Philadelphia Eagles 2012 Roster: Latest News, Cuts, Preseason Predictions

Randy JobstSenior Analyst IAugust 1, 2012

Philadelphia Eagles 2012 Roster: Latest News, Cuts, Preseason Predictions

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    Training camp is an absolute battle for just about everyone involved. If you're not fighting to make the roster, you're fighting for a starting job and increased playing time in the upcoming season. There are always a handful of players that can do no wrong, but even those players will become more expendable once they start to decline.

    Yes, training camp is an intense battle that you just don't see in any other sport. Rosters are always getting shaken up. Players are getting released or traded all the time and one bad day of practice could cost some of these roster hopefuls their one shot at the NFL.

    I'll take a look at the Eagles current 90-man roster and analyze some of the recent moves along with some of the upcoming moves. I'll also take a look at each position group and determine who stays, who goes and who is right on the borderline.

August 31st Cuts

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    8/31/2012, 7:51: The Philadelphia Eagles are officially at 53 players as Antonio Dixon has been released from the team. Dixon was a bad fit in the wide-9 scheme, so this should come as no surpise. The Eagles now have six defensive ends and six corners. The roster is in no way, shape or form locked it. We should expect to see a few more roster moves over the weekend. A veteran safety should be on the way at some point. You can't rely on Jaiquawn Jarrett as your top reserve safety at this point in his career.

    8/31/2012. 7:42: The Eagles finally officially announced that punter Mat McBriar had been cut. He didn't dress in last night's preseason game and everyone knew that Chas Henry had won the punter job. Now the Eagles have just one cut to go. The Eagles are most likely shopping Antonio Dixon, Chris Polk, Darryl Tapp and Brandon Hughes. If either of those players can get the Eagles a decent draft pick or a veteran safety, they will pull the trigger. They have to release somebody before the dealine tonight.

    8/31/2012, 4:48: With just a few hours to go before all roster cuts must be made official, the Eagles trimmed their roster down to 54 players. 55 if Colt Anderson is activated off the PUP list. He hasn't officially been taken off the PUP list, but is expected to as he is nearly recovered from his ACL surgery.

    The Eagles released quarterback Mike Kafka, wide recievers Marvin McNutt, Chad Hall, Mardy Gilyard, offensive linemen Steve Vallos, D.J. Jones, Brandon Washington, tight ends Chase Ford and Brett Brackett, defensive linemen Frank Trotter, Monte Taylor, Landon Cohen, Ollie Ogbu, full back Emil Igwenagu, linebackers Adria Moten, Keenan Clayton, Ryan Rau, cornerback Joselio Hanson, and finally, safeties Phillip Thomas and O.J. Atogwe.

    The only real surprises here were slot corner extraordinaire Joselio Hanson and backup quarterback Mike Kafka. In the end, the Eagles decided to stick with the hot hand as the third string quarterback in Trent Edwards. Mike Kafka hasn't played since the first half of the first preseason game and that probably cost him a roster spot. The Eagles want to get Brandon Boykin on the field as much as possible this season. Hanson was on borrowed time with the Eagles ever since they drafted Boykin.

    The Eagles are now down to 55 players, including Anderson. They still have two punters, one of which will be cut. Other possible cuts could be Trevard Lindley, Brandon Hughes and Antonio Dixon. Darryl Tapp also remains a trade possibility along with any of the Eagles backup running backs.  

Latest Roster Moves

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    8/30/2012: The Philadelphia Eagles have released linebacker Monte Simmons and signed defensive tackle Landon Cohen. The Eagles had no need for Simmons at linebacker, who was nothing more than a camp body, but needed an extra tackle for their line rotation. This move is nothing more than an exchange of extra bodies for the preseason, but it's a great opportunity for Cohen to impress other teams.

    8/27/2012: The Philadelphia Eagles finished reducing their roster to 75 by releasing Jamel Hamler and placing three more players on reserve lists. Offensive guard Mike Gibson was placed on the injured reserve list with a hip flexor, Jason Peters was placed the non-football injury list and Mike Patterson was placed on the non-football illness list. Both Peters and Patterson are eligible to come back after Week 6 but most be activated or placed on IR before Week 9. Neither player is expected to return this season.

