Philadelphia Eagles: 10 Players Firmly on the Roster Bubble
With training camp nearly a month away, there are still plenty of cuts that need to be made before the final 53-man roster is set.
They currently have tremendous depth at wide receiver, as well as on the defensive line. However, the most interesting battles at Lehigh University will take place behind the front four, where there’s one vacant starting spot at linebacker and an interesting situation shaping up in the secondary.
With that said, here are 10 players who will only make it to Week 1 if they can hang onto the bubble for long enough.
The recent signing of veteran safety O.J. Atogwe means that the Philadelphia Eagles are putting last year’s second-round pick Jaiquawn Jarrett on notice.
Instead of competing for a starting spot, the Temple product has found himself on the bubble.
Jarrett struggled mightily during his rookie season and looked uncomfortable in limited action. His inability to dissect plays has held him back on the field and is compounded by the fact he lacks elite straight-line speed.
Although it’s unlikely the Eagles will cut ties with a high-round draft selection so early in his development, there may not be enough room for him on roster if he can’t overcome his mental and physical disadvantages.
Joselio Hanson will be 31 years old at the beginning of the 2012 season and has Brandon Boykin and Curtis Marsh challenging him for the role of nickel cornerback.
Hanson has a reputation of being a solid inside defender, but the truth is, he has fallen off considerably. He doesn’t excel at one-on-one press coverage, and with four career interceptions, the eight-year veteran hasn’t exactly proved to be a dynamic playmaker.
If Andy Reid is comfortable with his young crop of talented corners, you can expect history to repeat itself. Before the beginning of last season, Hanson was cut from the roster, only to be re-added right before their Week 1 matchup.
The Philadelphia Eagles have done a tremendous job of working the salary cap as they re-signed so many key players, but with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Jeremy Maclin still waiting for new deals, more cap-conscious cuts will have to be made.
Darryl Tapp is at risk of being one of these casualties and is strictly on the bubble because of his pay, not his play.
Tapp recorded 27 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 2011 as a situational pass-rusher, but is scheduled to earn $2.575 million during the upcoming season.
With 15 defensive linemen currently on the Eagles’ roster, the team should be able to find cheaper and more effective options.
Last year, Phillip Hunt played in nine games and saw 156 snaps of action. This total is the fewest amongst all defensive linemen who were able to avoid injury.
Hunt only recorded eight tackles during his rookie season, but collected two sacks as well, which proves that he can succeed in Jim Washburn’s rotational system.
Although Hunt isn’t a salary concern like Darryl Tapp, he is still on the short end of an extremely deep and talented defensive line.
Due to the sheer number of bodies at his position, the 26-year-old’s roster spot is going to be contingent on his performances at training camp.
The offseason additions of projected starters DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks have left one starting linebacker spot up for the taking.
This means that the likes of Jamar Chaney, Casey Matthews, Brian Rolle, Akeem Jordan and Keenan Clayton will all be under heavy watch when the team begins training camp.
Even though the trio of Chaney, Matthews and Rolle were identified to be the kryptonite of an otherwise impressive defense in 2011, all three have carved out niches and carry valuable starting experience with them.
While Jordan didn’t see the field as much as the other three, he has proven to be an invaluable special teams contributor.
This leaves Clayton out of the loop in the linebacking carousel, but if the third-year pro wants to continue his career in Philly, expect it to be an uphill battle as he recovers from sports hernia surgery.
When the Philadelphia Eagles made Riley Cooper a fifth-round selection in the 2010 NFL draft, they were expecting him to be a consistent red-zone threat for an already explosive offense. Instead, what they’ve got from Cooper in his first two seasons is 23 receptions, 431 yards and two touchdowns.
Although Cooper has done a decent job of occasionally filling in for an injured starter, he hasn’t become the threat that the Eagles envisioned the 6’3” wideout could be.
Depending on how quickly rookie Marvin McNutt can get acclimated to the pro level just may determine how long Cooper has a spot on Andy Reid’s team. Philadelphia selected McNutt in the sixth round of this year’s draft in hopes of utilizing the 6’4” wide receiver in the same way they had planned for Cooper.
It seems as if fan favorite and Air Force alumni Chad Hall has been on the bubble for the entirety of his two-year NFL career.
Andy Reid has utilized Hall on offense, on special teams and in the return game. However, the 5’8” wide receiver doesn’t have a skill that particularly sets him apart from the dozen wideouts on the current roster.
He lacks elite speed and doesn’t have the ideal body that would make him a consistent red-zone threat.
With so much competition at the position, don’t expect to see Hall wearing green this season unless he can make an impact on special teams.
The Philadelphia Eagles used a fullback in only 16 percent of their snaps during the 2011 season. This means Stanley Havili, the only fullback with a shot of making the roster, isn’t likely to receive much playing time even if he impresses during training camp.
With Philadelphia looking to deploy more two tight end sets in 2012, there is even less need for Havili.
Since the Eagles have a variety of options at running back and are looking to cut down LeSean McCoy’s touches, it would be wise of the team to use this roster spot elsewhere.
Havili proved to be a solid runner in between the tackles and displayed plenty of pass-catching ability during his time at USC. He should prove to be a tremendous upgrade over Owen Schmitt if he can make the team.
The Philadelphia Eagles will enter training camp with four dynamic running backs on their roster. However, aside from Pro Bowler LeSean McCoy, there is no guaranteed roster spot for any of these ball carriers.
Although Dion Lewis showed flashes of talent during his rookie season as the third running option, incoming rookies Bryce Brown and Chris Polk are serious threats to Lewis’ chances of making the team.
Not only is Polk a more explosive runner than Lewis, but is also a more reliable receiving option as well.
Meanwhile, at 6'0" and 223 pounds, Brown offers Philadelphia a different type of back—one that can drive the pile, run downhill and hit with physicality.
If the two rookies continue to make strong cases, expect Lewis to be the odd man out of this backfield.
The four-year pro has totaled 26 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions for his career, and like his numbers, doesn’t instill any confidence that he’ll win out the quarterback battle.
The reports out of the Eagles’ organized team activities haven’t been very promising, with Edwards admitting (via PhiladelphiaEagles.com): "I have a long way to go."
If rookie Nick Foles can be as impressive in training camp as he was in OTAs and if Mike Kafka finishes the backup battle, I don’t expect there to be enough room on the roster for a fourth signal-caller.