Projected Philadelphia Eagles' 53-Man Roster, Training Camp Edition
It’s still six weeks away from the Philadelphia Eagles finalizing their 53-man roster before the start of the 2013 season. Training camp will give veterans and rookies alike the opportunity to prove to new head coach Chip Kelly that they’re worth a spot.
Considering the Eagles went just 4-12 a year ago, there is bound to be high turnover on the roster. Michael Vick getting cut in training camp could shake up the quarterback position. The team has already freed itself of free-agent busts Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and it overhauled the secondary in free agency.
Six weeks from now, here’s a look at what this roster could look like.
Quarterbacks (3): Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley
It still remains to be seen whether Michael Vick will actually make the 53-man roster. If he does make it, there's almost no way it is as a backup.
But Vick may find himself as one of the more shocking offseason veteran cuts if Chip Kelly opts to go with a younger quarterback. Nick Foles played sparingly as a rookie, and Kelly would need to give the job to Foles based more on confidence and faith than Foles' 1-5 record as a starter a year ago.
There's also Matt Barkley, who will definitely make the roster. The status of both Vick and Foles will depend on Barkley's spot in the quarterback depth chart.
It would take an injury or the release of Vick to put Dennis Dixon on the roster. Even then, he may be released due simply to a lack of passing skills. G.J. Kinne is just a camp body.
Running Backs (4): LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown, Felix Jones, Chris Polk
LeSean McCoy is fully entrenched as the starter, and he has the resume to support it. He's an All-Pro, he's scored 20 touchdowns in a single season and he is early on in a five-year contract extension.
Bryce Brown has the backup spot locked up, barring a preseason case of fumbleitis so bad Coach Kelly doesn't feel comfortable giving him the football. Felix Jones is a former first-round pick, and winning the third running back job should be easy enough.
Chris Polk remains the fourth runner for now, but he's done nothing to secure a spot. Due to the lack of competition, he should have a job, but undrafted rookie Matthew Tucker will push him for time in camp.
The Philadelphia Eagles rarely use a fullback anymore, and they signed James Casey from the Houston Texans via free agency. That should spell the end for Emil Igwenagu.
Wide Receivers (5): DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Arrelious Benn, Damaris Johnson
DeSean Jackson isn't quite the two-time Pro Bowler who revolutionized the NFL several years ago, but he has the No. 1 spot all but guaranteed. Jackson is signed to a five-year, $51 million contract that makes him one of the highest-paid receivers in the game today.
Jeremy Maclin is entering a contract season, and he could use his first 1,000-yard year to earn an extension. Jason Avant's sure hands give him the edge on the top slot receiver spot.
Arrelious Benn and Damaris Johnson will compete for the fourth and fifth spots. Riley Cooper may have lost his job to trade acquisition Benn, but Cooper will at least have training camp and preseason games to make his case for a roster spot.
In the hunt for the final spot(s) are undrafted rookies Russell Shepard and Ifeanyi Momah, as well as players like Nick Miller, Greg Salas and B.J. Cunningham.
Tight Ends (4): Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, James Casey, Clay Harbor
Brent Celek will be a veteran cut one of these years, given his regressing skills and the influx of tight ends Kelly added. For now, though, Celek is safe.
He will enter the season as the starter and likely see more snaps as a blocker than second-round rookie Zach Ertz. Ertz was the 35th overall pick, and he has terrific size and speed to serve as an immediate weapon in Kelly's offense.
James Casey is a fullback who will play tight end and H-back under Kelly. His versatility is arguably his finest attribute.
Clay Harbor has spent three consecutive seasons as Celek's backup. His days could be numbered, though. Maybe that's why he has been playing a little outside linebacker.
Offensive Tackles (4): Jason Peters, Lane Johnson, Dennis Kelly, Allen Barbre
Jason Peters is a five-time Pro Bowler returning from injury, and he’s looking to regain his status as one of the elite offensive tackles in the NFL.
Lane Johnson is a first-round pick who will be slotted as the starting right tackle from the first week.