    8/26/2012: The Philadelphia Eagles released cornerback Cliff Harris. Harris wasn't a lock to make the final roster by any stretch, but the fact he was released two days before the Eagles had to make any roster moves. Even then, they would still be keeping their 75 best players until August 31st, which Harris was expected to be a part of. Something tells me Harris let his off the field behavior get the best of him once again.

    8/25/2012: The Philadelphia Eagles released 10 players on Saturday. The Eagles released wide receivers Elvis Akpla, Brian Hernandez, McKay Jacobson and Tiger Jones. They also released defensive backs Wade Bonner, Kevin Thomas, Tom Nelson, defensive end Xavier Brown, offensive tackle Thomas Welch and offensive guard Alfred McCullough.

    Neither of these players were expected to be a part of the final 53 man roster. Tom Nelson might have made it past the first round of cuts, but he suffered a high ankle sprain. Of all these players, Kevin Thomas has to be the most disappointing. He was a third round pick in 2010. Now he can't even make it to the Eagles final 80.

    8/11/2012: The Philadelphia Eagles have released defensive tackle John Gill and signed wide receiver Brian Hernandez. Hernandez is a 28 year old wide receiver with little experience in the NFL who last played in the UFL. He should be nothing more than another camp body, but will get his shot to impress in the NFL.

    8/8/2012: The Philadelphia Eagles released full back Jeremy Stewart and signed defensive tackle John Gill. It's difficult for any team to give reps to three different full backs. Emil Igwenagu will get all the reps at full back when Stanley Havili is off the field. Gill was added to give more depth to a defensive line that is always been rotated in and out.

    8/4/2012: The Philadelphia Eagles signed defensive end Xavier Brown. Brown is a good athlete at defensive end who just finished his season with the New Orleans Voodoo of the Arena Football League. The Eagles had one roster spot open after they traded away Fokou and Lloyd. Adding another defensive end for a defense that loves to rotate their linemen makes a lot of sense.

    8/2/2012: The Philadelphia Eagles traded linebackers linebacker Moise Fokou and Greg Lloyd to the Indianapolis Colts for cornerback Kevin Thomas. Thomas is a good, young physical corner who should compete with Brandon Hughes for a roster spot. Fokou and Lloyd were probably not going to make the final roster and should have a better shot with the Colts. Pretty good trade for both sides.

    8/2/2012: Per Adam Caplan on twitter, Ron Johnson has passed through waivers and will go on the Eagles IR. He should be back in camp next summer. 

    7/31/2012: The Philadelphia Eagles signed Andrew Brewer, who was Mike Kafka's old teammate at Northwestern. Brewer will most likely serve as an extra body for camp. It will be good exposure for him with a chance to work his way up to getting a practice squad invite up by the end of the summer, but he won't have much of a chance at making the final 53-man roster.

    7/31/2012: The Philadelphia Eagles have waived injured wide receiver Ron Johnson. Johnson dislocated his ankle on July 30th and is most likely to be ruled out for the entire 2012 season. Johnson was having a solid camp up to this point. This injury could not have come at a worse time. He will most likely be put on the Eagles injured reserve list down the road and brought back to camp next summer.

August 27th Cuts

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    The Philadelphia Eagles were down to 79 player prior to the Monday afternoon deadline to get their roster down to 75 players. The Eagles only had to release one player, Mike Gibson, and placed three other players on some type of reserve list.

    Wide Receiver Jamal Hamler was released. Mike Gibson was placed on the injured reserve list with a minor hip flexor. Jason Peters was put on the non-football injury list and is eligible to come off it in Week 6, but must be either activated or placed on the injured reserve list by Week 9. Mike Patterson was placed on the non-football illness list, which has the same set of rules.

    Peters isn't likely to play this season after undergoing two Achilles surgeries that usually require at least six or eight months of surgery, but at least he has a chance to come back this season if possible. Patterson has to be cleared by the doctor who performed his brain surgery this offseason. He isn't likely to return this season either.

    The Eagles will have to cut down their roster to 53 players on Friday, August 31st at 4:00.

