Projecting the 53-Man Roster for the 2013 Philadelphia Eagles
The roster for the Philadelphia Eagles has changed dramatically since the conclusion of the 2012 season. An outsider may not even recognize this team right now.
Many of the problem players on the 2012 team have been released or weren't re-signed during free agency, including cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
The free-agency period and the draft brought in more than a dozen players who should be a lock to make the team's final roster in just a few months. But don't underestimate how competitive training camp will be. After all, the Eagles went 4-12 in 2012 and change is desperately needed.
The following slides will predict the 53 players who will find themselves on this coming year's roster, beginning with the quarterbacks and ending with the special teamers.
Chip Kelly's offense is predicated on intelligent quarterbacks with top-notch accuracy who can swiftly lead the offense, often in no-huddle form. Does that sound like Michael Vick to you? It sure doesn't to me. I think the Eagles build up the idea of Vick as the starter during training camp but trade him late in the preseason for a mid-round draft pick.
Last year's rookie Nick Foles, this year's rookie Matt Barkley and former University of Oregon star Dennis Dixon are my guesses as the three quarterbacks on this year's roster. I also wouldn't be surprised at all to see Barkley starting, a la Russell Wilson for the 2012 Seattle Seahawks.
LeSean McCoy is obviously the starter on this team, despite a down year in 2012 that saw the 24-year-old rush for just 840 yards and two touchdowns. He is expected to rebound, especially with the team returning Jason Peters, Jason Kelce and Todd Herremans from season-ending injuries.
Bryce Brown exploded as a rookie, averaging 4.9 yards per rush and scoring four touchdowns. His tendency to fumble needs to be corrected, but he is a lock to make the final roster.
The third running back spot will likely go to Felix Jones, a former first-round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys who was recently signed by the Eagles. Jones never lived up to expectations in Dallas, but his speed will be a valuable asset in Kelly's offense.
The first three spots at wide receiver are obvious, with veterans DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant as locks to make the roster.
The next couple of spots will have fierce competition, likely between Riley Cooper, Damaris Johnson, Arrelious Benn and perhaps a long shot or two such as Russell Shepard or Ifeanyi Momah.
I predict Benn, Johnson and Shepard make up the fourth through sixth spots at wide receiver.
Veteran Brent Celek is obviously on the team for the 2013 season, although don't be surprised to see second-round draft pick Zach Ertz beat him out for the starting spot. That won't change much though, as Kelly is a big fan of tight ends and plans to use many two- and even three-tight-end formations next season.
Free-agent signing James Casey can play both fullback and tight end and his versatility and breakout season in 2012 (34 catches, 330 yards, three touchdowns) suggests that the 28-year-old is in store for even bigger things this year.
Clay Harbor, the team's backup for his three seasons in the National Football League, will likely be the fourth tight end on the roster.
The starting offensive line for the 2013 Eagles figures to be completely set in stone, as Jason Peters, Jason Kelce and Todd Herremans return from season-ending injuries to join veteran Evan Mathis and first-round draft pick Lane Johnson as starters.
The only difference is that Herremans will likely slide inside to right guard, allowing the more versatile Johnson to play at right tackle.
Although he's been a major disappointment since the team selected him in the first round of the 2011 draft, Danny Watkins should have an advantage at the top backup guard position. Julian Vandervelde, a fifth-round pick in 2011, will have the edge for the final spot at guard.
At tackle, last year's rookie Dennis Kelly will definitely be on the roster, probably as the top backup.
Dallas Reynolds's ability to play both guard and center should give him the ninth and final spot reserved for offensive linemen.
With the Eagles switching to a variation of the 3-4 defense in 2013, it remains to be seen how Chip Kelly (or rather, Billy Davis) uses the defensive linemen on the squad.
Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton, Isaac Sopoaga, Vinny Curry and Bennie Logan are absolute locks to make the team.
I'll go with Joe Kruger and Clifton Geathers as the final two defensive linemen, meaning David King spends his first year on the practice squad.
The four starting linebackers on the 2013 team figure to be DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks in the middle, and Trent Cole and Connor Barwin on the outside. Brandon Graham has a chance to take one of the starting spots, but either way, those five are firmly entrenched on the official roster.
Phillip Hunt showed flashes of potential in 2011 (and the 2012 preseason) and could be given another chance to show what he can do. Emmanuel Acho and Casey Matthews, as a former member of the University of Oregon, may have the advantage for the final two spots at linebacker.
Obviously, Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams will make the 53-man roster, although it remains to be seen if they'll earn a starting spot.
Last year's nickel corner, Brandon Boykin, is a lock. Jordan Poyer, a seventh-round draft pick who has been described by many as the steal of the draft, should give Boykin a run for his money as the team's third corner.
Figure that the combination of Curtis Marsh, Brandon Hughes and Trevard Lindley should produce one player on the official roster. None of the three has produced during his limited time on the field.
Kenny Phillips is a classic case of a player who hasn't been able to live up to expectations as a first-round draft pick, but he should thrive with the Eagles if he can stay healthy.
Patrick Chung will compete with Nate Allen for the second starting spot at safety, but both should be able to make the roster.
Earl Wolff, a fifth-round draft pick, and Colt Anderson, the team's best special teams player, should make the roster. That leaves Kurt Coleman, a starter for the past two seasons but one of the team's biggest weaknesses in 2012, off the final roster.
Alex Henery is clearly the team's kicker and Jon Dorenbos is obviously the long snapper.
That leaves the punter job open to competition. This could be one of the more intriguing under-the-radar battles in camp, as veteran Donnie Jones battles rookie Brad Wing for the lone roster spot.
Jones averaged 47 yards per punt in 2012. He ranks ninth in NFL history in career punting average. But Wing is the hotshot rookie with his whole career ahead of him.
I'll go with Jones though. The last time the Eagles had a rookie punter, it didn't work out so well.