Philadelphia Eagles: 10 Observations About Final Preseason Cuts
The Philadelphia Eagles officially made their final roster cuts today in their quest to get the team down to 53 players by the 7 p.m. deadline time.
A total of 19 players were handed their release papers, including some that may come as a surprise to many fans. Eight of those are eligible for the practice squad but the remaining 11—plus players that were released earlier in the summer —will have to find jobs elsewhere around the National Football League.
The Eagles have a strong core heading into the 2012 season, as they return key playmakers in Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Trent Cole, and Nnamdi Asomugha, all of which will play a pivotal role in the Eagles’ hunt for their first Super Bowl championship under Andy Reid. Yet it may actually come down to the backups and the role players to make the difference for the Eagles.
After all, the 2011 New York Giants probably wouldn’t have won the Super Bowl without a tremendous catch by third receiver Mario Manningham, and the New England Patriots wouldn’t have even gotten to the Super Bowl without a terrific defensive play by undrafted free agent Sterling Moore.
That’s why it’s so important that the Eagles make the right move when it comes to their final 53 players, and when these backups are forced into action, that will be the truest test of all.
Trent Edwards In, Mike Kafka out
If you had told me several months ago that Trent Edwards would flat out earn the third quarterback job over third-year player Mike Kafka, I would have laughed in your face.
But that’s exactly the case, as Edwards—a former Buffalo Bills cast-off—made the most of his opportunities thus far this preseason, playing like a veteran quarterback more than capable of serving as the third QB on an NFL roster.
Meanwhile, Kafka has really done nothing during his brief career with the Eagles to show the team that he can be counted on as the backup behind Vick.
Kafka struggled immensely when given a chance to play in 2011, posting just a 47.7 passer rating while throwing no touchdowns and two interceptions. He headed into camp as the consensus backup quarterback, but after the spectacular preseasons by Nick Foles and Edwards, Kafka’s broken hand showed the cruelty of the NFL in that a player really can lose his job to an injury.
The Eagles made a last-second desperate attempt to trade Kafka before they cut him today, but I think it was more a bluff on Andy Reid’s part in an attempt to show respect for a player that has been a consummate professional during his tenure with the Eagles—but just not a good quarterback.
Chad Hall Released for Third Straight Year
After going undrafted in the 2008 NFL draft, Chad Hall eventually latched on with the Philadelphia Eagles in spring 2010. He was released during final cuts but was then re-signed to the practice squad. He did see some action in regular season games that year, catching a touchdown in the season finale.
In 2011, Hall led the Eagles in catches and receiving yards during the preseason but was waived once again. He ended up seeing action in seven games, scoring another touchdown.
This preseason, Hall didn’t stand out, and the Eagles had a slew of players competing for the final roster spots. Hall was eventually released earlier today—but if history shows us anything, it’s that he’ll probably be back at some point this season.
Antonio Dixon Released
The Philadelphia Eagles have ridiculous talent and depth on the defensive line, although I am surprised that Cedric Thornton made it over veteran Antonio Dixon.
Dixon has played significantly overweight, although that does make him a top-line run stuffer. Dixon tore his triceps last year and missed 12 games, which allowed Derek Landri the opportunity to step in and excel as a reserve player.
That ultimately made Dixon expendable this training camp, and he’s not a candidate for the practice squad considering he’s a proven veteran.
Damaris Johnson Wins Uphill Battle
Very few players even knew who Damaris Johnson was entering the summer, but he played a huge role for the Philadelphia Eagles in the preseason.
Johnson is likely going to make an impact this season as either a wide receiver or a punt returner, especially with Riley Cooper injured and Chad Hall released. He’s a former undrafted rookie free agent from the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes, but he has the skill set to make himself a name in the NFL.
Mat McBriar Loses out to Chas Henry?!
Chas Henry showed absolutely nothing promising as a rookie, especially if you remember his atrocious fake punt pass on Sunday Night Football against the Chicago Bears.
Henry rated near the bottom of the NFL in most key punting categories, and when the Philadelphia Eagles brought in former two-time Pro Bowler Mat McBriar from the Dallas Cowboys, it seemed like it would signal the end of the Henry Era in Philly.
But apparently not—the Eagles are sticking with Henry, and hopefully he will show the team more than he did in 2011.
Joselio Hanson, O.J. Atogwe Among Veteran Cuts
I predicted the Philadelphia Eagles would release veteran nickel cornerback Joselio Hanson when I made my initial 53-man roster prediction back in April. I did not foresee O.J. Atogwe missing the team, and I’m surprised the Eagles didn’t feel he had enough skills left to make an impact.
The team will almost assuredly sign a veteran safety to complement Kurt Coleman, Nate Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett. As for Hanson, six years is a pretty good career for a corner that never started.
Darryl Tapp Still Around
Considering Darryl Tapp is set to make $2.58 million in base salary for the 2012 season as the sixth defensive end, I’m very surprised the Philadelphia Eagles have kept him around.
There’s still a chance Tapp gets traded, and I think sending Tapp to the Indianapolis Colts for former Eagles offensive lineman Winston Justice would make sense.
The Sixth-Round Picks Lose out
I thought the Philadelphia Eagles got a pair of steals when they picked up wide receiver Marvin McNutt and offensive guard Brandon Washington, each in the sixth round of this past year’s draft.
McNutt is a converted quarterback, but he has great size and leaping ability. He was projected to go as high as the third or fourth round in the 2012 NFL Draft.
It’s shocking that Riley Cooper broke his collarbone and Chad Hall was released, yet McNutt still didn’t make the team. He had just one catch in the four preseason games and really did nothing to show the Eagles that he can amount to anything in the pros.
Meanwhile, Washington was supposed to have been a third- or fourth-round pick himself but slipped to the sixth round, and he didn’t make much of an impact in training camp.
Even with the injury to Mike Gibson, the Eagles still didn’t feel Washington had proven himself enough to make the official roster. He may wind up on the practice squad, but that can’t be the preseason Washington had hoped for.
Just Two Tight Ends Again
Last year, the Philadelphia Eagles were one of just a few teams in all of the National Football League to play with only two tight ends on their 53-man roster all season.
With the way tight ends are revolutionizing the NFL, it may have made sense for the Eagles to invest more in the backup position to Brent Celek—especially since Clay Harbor has underachieved in his two seasons.
But the Eagles are once again going with only Celek and Harbor, as Brett Brackett and Chase Ford were among the final cuts today.
Chris Polk and Bryce Brown Both in
It seemed like there might not be room for both Chris Polk and Bryce Brown in Philadelphia, but the Eagles are making it work. In fact, the team is keeping Dion Lewis, Polk, Brown, and fullback Stanley Havili in addition to All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy.
That’s five backs, which is an awful lot for a team that passes the ball nearly 60 percent of the time—and features arguably the best running quarterback in NFL history. In fact, the Eagles have made McCoy the primary back during the past two seasons, and there’s just no reason for the team to keep that many backs.