Full Team Roster and Projected Depth Chart

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    Quarterback(3): Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Trent Edwards

    Running Back(4): LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk

    Full Back(1): Stanley Havili,

    Wide Receiver(5): DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Damaris Johnson

    Tight End(2): Brent Celek, Clay Harbor

    Offensive Tackle(4): Demetress Bell, Todd Herremans, King Dunlap, Dennis Kelly

    Offensive Guard(3): Evan Mathis, Danny Watkins, Julian Vandervelde

    Center(2): Jason Kelce, Dallas Reynolds

    Defensive End(6): Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Brandon Graham, Darryl Tapp, Vinny Curry, Phillip Hunt

    Defensive Tackle(5): Culllen Jenkins, Derek Landri, Fletcher Cox, Antonio Dixon, Cedric Thornton

    Outside Linebacker(4): Mychal Kendricks, Brian Rolle, Jamar Chaney, Akeem Jordan,

    Middle Linebacker(2): DeMeco Ryans, Casey Matthews

    Cornerback(6): Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Brandon Boykin, Curtis Marsh,  Brandon Hughes, Trevard Lindley

    Safety(4): Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Colt Anderson

    Specialist(4): Alex Henery, Chas Henry, Mat McBriar, Jon Dorenbos

     

     

     

     

Last 5 in

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    Final cuts are going to be brutal this year. Andy Reid and company will have a number of tough decisions to make once training camp and preseason are through. Do the Eagles keep a fullback or use one of the tight ends or running backs in that role? How many receivers, cornerbacks, safeties and defensive linemen do you keep?

    This is the problem you have when you are loaded with depth from top to bottom on your roster. It's a good problem to have, but it will lead to around five or 10 players getting cut who  should be on an NFL roster somewhere.

    Five players stand out to me as players who will make the roster, but not by much. They will be the last five players to make it through final cuts.

    Cedric Thornton

    It doesn't make sense for the Eagles to cut Thornton and watch him thrive with another team in need of an inside pass rusher. Thornton is a perfect fit in the wide-9 who has really blossomed early in his second season. It would help his case if the Eagles decide to keep five defensive backs this season, but to me Thornton is the fourth best defensive tackle on this roster.

    Stanley Havili

    Havili has shown me enough as a lead blocker, a runner, receiver and on special teams that he is one of the 53 best players on this roster. Ideally the Eagles would keep a full back on the final roster. Sure, they could use a player like Clay Harbor in the lead blocker role, but Havili has shown he is the best lead blocker on this team.

    Brett Brackett

    I firmly believe that the Eagles will elect to keep three tight ends on their roster this season. Chase Ford might be the better blocker at this point, but Brackett is a far better receiver with plenty of room to grow as a blocker.

    Jaiquawn Jarrett

    Jarrett almost cost himself a job with a dreadful performance against the Steelers in the Eagles first preseason game. He has bounced back and played well since then. He still doesn't look anywhere near the player the Eagles thought he was when they spent a second round pick on him in 2011, but he can still be a servicable backup. He should keep his roster spot for at least one more season.

    Steve Vallos

    Vallos will make this team because Julian Vandervelde can't be a reliable backup center. He is already the top reserve guard, but he really struggled with his snaps at center. In comes Steve Vallos as the Eagles backup center. He has been getting the most work at center with the second team offense and will continue to all season long. Center is too important of a position not to have a reliable backup.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

Last 5 out

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    With a roster as deep as the Eagles, there are going to be a handful of cuts that could of made this roster in any other year. These five players will probably either earn a spot on the Eagles practice squad(if eligible) or find a spot on another team's 53 man roster. Here are the projected final five cuts for the Eagles:

    Brandon Washington

    Washington has a chance to be a really good guard in this league, but he isn't ready to make an impact just yet. Ideally, the Eagles stash him on the practice squad this season and he earns a roster spot next season. Spending his junior season at Miami at left tackle did him no favors. He is still pretty raw for an offensive guard and would benefit greatly from spending a whole season just learning the fundamentals of the position. Physically I have no doubts about him, but football is far more complex than that.

