Predicting the 53-Man Roster for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013: Offense
The offseason is over. Football is back. Training camp is finally here.
For the Philadelphia Eagles, the 2013 season will be about erasing the painful memories from 2012.
We all know what happened. The Eagles were expected to rebound from a disappointing 8-8 season in 2011. Things looked bright in the first month of the year, as the Eagles won three of their first four games, all with late offensive scores and big defensive stops.
But the Eagles fizzled out, losing their next eight games and 11 of the final 12 games to end the Andy Reid era after 14 seasons.
In 2013, the Eagles have brought in former Oregon standout Chip Kelly, who has been one of the top offensive coaches in the nation for a number of years. Nobody knows what to expect for the Eagles this season.
In fact, nobody even knows who will be on the roster in 2013. The following slides will attempt to predict the final 53-man roster for the offensive side of the ball. This is a pre-training camp prediction, so it will likely change over the next few weeks.
The quarterback battle will obviously be the most intriguing competition during training camp. It's the first time this millennium that the Eagles will enter training camp with an open battle at quarterback.
Veteran Michael Vick will compete with last year's rookie Nick Foles and this year's fourth-round draft pick for the starting job at the quarterback position. Former University of Oregon standout Dennis Dixon is technically in the competition. G.J. Kinne figures to be just a camp body.
Whether he wins the starting job or not, Matt Barkley is an absolute lock to make the roster. He was just drafted this season, and a year ago he had been rumored to be one of the top five picks in the whole draft. He's not getting traded before he takes a meaningful snap.
In fact, he's my prediction to win the starting job, a la Russell Wilson over Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson for the 2012 Seattle Seahawks.
Personally, I think Foles has much better upside than Vick. Foles easily outperformed Vick in 2012 with significantly worse talent around him. Oh, and he was a rookie. Vick is a 33-year-old veteran who struggles to read basic defenses, can't stay healthy and has a knack for turning the football over at the absolute worst time.
Foles was better in 2012, and he will be better moving forward, speed or no speed.
I think Barkley and Foles will outperform Vick in training camp and the preseason, leading to either the release of Vick or a trade with an AFC team such as the New York Jets for a late-round draft pick.
That opens the door for Dennis Dixon, who knows Kelly's offense inside and out, as the third quarterback.
Quarterbacks: Matt Barkley (1), Nick Foles (2), Dennis Dixon (3)
LeSean McCoy was one of the league's top running backs in 2010 and 2011 before missing six games in 2012 due to concussion issues. He's one of the league's best backs and is clearly the starter.
Bryce Brown has the backup job locked up. He has tremendous upside. The fumbling issues (four in two starts) were beyond embarrassing, but a number of running backs have struggled with fumbles early in their careers, only to see them get fixed later in their careers. Tiki Barber and Adrian Peterson are two recent examples.
If Brown can master his fumbling problems and stop trying to bounce outside on every run, he has the strength and speed to become the best backup running back in the entire National Football League. He was compared to Bo Jackson as a rookie. He's one of my top players to watch in 2013.
Former first-round pick Felix Jones should easily win the third spot at running back. He provides speed and versatility out of the backfield. He can also return kicks if needed.
Don't expect Chris Polk or Matthew Tucker to make the roster. There's no need for the Eagles to keep a fourth running back, meaning there will be no surprises at the running back position.
Running Backs: LeSean McCoy (1), Bryce Brown (2), Felix Jones (3)
There is no possibility in which DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin do not make the team. The rest of the wide receivers are all fighting for anywhere from three to five spots.
Jason Avant has been the slot receiver since he was drafted in 2006, but I think his time in Philly comes to an end. He makes a lot of sense in a trade to the Kansas City Chiefs (or the New England Patriots). His spot on the roster can be replaced by the younger, faster, more versatile Damaris Johnson.
Riley Cooper and Arrelious Benn may be competing for one spot, as they're similar players, but I'm going to put both on the team. Cooper has shown glimpses of potential, and he is pretty good on special teams. Benn is a former second-round pick who may be valuable in the red zone.
I'm going to put one more receiver on the roster. I think it's going to go to Russell Shepard, the former standout high school quarterback who went undrafted this past April. Shepard will beat out Greg Salas, Ifeanyi Momah (a terrific practice squad candidate), Nick Miller, B.J. Cunningham and Will Murphy.
Kelly is going to love a player like Shepard. Who cares that he went undrafted and has never played in the NFL? Can't you see Kelly falling in love with Shepard's speed and ability to line up literally anywhere on the field? I can.
Wide Receivers: DeSean Jackson (1), Jeremy Maclin (2), Damaris Johnson (3), Riley Cooper (4), Arrelious Benn (5), Russell Shepard (6)
There's not a lot of drama among the tight ends this summer, at least as far as roster spots are concerned. It will be interesting to see if rookie Zach Ertz can take the starting job from veteran Brent Celek (and I think he will by the end of the season), but Kelly plans to use a lot of two-tight end sets, so it may not matter anyway. Plus, both are automatically on the team.
Free agent James Casey can line up almost anywhere and will become a Chip Kelly favorite with his versatility. He's on the team for sure.
The big question mark is fourth-year player Clay Harbor, last year's backup. Harbor caught 25 balls and scored three touchdowns in 2012, but he's far from a lock to make the team this year. I think he's the definition of a 50-50, but I'm going to give him a roster spot simply because tight end is a position that Kelly values so much.
Derek Carrier is a possible practice squad player. Will Shaw will need a miracle to make the team.
Tight Ends: Brent Celek (1), Zach Ertz (2), James Casey (3), Clay Harbor (4)
The starters on the offensive line are all but penciled in.
The return of veteran superstar Jason Peters to left tackle will help the Eagles tremendously, especially if he really is 100 percent recovered from his Achilles injury suffered in the spring of 2012. Evan Mathis is a stud at left guard. Jason Kelce returns from a torn ACL to the center position. Veteran Todd Herremans has moved to right guard to make room for rookie Lane Johnson at right tackle.
Former first-round pick Danny Watkins will be in a battle for one of the backup spots on the offensive line. Even though he's been a major disappointment through his first two seasons in the NFL, he should be able to secure a backup spot.
It's difficult to predict the remainder of the offensive line, especially for the players who have never played in the NFL.
The big question is how many players Kelly will choose to keep. I'll go with eight, meaning Dennis Kelly and Julian Vandervelde will be the other two backups. Kelly can play tackle and guard, and Vandervelde can play guard and center. Remember, Kelly values versatility.
Offensive Line: Jason Peters (LT), Evan Mathis (LG), Jason Kelce (C), Todd Herremans (RG), Lane Johnson (RT), Danny Watkins (G), Dennis Kelly (T/G), Julian Vandervelde (G/C)