Behind Peters and Johnson will be Dennis Kelly as the top backup. Kelly saw extended action in 2012 when needed, filling in at both tackle and guard. Allen Barbre is fighting with a handful of other players for one of the final spots on the 53-man roster. He gets it because of his versatility and experience.
Guards (3): Evan Mathis, Todd Herremans, Danny Watkins
Evan Mathis has quietly established himself as one of the NFL’s superb guards. He is a tremendous blocker in both the passing and running game, having surrendered just one sack in the past two seasons (stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus, subscription required). Mathis will enter 2013 as his third season starting at left guard for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Todd Herremans will move inside to right guard after a year out at right tackle. Herremans is a veteran player who hasn’t made a Pro Bowl but provides solid fundamental play every season. He and Mathis are both locked up through at least 2016.
Danny Watkins has officially lost his job as the starting right guard, a role he held for just two disappointing seasons. The former first-round pick is vying for a spot on the roster, which isn’t even guaranteed. He should be able to beat out the competition for the top backup spot.
Centers (2): Jason Kelce, Dallas Reynolds
Jason Kelce beat out Jamaal Jackson in training camp three seasons ago, and he has been the starter ever since. He is rebounding from a season-ending injury he suffered early in 2012, but he is looking to be the team’s leader on the offensive line.
Dallas Reynolds started in place of Kelce for the majority of the campaign. He didn’t grade well, according to Pro Football Focus’ blocking stats (subscription required).
Reynolds has been in the organization for four seasons already—three on the practice squad and one as a backup-turned-starter. Reynolds will likely be able to beat out Matt Tennant for the right to back up Kelce.
Defensive Ends (5): Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton, Vinny Curry, Joe Kruger, Clifton Geathers
This will be one of the more interesting competitions in training camp. Fletcher Cox’s spot is guaranteed, considering he was a first-round pick just a year ago. Cedric Thornton is the early favorite to start opposite Cox, and Vinny Curry is a second-round pick from ’12 who will compete for a starting role as the 3-4 end opposite Cox.
It will depend on how many ends Kelly keeps on his roster, but this projection has two more.
Joe Kruger wins the spot, even though he’s a seventh-round rookie. He was a steal as a late pick and will push for playing time in 2013.
Dave King, the other seventh-round defensive end, may be a stretch to make the roster right away. If there’s an injury, he’s in. But for now, he goes to the practice squad and Clifton Geathers takes the last spot.
Nose Tackles (2): Isaac Sopoaga, Bennie Logan
There’s almost no way Isaac Sopoaga doesn’t make the roster. He’s not going to play regularly. Twenty to 30 snaps per game is what the Philadelphia Eagles want from Sopoaga, and that’s reasonable for a 32-year-old.
From Bennie Logan, Kelly has a versatile player who can line up at multiple spots on the 3-4 line.
Logan is 309 pounds, which means he could conceivably play the 0-technique role for which Sopoaga was signed. He’s better suited as a tackle in the 4-3 under formation or as a 3-4 end. Regardless, Logan will push for time. By the end of the season, he could be seeing 50 snaps per game.
Antonio Dixon is a long shot to make the roster. He’s a huge player capable of serving as a nose tackle, but the Eagles don’t need Sopoaga and Dixon.
Outside Linebackers (4): Trent Cole, Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Phillip Hunt
The first three players on this list are locks.
Trent Cole, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham will have a solid camp battle to see which two start and which one is the lead pass-rusher off the bench. Cole’s status as a veteran and Barwin’s contract suggest they will start, but Graham is capable of getting 10 sacks in a rotational role.
After those three, anyone could grab a spot or two. It depends on how many linebackers Kelly keeps on his roster. A 3-4 defense starts four linebackers, and Graham is as good as a starter.
In this projection, just one more outside linebacker gets voted on, and it’s Phillip Hunt. Hunt hasn’t impressed since being brought over from the Canadian Football League, but he could still win a spot due to the fact that someone else needs to make it.
Inside Linebackers (4): DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Emmanuel Acho, Jason Phillips
DeMeco Ryans played surprisingly well for the Philadelphia Eagles last season, considering the Houston Texans let him go cheap.