    Marvin McNutt

    The biggest knock on McNutt coming out of Iowa was his inability to beat some of the better college corners in man coverage. Well now he is in the NFL and every corner was once one of the better college corners at the very least. McNutt is a good candidate to stash on the practice squad for a season and see how he develops.

    Chris Polk

    This cut is going to sting a little bit for a lot of Eagles fans. Polk is a physical runner, but he is clearly the fourth best running back on the Eagles roster and has not yet been used as a full back. I don't see a scenario where the Eagles keep Polk. They aren't a running team. Why on earth would they keep four running backs?

    Antonio Dixon

    Dixon just isn't a good fit in the wide-9 scheme. He is slow off the ball and doesn't offer as much of a pass-rusher as the four defensive tackles I have making the roster ahead of him. Dixon just doesn't have the athleticism or quickness to make it in the wide-9.

    Brandon Hughes

    Hughes will be a tough cut for the Eagles. If Colt Anderson isn't ready for the start of the regular season, Hughes could find a roster spot until he is ready to come back. Hughes is the fourth best outside corner on the roster, which isn't good enough to crack a roster spot this season. He is plenty talented enough to find a spot somewhere, but not on a team where Brandon Boykin and Curtis Marsh are the fourth and fifth best corner on their team.

     

     

     

     

     

Quarterbacks

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    QBs on roster: Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Trent Edwards

    Starter: Michael Vick

    Offseason additions: Nick Foles, Trent Edwards

    Roster Cuts: Mike Kafka

    This was supposed to be the easiest position to project heading into training camp. Michael Vick was your starter, Mike Kafka was being groomed as the backup and Nick Foles would be the project and third stringer. Oops.

    Nick Foles and Trent Edwards stole the show during preseason. They were one of the back quarterback duos in preseason and helped lead the Eagles to a 4-0 record. Foles get promoted as Vick's backup and Edwards shocks the world by beating out Kafka.

    This summer might have been Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg's best work as they completely reworked Edwards' mechanics after he was awful during OTAs. They also turned Nick Foles from a project to a serious threat to Vick's future as the starting quarterback. There isn't a quarterback controversy, yet, but the Eagles have plenty of viable options should Vick miss any time this season.

Running Backs

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    RBs on roster: LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk

    Starter: LeSean McCoy

    Offseason Additions: Bryce Brown, Chris Polk

    Roster Cuts:

    The Eagles are going to run the football a lot this season. They don't really have a choice in the matter. When Chris Polk is your fourth best running back, you must have three really good backs ahead of him.

    With McCoy and Lewis, the Eagles have two really quick backs who are also outstanding receivers. McCoy is the star, but Lewis is a good backup to have. You get a very similar player when Lewis either spells McCoy or fills in for him in the event of an injury.

    With Polk and Brown, the Eagles get two rookies who are naturally gifted power runners with good speed and blocking abilities. Brown has great straight line speed for a 220 pound back, which makes him really difficult to bring down in the open field. Polk isn't quite as fast, but he doesn't need to be. He would rather run over a defender then head for the sidelines.

    I don't know how the Eagles are going to get all four backs involved this season, but it will be very exciting to see them try.

     

Full Back

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    FB on roster: Stanley Havili

    Starter: Stanley Havili

    Offseason Additions:

    Roster Cuts: Jeremy Stewart, Emil Igwenagu

    Stanley Havili was the number one full back on the depth chart heading into training camp, but he still had to prove he deserved to be on the final 53 man roster. He did just enough during preseason to earn a roster spot. He is a smaller full back at just over 230 pounds, but he is a terrific athlete and a good runner. What he lacks in strength compared to other lead blockers, he more than makes up for in versatility and athleticism.

    Full back isn't a position the Eagles use more than 10-20 percent of any given game, but there will be a handful of plays this season where the Eagles will really need their full back to show up. He will be a key player in the red zone this season.

     

Wide Receivers

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    WRs on roster: DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Damaris Johnson

    Projected Starters: DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin

    Offseason additions: Damaris Johnson

    Roster cuts: Andrew Brewer, Tiger Jones, McKay Jacobson, Elvis Akpla, Jamel Hamler, Mardy Gilyard, Chad Hall, Marvin McNutt

    DeSean Jackson is financially stable and Jeremy Maclin is healthy. Neither player was afforded that luxury last season, but with Jackson's new contract and Maclin being 100 percent healthy, then this electric receiving duo should put up monster numbers in 2011.

