Philadelphia Eagles: 5 Players on the Roster Bubble
The Philadelphia Eagles have until Saturday, Aug. 31, to reduce their roster to the league-mandated 53 players. The team was up to 90 players at the beginning of training camp. A wave of cuts put the Eagles at 75, and 13 more after the fourth preseason game places the Eagles at their current number of 62.
Chip Kelly will have to decide which nine players to release to get his roster to 53. Many of the spots are locks. Michael Vick isn't going anywhere. All of the remaining draft picks should be safe. And now that Kenny Phillips and Dennis Dixon have already been released, every free-agent acquisition should be a guarantee to make the roster.
The following five players are in danger, though. Whether it be a high cap cost in 2013, declining performances or a logjam at a certain position, the following five are toss-ups as to whether they will still be Eagles by tomorrow.
It's been just two seasons since the Philadelphia Eagles drafted Danny Watkins in the first round, but his time in Philly may be over.
Watkins has been a colossal disappointment. He was benched as a rookie, then again last year. Watkins lacks ideal athleticism for his position, and his fairly high cap cost for a backup may signal the end of his tenure, unless he is willing to renegotiate.
Even if the Eagles do bring back Watkins, he's just going to be a backup. Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans are one of the more elite guard duos, and Allen Barbre is a fine backup. Watkins may be the last option if he does make the roster.
Chip Kelly has acknowledged his love of versatile players. That's why he signed fullback/tight end James Casey and drafted tight end Zach Ertz, who can also play slot receiver.
And that's why he may keep Russell Shepard.
Shepard is essentially a poor man's Damaris Johnson, who in turn is a poor man's DeSean Jackson. Shepard was a standout high school football player before failing to really put up any productive numbers at LSU.
The Philadelphia Eagles took a chance on him as an undrafted free agent. Shepard has caught just three passes on 11 targets thus far in the preseason. If he makes the roster, it will likely be as the sixth wide receiver. Jackson, Johnson, Riley Cooper and Jason Avant are locks. Greg Salas could have the edge on Shepard as the fifth receiver. And former Oregon receiver Jeff Maehl is in the mix.
The switch to a 3-4 defense really opens up the top three spots on the defensive line.
Fletcher Cox will transition to 5-technique end. Veteran Isaac Sopoaga was signed as a nose tackle. Cedric Thornton and Vinny Curry should be locks as defensive ends in the new formation. And rookie Bennie Logan will play both tackle and end as part of the rotation.
That's five spots, which leaves just three more. Clifton Geathers and Damion Square are likely fighting for one spot now that Dave King has been released and Joe Kruger is on IR.
Geathers has ridiculous size, but he's bounced around the NFL and has put up little to no production in the league. Square is an undrafted rookie free agent from Alabama, and he may offer more in the sense that Chip Kelly will get to mold him into the kind of player he needs for his 3-4 defense.
As a starting strong safety in this league, there's no question that Kurt Coleman is overmatched. But he can definitely play a role as a part-time player.
Coleman offers depth to a weak safety corps that will likely go with either Nate Allen or Earl Wolff as one starter and Patrick Chung as the other. Coleman was even seen playing cornerback in the final preseason game, and if there's anything Chip Kelly likes, it's versatility.
Coleman has the edge over Colt Anderson as a safety, although Anderson is a truly remarkable special teams player. The only other competition is David Sims, but Anderson should be able to beat out Sims with ease.
Chris McCoy may have earned his spot on the 53-man roster with his performance in the final preseason game. He played lights out, recording two sacks and a forced fumble in his first quarter of action.
McCoy also has the advantage of competing for a spot within a linebacking corps that has pretty much had open competition throughout training camp. Trent Cole, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham are guaranteed to be on the roster. After those three, it's McCoy against Emmanuel Acho and Travis Long. On the inside, Casey Matthews and Jake Knott could push for a spot.
Of those five, Chip Kelly will probably keep two. No one has separated himself from the pack this preseason, so McCoy may have won it by virtue of his great game Thursday.