Ryans was a poor fit in the 3-4 defense the Texans ran, so hopefully he is able to transition successfully for Chip Kelly. Next to Ryans will be Mychal Kendricks, who may be on the verge of stardom given his impressive speed and coverage skills.
After those two, no one has the edge.
Casey Matthews played for the Oregon Ducks, which could give him the nod to make Kelly’s Eagles in 2013. But he hasn’t shown anything in two seasons. Jamar Chaney looked like a future star back in ’10, and he’s worn out his welcome as well.
For that reason, neither makes the ’13 roster.
The final spots in this projected roster go to relatively unknown players—Emmanuel Acho and Jason Phillips. Acho was a sixth-round pick of the Cleveland Browns last year, although he still hasn’t played a snap in the National Football League. Phillips will compete for depth along with Jake Knott.
Cornerbacks (5): Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Jordan Poyer, Brandon Hughes
The top four spots on the roster should be safe.
Cary Williams was acquired via free agency to be the No. 1 cornerback. Bradley Fletcher was signed as a likely starter as well, and while he’s better suited as a nickel or dime back, Fletcher will assuredly make the roster.
Brandon Boykin spent his 2012 rookie campaign as the nickel cornerback, and he should resume that role again. Jordan Poyer was a steal as a seventh-round pick, and he will give Boykin a run for the nickel corner job.
Brandon Hughes, Trevard Lindley and Curtis Marsh are probably competing for one spot.
Six cornerbacks seems like a lot for one roster, although the Philadelphia Eagles could use all the help they can get after last year’s dismal campaign. They’re all fringe players, though, so there’s no need for more than one.
Hughes gets the nod here.
Safeties (5): Kenny Phillips, Patrick Chung, Nate Allen, Earl Wolff, Colt Anderson
If Kenny Phillips starts the season on the PUP list (as he did in 2010 for a knee issue), this changes the safeties up a bit. In that case, Kurt Coleman would make the roster, but here, he falls just short.
Phillips and Patrick Chung are the expected starters in 2013 with Nate Allen and Earl Wolff serving as backups. Wolff may win a spot in training camp, but either way, he’s a safe bet to make the roster. Allen has shown enough potential that he gets a spot, just as Coleman has shown little enough that he misses the roster.
Colt Anderson is the fifth safety, although it’s much more because of his skills as a special teams player.
Specialists (3): Alex Henery, Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos
There will be no competition in camp at kicker. Alex Henery’s job is locked up. Likewise at long snapper, Jon Dorenbos is signed to a long-term deal because he’s one of the best in the business.
The punter battle will be interesting.
NFL veteran Donnie Jones, a two-time All-Pro, will go head-to-head with former LSU great Brad Wing. Wing has played just two collegiate seasons but is looking to unseat Jones as the punter. Jones gets it here based on experience.
Last 5 In
Last 5 spots: Colt Anderson, Clay Harbor, Allen Barbre, Clifton Geathers, Jason Phillips
Colt Anderson will make the team solely because of his elite special teams skills, which make him a Pro Bowl-caliber player in the NFL. Clay Harbor is now buried on the depth chart at tight end because of Zach Ertz and James Casey, but he still gets the nod because Chip Kelly loves tight ends.
Allen Barbre is a maybe, but he got the nod because of versatility and experience. The same goes for Clifton Geathers. Jason Phillips may be the final guy to make the team if he does.
Last 5 Out
Last 5 spots: Riley Cooper, Dave King, Everette Brown, Kurt Coleman, Brad Wing
Riley Cooper may need an injury or a very strong showing in preseason to make the roster. My gut feeling is neither happens.
Dave King is a 50-50 to make the roster, but he loses out to a player with more depth (Clifton Geathers).
Everette Brown has never amounted to much in his four NFL seasons, but the Philadelphia Eagles do need outside linebackers on their roster.
Unfortunately, Brown hasn’t shown enough to make it. Kurt Coleman struggled enough in tackling last year that he’s not going to make the roster. And Brad Wing will lose a much-publicized punting competition to Donnie Jones.