    Jason Avant is one of the most underrated wide receivers in football. There may not be a better route runner in the NFL. He is the ideal slot receiver in the NFL with his route running ability, quickness and his soft hands.

    Riley Cooper and Damaris Johnson fill out the roster at wide receiver. Both should be great on special teams this season, but that is where their similarities end. Cooper will be the top reserve outside receiver while Johnson will be a backup slot receiver. Johnson will also get a lot of touches in the open field, similar to what the Chiefs do with Dexter McCluster.

Tight Ends

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    TEs on roster: Brent Celek, Clay Harbor

    Starter: Brett Celek

    Offseason additions:

    Roster cuts: Brett Brackett, Chase Ford

    As if turns out, the Eagles don't want to keep three tight ends. Maybe it had something to do with what they thought of Brett Brackett and Chase Ford. Neither player is ready to make an impact on an NFL roster. The Eagles will keep the same two tight ends for the third straight season.

    Brent Celek and Clay Harbor aren't Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, but they are solid players. Celek and Harbor are two of the best all-around tight ends in football. They catch the ball well, the block well and never hurt their team.

    Celek could reach career highs in receiving yards if the pass protection is good enough without him staying in for help. That has always been his biggest obstacle at achieving bigger numbers and the left tackle position could be that obstacle this season.

    Harbor has just 22 receptions in the last two seasons combined, but should make a much larger contribution this season. He has caught everything throw his way this summer and has blossomed into the Eagles best skilled positional blocker.

Offensive Tackles

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    LTs on roster: Demetress Bell, Todd Herremans, King Dunlap, Dennis Kelly

    Starters: King Dunlap, Todd Herremans

    Offseason additions: Demetress Bell, Dennis Kelly

    Roster cuts: Thomas Welch, D.J. Jones

    Last season the Eagles had the best offensive tackle duo in the league with Jason Peters and Todd Herremans. Demetress Bell was trying to fill a major void left when Peters went down with a torn Achilles' tendon.

    Bell was absolutely horrendous during the preseason. He struggled to find his blocks in the running game and has been a major liability in pass protection.

    The good news for the Eagles is that King Dunlap has been solid all summer long. He isn't a Pro Bowl player, but he is a very reliable player in pass protection. You don't get excited about him as a starter, but you never have to worry about him either.

    Dennis Kelly, a fifth round draft pick last April, made the Eagles final roster as the fourth offensive tackle. Or maybe he made it as the third offensive tackle. He played both left and right tackle in the Eagles preseason finale. He didn't wow anybody, but he wasn't horrible either. He could be the first tackle off the bench if either Herremans or Dunlap get hurt.

Offensive Guards

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    OGs on roster: Evan Mathis, Danny Watkins, Julian Vandervelde

    Starters: Evan Mathis, Danny Watkins

    Offseason additions:

    Roster cuts: Brandon Washington, Mike Gibson, Alfred McCullough

    The offensive line is really becoming a strength for the Eagles. The tackles got all the attention in 2011, but it was the guards that played well down the stretch.

    Evan Mathis went from being a career journeyman to a Pro Bowl-caliber player in just one season under offensive line coach Howard Mudd. Danny Watkins had his ups and downs as a rookie but is really starting to play like a first-round draft pick late in the season.

    It took a while for Watkins to really settle in to his new position. He was a left tackle in college and before that he was just a fireman who had never played organized football. Once he started to understand his assignments better he stopped over-thinking and started to just block. I expect both of these guards to have Pro Bowl-caliber years.

    Julian Vandervelde will be the Eagles reserve guard this season. He spent some time at center, but had some issues with snapping the football. He could serve as an emergency center if need be, but he won't be getting any starts at that position until his snapping improves.

