is not an issue right now.
Curry is a prized rookie draft pick that we are all very excited about. He bleeds green. He's such an Eagles' fan that he he wouldn't let cameras into his house on draft day because he didn't want to take his Eagles' stuff down--gotta love that guy. And the Eagles invested too much in Brandon Graham to quit on him right now. Despite the serious injury setbacks, when healthy, Graham looked good.
*The Eagles typically keep six defensive ends, but they also do something atypical every offseason. Phillip Hunt is a very intriguing situational player that stands a very good chance of landing a roster spot again. He's explosive off the snap and Washburn loves that—who doesn't really?
DT - Cullen Jenkins, Fletcher Cox, Mike Patterson, Antonio Dixon (*Derek Landri)
Jenkins is the perfect penetrating defensive tackle for Jim Washburn and the success he had in 2011 proved that. Expectations are that prized first-round draft pick Fletcher Cox will be the perfect counterpart. The incumbent veteran, Mike Patterson, is someone the Eagles really like and trust while Dixon has flashed some intriguing ability. But in 2012 Derek Landri should push them for a roster spot after repeatedly performing well when afforded the opportunity.
*With Dixon coming off of a season ending injury in early 2011 and Patterson having offseason brain surgery, the Eagles may uncharacteristically keep five defensive tackles for insurance. Derek Landri is a fan favorite, but all NFL teams (not just the Eagles) have shown a less than luke-warm interest in the journeyman.
I think the Eagles like Landri on the short-list and for insurance. If they feel like Patterson and Dixon are truly healthy, the Eagles may disappoint their fans by cutting Landri loose. This wouldn't be the first time Landri played well, the Eagles released him and he was still available for them later when injuries mounted.
I suppose Cedric Thornton has been around the locker room long enough for us to expect he has a real shot at making the roster too. Especially when considering the arguably tentative state of both Patterson and Dixon's health and recoveries.
LB - Demeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Casey Matthews, Jamar Chaney, Keenan Clayton, Brian Rolle (*Moise Fokou, Akeem Jordan)
All of Eagles Nation is rejoicing the acquisition of MIKE linebacker, Demeco Ryans—reminiscent of our fervor following the Nnamdi Asomugha signing of 2011. And second round draft pick Mychal Kendricks is the kind of linebacker the Eagles covet—quick and fast. He's been dubbed "instinctive" and we are all excited to see how he plays the game at the NFL level.
Matthews, Chaney, Clayton and Rolle have all clocked game-time. Each is still ominously in an unofficially pseudo-developmental stage of their careers. But I have and continue to see a ton of talent in that group. They were put into a tough situation last season, but I expect to see them back in green for 2012.
*Fokou and Jordan look like the odd-men-out. Both have had their moments, but criticism of the linebackers was and is not a short-order. There will be little love lost from the fans. Less than is due for sure. But they may still challenge for a spot. I want to say they have a shot because I do like them as players... but... eh... the realist in me thinks their time in Philly has come to an end. The coaching staff has seen these guys before and by seasons end, they were largely relegated to game-day reservists--in with the new.
CB - Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, Brandon Boykin, Joselio Hanson, Curtis Marsh (*Cliff Harris, Brandon Hughes)
Three years ago, I might have accused you of smoking crack if you told me that Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rogers-Cromartie would be our starting cornerbacks. Yet, there it is. Nnamdi may have under-performed expectations in 2011, but he's still a top-tier cornerback in the league. And DRC is playing for a potentially lucrative second contract. He could get that from the Eagles if he plays at a high level in 2012.
And then I have to laugh. Every season I say the Eagles will cut Joselio Hason. I say, "he's too expensive." Well, he basically renegotiated his contract down and the Eagles have plenty of cap room anyway--so, non-issue. I say, "he's not that good." And every season he's our best nickel corner. I say, "Trevard Lindley or [insert your favorite young corners name here] is younger." And every year the Eagles stick with Hanson over the developmental youngsters. You see where I'm going with this.
Rookie draft pick, Brandon Boykin, is making a case as the Eagles' oft-utilized nickel back and he might get it (but I still think the Eagles will retain Joselio). Boykin is a freak athlete. If he can overcome his height disadvantage with his speed and leaping ability (ie. if he can just be a natural), he could be a very nice player for years to come.
*The Eagles will keep at least five cornerbacks, and the competition for that spot should be pretty intense. So intense in fact, that I can't see the Eagles carrying less than six. But I've been wrong when making a reckoning such as that before. I figure Marsh will make the squad as the next youngest developmental talent, but Cliff Harris has a tremendously appealing ceiling. Prior to his off-the-field incidents, he was a formerly projected first or second round draft pick. Then there is Brandon Hughes, who has been very capable every time he's been on the field. And I kinda think the Eagles still like Trevard Lindley too.
This is going to be one of the best camp battles--for fifth and sixth string cornerback.
S - Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Colt Anderson (*Phillip Thomas)
It's time for Nate Allen to step up and be the man at safety. The Eagles need him to do it. They drafted him to do it. And he needs to do it for himself, before he slips off into NFL washout oblivion. He's been hot, cold and injured. His time is now or maybe never and his window to succeed may never be more ajar.
The Eagles defense could use a prototype safety and Nate Allen should be that guy.
The Eagles basically know what they have in Kurt Coleman. He's a good, tough player with a smaller margin to reach his ceiling. He is serviceable and he has the type of attitude and skill combination that makes one believe he could overachieve and play a few seasons of higher level football before his career is over.
But if Allen and/or Jarrett fail miserably in camp and preseason, the Eagles may wisely use their cap space to trade or sign a veteran free agent at safety. I am most curious to see how the safety positions settles out as the season approaches.
Colt Anderson is the Eagles' special teams ace. He's Bobby April's guy. But he may not pan out as a real option at safety. For that reason, the Eagles' should take a closer look at rookie free agent Phillip Hunt from Syracuse. He's an interesting guy too, but to put things in perspective, I think he's no Kurt Coleman.
LS, K, P - Jon Dorenbos, Alex Henery, Chas Henry
Blah, Blah Blah. How anticlimactic can I be? Ending my concurrently self-proclaimed epic ramble with the long-snapper, the kicker and the punter? - yep. That's the way it goes--with a whimper not a bang.
I locked up 50 out of 53 positions on the roster barring injury or trade (which I expect to see both). And I see a case for roughly 16 players or so. Those are the guys who seem to have the best chance of landing a gig on the active roster and maybe the practice squad as it stands.
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