Philadelphia Eagles 2013 Team Roster: Report Card Grades for Every Position
The Philadelphia Eagles have now trimmed their roster to the mandated 53 players, cutting 10 in the 24 hours before the deadline.
The offense will be fairly similar to the one Andy Reid utilized for the past several seasons. Chip Kelly returns the core in quarterback Michael Vick, running back LeSean McCoy, and wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Other key components coming back include Brent Celek and four-fifths of the offensive line.
What will look drastically different is the defense.
Not only are the Eagles switching to a 3-4 defense (with variations of the 4-3 Under and 4-3 base), but Kelly signed six potential free-agent starters to his defense. He has since released veteran safety Kenny Phillips, but the defensive backfield may still feature four new starters if rookie Earl Wolff wins the job.
Most projections have the Eagles finishing anywhere from 6-10 to a possible wild-card berth. It will likely come down to the performance of Vick, rookie offensive tackle Lane Johnson, and the defense.
For now, here are grades for each positional unit on the offense, defense, and special teams.
The Philadelphia Eagles no longer have a quarterback controversy, as Michael Vick has been named the starter for 2013. Nick Foles and Matt Barkley will back him up, although Vick’s age (33), injury history, and contract (one-year deal) seem to suggest he won’t be back for ’14.
Vick will be exciting to watch this season, that’s for sure.
He looks like he hasn’t lost a step as a runner and his passing arm is as strong as ever. The key will be his ability to make quick decisions in Chip Kelly’s high-tempo offense.
Vick has been prone to turnovers during his tenure in Philadelphia, and he’s frequently among the league leaders in fumbles. He’s also seen a steady decline in his peripheral passing numbers each year since 2010.
He’s not a top-20 quarterback in the NFL right now, although he has the upside (not just fantasy upside, but overall upside) of a quarterback that could push for a Pro Bowl spot.
Foles and Barkley seem to be more of caretaker quarterbacks, although it’s difficult to fully evaluate them on limited playing time. What they do is give the Eagles arguably the top pair of backup quarterbacks in the NFL.
Chip Kelly has himself a dream backfield in LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown, and Chris Polk.
McCoy is still just 25 years old, he’s two years removed from a 20-touchdown All-Pro season and he’s a dangerous threat as a runner and a receiver. He has the ability to handle a full workload and he will be a prime candidate to lead all running backs in fantasy points.
Behind McCoy is a fine duo in Brown and Polk.
Brown has a world of potential, but his biggest problems remain his near-refusal to stay between the tackles and his fumbling woes. If he can work on those, he will become arguably the most productive backup in the league.
Polk spent 2012 buried on the depth chart as an undrafted free agent. He will get his share of touches as both a runner and a receiver. The trio could make the Eagles’ the No. 1 rushing attack in the NFL in 2013.
Emil Igwenagu is the fullback, but he’s listed as a tight end on the depth chart.
DeSean Jackson is the go-to receiver in this offense, although he’s not the prototypical No. 1 target.
He’s undersized and relies on his supreme speed to beat safeties deep. Jackson has never caught more than 62 passes in a season, but a 1,000-yard season from him would be nice.
Jeremy Maclin’s injury means the Philadelphia Eagles need someone to step up.
Riley Cooper is a bigger receiver at 6’4”, but he’s probably best suited as a fourth receiver. Damaris Johnson has the versatility to line up everywhere, and the idea is that he will be extremely efficient as an undersized slot man.
Jason Avant will resume his traditional role as the reliable slot receiver with great hands. Avant has increased his reception total from 50 to 51 to 52 since 2010, although he may see a drop in his receptions due to the influx of tight ends in the offense.
Jeff Maehl beat out Greg Salas and Russell Shepard for the final spot. He will likely play a limited role.
Four tight ends indicates how Chip Kelly feels about the position. Brent Celek will return as the starter, a position he has held since 2008. Zach Ertz will occupy many roles, such as a slot receiver, tight end, H-back, and even out wide as a wide receiver.
James Casey is a versatile player who will see snaps as a fullback, H-back, and tight end. He’s a terrific receiver and could catch as many as 50-60 passes. Emil Igwenagu made the roster as a fullback/tight end mix.
Versatility will be the key to the position. The Philadelphia Eagles will utilize two and even three-tight end sets given the strength of the positional group.
The Philadelphia Eagles have the potential to put forth a top-five offensive line in the league.
Jason Peters is an All-Pro if he can fully return from injury. Evan Mathis is a tremendous talent at left guard and a terrific blocker in the passing and running game. Jason Kelce is on the verge of a breakout season at center, and he has the athleticism to succeed in Chip Kelly's offense.
Todd Herremans is better suited at right guard than right tackle, and the addition of Lane Johnson could make the tackle tandem one of the game's best. Johnson is a Peters clone, although he's probably even more athletic.
For the Eagles to finish as an elite offensive team, it is crucial that Peters remains healthy and Johnson translates to the NFL level.
The new 3-4 defense means last year's first-round pick Fletcher Cox will transition to 5-technique defensive end. Cox will be responsible for head-to-head matchups with opposing offensive tackles rather than shooting the gap as a 4-3 tackle.
Cox should be able to make the transition with ease. He will likely be next to veteran Isaac Sopoaga, a massive player signed to occupy the 0-technique nose tackle role in the defense.
Opposite Cox will probably be Cedric Thornton, a rotational player from a year ago. Rookie third-round pick Bennie Logan will compete for spots as both a nose tackle and defensive end, and he could have a bright future.
Trent Cole and Brandon Graham are transitioning to new roles as 3-4 outside linebackers, which could be difficult for either to pick up.
Each may be asked to cover opposing tight ends or running backs, and it will be interesting to see whether they can do it.
DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks are part of one of the better inside linebacker groups among the 3-4 defenses. Ryans is losing his speed but he's still a smart, veteran leader and he's a terrific defender against the run. Kendricks is extremely fast and can track down runners.
Filling in as backups will be Casey Matthews, Emmanuel Acho, and Jake Knott. Those three offer solid depth, although it is surprising Chris McCoy and Travis Long didn't make the roster.
The defensive backfield could be the downfall of the Philadelphia Eagles this season, and it likely will be. The cornerback tandem of Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher will replace Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Fletcher played mostly in nickel and dime situations a year ago, and Brandon Boykin will push for a starting spot opposite Williams. Jordan Poyer is a rookie seventh-round draft pick who will play in dime situations.
Brandon Hughes and Curtis Marsh each have fractured hands but did make the 53-man roster.
The safeties may be one of the weakest positions in the league. Nate Allen and Earl Wolff are competing for the starting free safety spot opposite free-agent acquisition Patrick Chung.
Kenny Phillips was signed in free agency but has already been released.
Kurt Coleman is a returning starter who will be relegated to a backup role, and he was even seen playing cornerback in the final preseason contest.
Colt Anderson is a limited safety but he's tremendous on special teams.
In all, the position could use a breakout player, and look for Wolff to be given every opportunity to seize the role.
The special teams should be a plus in 2013. Alex Henery doesn't have the strongest leg but he's extremely accurate, owning the second-best field goal percentage in NFL history. Donnie Jones is an All-Pro punter who should be a huge upgrade.
Returning will likely be Damaris Johnson and DeSean Jackson at punts with Brandon Boykin at kicks. Jon Dorenbos—assuming he heals fine from his minor injury—is an elite long snapper.
Special teams coordinator Dave Fipp has an excellent resume at turning around his teams and he should be able to do the same for the Philadelphia Eagles.
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