Centers

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    Cs on roster: Jason Kelce, Dallas Reynolds

    Starters: Jason Kelce

    Offseason additions:

    Roster cuts: Steve Vallos

    Jason Kelce has about as good of a rookie season as a sixth-round draft pick can expect. He won the starting center job very early in training camp and never looked back. He had his ups and downs, but for the most part he was outstanding all season long.

    He does need to add some bulk this summer. The Eagles struggled to gain yards near the goal line when the ran behind Kelce, especially on quarterback sneaks. If he keep getting stronger I don't see how he can't be a top-three center in this league.

    Dallas Reynolds made the roster as the backup center. He has spent his entire career on various practice squads, so it is great to see him crack a 53 man roster.

Defensive Ends

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    DEs on roster: Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Brandon Graham, Darryl Tapp, Vinny Curry, Phillip Hun

    Starters: Trent Cole, Jason Babin

    Offseason additions: Vinny Curry

    Roster cuts: Monte Taylor, Xavier Brown

    This is by far the deepest position on the Eagles roster. Trent Cole and Jason Babin are Pro Bowl players. Brandon Graham and Phillip Hunt will be Pro Bowl players down the road and Vinny Curry also has that same type of potential. Then there's Darryl Tapp.

    Tapp was expected to be the odd man out at defensive end on this roster. Then he dominated Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas against Cleveland in the third week of preseason. Tapp has played great in each preseason game and was a standout at training camp as well. He just played at too high a level to be let go.

    Curry will be the inactive player at defensive end, while the other five players will get plenty of snaps each week. Five really good defensive ends rotating in and out will wear out opposing offensive tackles all year long.

Defensive Tackles

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    DTs on roster: Derek Landri, Cullen Jenkins, Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton

    Starters: Derek Landri, Cullen Jenkins

    Offseason additions: Fletcher Cox

    Roster cuts: Antonio Dixon, Ollie Ogbu, Frank Trotter

    With Mike Patterson still on the mend following his offseason brain surgery, the nose tackle role on the Eagles defensive line has really opened up until Patterson returns. Patterson could be ready sometime during preseason or he could be out until about the first or second month or the season. Doctors have to feel comfortable enough to trust his head to withstand the beating a defensive tackle like him could take.

    Derek Landri has taken advantage of this opportunity while Antonio Dixon has really jeopardized his roster spot. Right now Landri is running with the first team defense while Dixon has been really slow coming off the snap. I fully expect Landri to be starting next to Cullen Jenkins until Patterson comes back and maybe even after that.

    Both Jenkins and Fletcher Cox are great talents on this line. They have been lined up at defensive end a little bit during camp and they should both be pass-rushing forces this season.

    Cedric Thornton beat out Antonio Dixon because Thornton was just much quicker and simply a better fit in the wide-9. Dixon looked out of shape and out-matched all summer long. It was only a matter of time, even though he was the final player to be released. Thornton is a great story. He was an undrafted player out of Southern Arkansas who earned a spot on the practice squad. Now he will be a key role player at defensive tackle.

Outside Linebackers

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    OLBs on roster: Mychal Kendricks, Brian Rolle, Jamar Chaney, Akeem Jordan

    Starters: Mychal Kendricks, Akeem Jordan

    Offseason additions:  Mychal Kendricks

    Roster cuts: Keenan Clayton, Monte Simmons, Ryan Rau

    Covering tight ends and defending the run have been plaguing the Eagles over the last three seasons. The Eagles spent a second-round pick to try and help in those areas. Mychal Kendricks was drafted to cover the starting tight end all over the field while also providing plenty of run support out of the strong side linebacker spot.

    Akeem Jordan came from nowhere to win the weak side linebacker spot. Brian Rolle has really struggled in pass coverage, now in his second season in the NFL. Jamar Chaney was also supposed to be a part of the battle at weak side linebacker, but has yet to get back to 100 percent.

    Jordan has looked great in preseason with every unit he has played with in preseason. He doesn't have much of a ceiling, but he isn't going to play out of position very often. On a defense with some pretty special athletes, he is the safe player that will rarely hurt this defense.

