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Unless head coach Chip Kelly intends to carry six outside linebackers, Travis Long wouldn’t appear to have much of a shot at making the 53-man roster.
Trent Cole and Connor Barwin are well-established starters. The team used its first-round pick on Marcus Smith. Signed during free agency, Bryan Braman is a supposed special teams ace. And Brandon Graham remains a productive pass-rusher, despite having his playing time limited.
None of which stopped Kelly from talking up Long like somebody who has a legitimate shot to make the final cut. The Birds’ chief was asked to assess Long’s growth entering his second year with the team, as transcribed by PhiladelphiaEagles.com.
He's really improved. I think obviously when we got him, he was coming off of an injury. Spent a year on the practice squad and didn't miss any time, but you could tell he was still recovering from the injury, but has really made some great strides and is a guy that's really pushing hard to make this football team.
I think he'll be able to contribute from a special teams standpoint, obviously adding some depth at the outside linebacker spot. So he's definitely a guy you have to keep an eye on right now.
The injury was a torn ACL that Long suffered during his senior season at Washington State, where he recorded 20 career sacks. Long wasn’t even cleared to return to a football field until well after the draft, at which point the Eagles swooped in and signed him last July.
The fact that Long is being praised for his special teams play is a good sign, as far as there being an outside shot the club would keep six outside linebackers if they felt he would contribute. But in all honesty, his best chance at making it is if somebody else gets the axe.
None of the other five are likely to get released. Then again, Graham could potentially be traded. The 2010 first-round pick is not viewed as a fit in Philly’s 3-4 defense, at least outside the organization, and once camp is winding down, a needy team may come calling.
If the Eagles can get anything of value for Graham, it’s time to move on—if not way past due—and clear the way for a younger talent such as Long.