Middle Linebackers

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    MLBs on roster: DeMeco Ryans, Casey Matthews

    Starter: DeMeco Ryans

    Offseason additions: DeMeco Ryans

    Roster cuts:

    This was the least-reliable position on the Eagles' roster last season. Whether it was Casey Matthews or Jamar Chaney at middle linebacker, nobody was able to give much run support or cover anyone in the passing game. DeMeco Ryans will change that right away.

    The Eagles acquired Ryans for basically just a fourth-round draft pick. He came so cheap because he was a 4-3 player stuck in a 3-4 defense and was a little over a year removed from surgery on his Achilles' tendon.

    In 2012, Ryans is 100 percent healthy and back to the defense that made him great. He is the physical force they need against the run and is plenty reliable in the passing game. Ryans' greatest attribute might be his leadership. He wasn't handed that role at camp, he grabbed it by the throat and took it. This defense finally has a leader and should be more in sync because of it.

    Casey Matthews bulked up to around 250 pounds this offseason so he can better handle the middle linebacker position. He won't get thrown into the fire for a while now with Ryans manning the middle. He can just sit back and learn from one of the best.

     

Cornerbacks

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    CBs on roster: Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Brandon Boykin, Curtis Marsh, Brandon Hughes, Trevard Lindley

    Starters: Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

    Offseason additions: Brandon Boykin, Trevard Lindley

    Roster cuts:

    This should be a real strength for the Eagles defense now that Asante Samuel is gone. It's not that Samuel wasn't a great player. The problem with Samuel is that what makes him great really limits what the rest of the secondary does. He is best utilized playing zone or off-man coverage so he can read the quarterbacks eyes and jump the receiver's route. Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on other hand, are best used in a press man coverage.

    Now that Samuel is gone we should see the Eagles play primarily a press coverage. They have the players to do it, including slot corners and linebackers that can be left alone in on running backs and tight ends.

    Brandon Boykin has won the slot corner battle. Hanson was cut and Boykin will be relied upon very heavily as the Eagles top slot corner and kick returner.

    Brandon Hughes and Trevard Lindley played hard and alert in all four preseason games. They fought there way back on to the Eagles roster. Lindley spent the 2010 season with the Eagles, but was cut prior to the 2011 season. Now he has back, for the time being. Either one of these corners could be moved if the Eagles find a quality veteran safety.

     

Safeties

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    Safeties on roster: Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Colt Anderson

    Starters: Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman

    Offseason additions:

    Rosters cuts: Tom Nelson, Phillip Thomas, Wade Bonner, O.J. Atogwe

    Safety should be one of the most improved positions from last season. It was thus over the final four games of the season, and there is no reason why we shouldn't see even more improvement with a full offseason of work.

    Nate Allen is finally healthy. He suffered a torn patella tendon very late in his rookie season in 2010 and didn't fully recover until the second half of the 2011 season. He is 100 percent healthy this season and should really make the jump to dependable starter in year three.

    Kurt Coleman is one of the more underrated players on this team. He isn't the biggest or the fastest guys out there but he doesn't miss many tackles and always seems to be around the ball.

    O.J. Atogwe was shell of his former self during camp and preseason. He can't stay healthy, and when has been healthy he has failed to impress. His football career is likely over.

    Jaiquawn Jarrett's football future was in serious jeopardy after the first week of preseason. Over the final three games he has played faster and more disciplined. He still doesn't look like the player the Eagles spent a second round pick on in 2011, but he is getting better. Progression is the key.

    Colt Anderson fills out the roster as an emergency safety and a special teams ace.

Kicking Specialists

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    Kicking Specialists on roster: Alex Henery (K), Chas Henry (P), Jon Dorenbos (LS)

    Starters: Alex Henery, Chas Henry, Jon Dorenbos

    Offseason additions:

    Roster cuts:  Mat McBriar

    Special teams is pretty set right now. Alex Henery Is the only kicker left on the roster and Jon Dorenbos the only long snapper. Both players were outstanding last season. Henery only missed two field goals under 50 yards last season while Dorenbos has always been the player you never hear anything about. For a long snapper, that's a good thing.

    Chas Henry won the punter job thanks in part to his reliability as a holder and a pooch punter. He hasn't shown much power this summer, but he has done enough to earn a roster spot for at least one more season.