Philadelphia Eagles

Projected Philadelphia Eagles Final 53-Man Roster, Pre-Training Camp Edition

Andrew KulpContributor IJuly 17, 2014

Projected Philadelphia Eagles Final 53-Man Roster, Pre-Training Camp Edition

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    The Philadelphia Eagles report to training camp on July 25, after which the club will spend the ensuing five weeks whittling its roster down from 90 men to 53. Despite the fact that nearly half the players in camp will wind up released, projecting who will make the cut shouldn’t be too difficult—minus a few exceptions, of course.

    As we prepare for football season to get underway, let’s take one last look at the Birds’ roster and predict which players will survive the grueling summer ahead and earn the privilege of wearing midnight green come September.

Quarterback

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Nick Foles, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley (3)

    There are no surprises here. Foles is cemented in his role as the Eagles’ starting signal-caller, while the veteran Sanchez was signed to push and/or possibly mentor Barkley, a second-year backup.

    The only other quarterback on the 90-man roster is G.J. Kinne, who is the very definition of “camp arm.” Last year at training camp, Kinne even practiced on special teams.

Running Back

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, Chris Polk, Henry Josey (4)

    On paper, McCoy and Sproles appear to be one of the most devastating backfield combos in the NFL. McCoy led the league in rushing last season with 1,607 yards. Sproles could probably catch 100 balls in Chip Kelly’s offense.

    If McCoy were for some reason unavailable, however, the 31-year-old, 5’6” Sproles likely would not assume a starter’s workload. Polk—24, 222 pounds—saw an uptick in playing time late last season, plus he can contribute on special teams, the combination of which makes him the favorite to serve as Shady’s full-time backup.

    Because Sproles’ skill set is best suited for a role as a secondary back, it may even be wise to carry four running backs in the event of an injury. Josey’s 7.0 yards per carry in three seasons at Missouri ranks 12th all time since 1956, according to Sports-Reference.com. So, who knows, the undrafted rookie free agent just might be explosive enough to fill McCoy’s shoes if need be.

Wide Receiver

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff, Brad Smith (5)

    The first four spots are essentially spoken for. Veterans Maclin and Cooper are the starters. Second-round pick Matthews is penciled in as the primary slot receiver. Huff, a third-rounder, will be stashed on the 53-man roster at the very least. That leaves one, maybe two openings at wide receiver for nine players.

    The Eagles might be tempted to keep six because, frankly, there’s a lot of raw talent in their receiving corps.

    However, if Lane Johnson winds up suspended for four games as Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Daily News reported in June, the club could opt to carry an extra offensive lineman. And seeing as I already projected four running backs on the final roster, that extra spot has to come from somewhere.

    Smith seems to have the inside track to the final spot. The 10th-year veteran was working ahead of Matthews as the No. 3 receiver during spring practices, per Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer. He can be split out wide or lined up in the backfield. He can even attempt a pass. Rather remarkably, he’s a versatile special teamer as well, whether he's returning kicks or playing on the coverage unit.

    Arrelious Benn still has a shot at making the cut, provided he can stay healthy for the entire summer.

Tight End

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    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, James Casey (3)

    The Eagles carried four tight ends out of training camp last summer, even though they only really ever needed two. Celek was a masterful run-blocker in 2013, which should provide the 29-year-old some job security for right now. In the meantime, Ertz appeared to be on the verge of a breakout year as last season was coming to a close.

    Casey’s footprint in the offense grew toward the end of the season, and he’ll remain a competent backup. That probably isn’t worth his estimated $4 million hit against the salary cap in ’14, according to Spotrac, but he’s valuable on special teams, so the team will likely pay it.

    There really isn’t any playing time for a fourth tight end, as this is a deep group that offers a little bit of everything.

Offensive Line

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, Lane Johnson, Allen Barbre, Dennis Kelly, Michael Bamiro, David Molk (9)

    From left to right, the starting lineup of Peters, Mathis, Kelce, Herremans and Johnson managed to complete a 16-game season together in 2013, which is an accomplishment in itself. The fact that they paved the way for McCoy's rushing title ain’t too shabby, either.

    Of course, assuming Domo’s report comes true, they won’t achieve perfect attendance again. Johnson is said to be facing a four-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs—though the league has yet to confirm. Barbre, who agreed to a three-year contract extension in June, is expected to fill in as the unit’s swingman.

    A 2012 fifth-round pick, Kelly is the only other lineman on the roster who’s seen extensive action at the NFL level, spending time at both tackle and guard. He was left inactive all 16 games last season after undergoing back surgery over the summer, but given the fact that three of the unit’s starters are well into their 30s—four if you include Barbre, who turned 30 in June—Kelly’s experience might come in handy.

    I suppose the Eagles will carry nine offensive linemen as long as Johnson is expected to be out, but who exactly is anybody’s guess. My money is on Bamiro, a 6’8”, 340-pound guard who spent last season on the practice squad after signing as an undrafted rookie, and Molk, a powerful free-agent center who worked out for the team last September.

Defensive Line

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    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Cedric Thornton, Vinny Curry, Joe Kruger, Taylor Hart, Beau Allen (7)

    Much to everybody’s surprise, Cox, Logan and Thornton wound up forming a solid three-man front. The only real knock against the group was Thornton was a completely one-dimensional run defender, but together they formed a strong foundation for the defense.

    Thornton’s lack of pass-rush ability off the edge was compensated for nicely by Curry, who was a menace to opposing quarterbacks in limited playing time despite being a questionable scheme fit. A second-round pick in 2012, Curry will likely return for at least one more season in Philadelphia, barring a sweet trade offer.

    Cox led all Eagles in quarterback hurries in ‘13 but seemed to wear down as his first year at defensive end progressed. Kruger—a seventh-round pick from a year ago—returns from injured reserve, while the Birds dropped a fifth-round selection on Hart in May, both of whom should keep the line’s anchor fresh.

    Logan took over as the starting tackle midway through last season after Isaac Sopoaga was traded to New England. The organization is obviously pleased with the result, as it made no attempt to replace Logan, opting instead to use a seventh-rounder on Allen to back him up.

Outside Linebacker

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    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    Trent Cole, Connor Barwin, Marcus Smith, Brandon Graham, Bryan Braman (5)

    For the time being, the outside linebackers have distinctly different roles in the Eagles defense. On the left side, Barwin is akin to a human chess piece that can be moved around the formation and deployed to pressure offenses through a variety of means. On the right, Cole primarily rushes the passer and attacks the line of scrimmage to disrupt plays at their origin.

    While Cole turns 32 in October and may be in decline, there’s no sense in dumping the two-time Pro Bowler even if his play suddenly falls off. According to Spotrac, Philadelphia only stands to save 25 percent on Cole’s 2014 cap hit in the event of his release.

    Not only that, Cole’s potential replacement isn’t even in training. Smith, the Eagles’ first-round pick, has actually been learning Barwin’s role since his arrival, per John Gonzalez of CSNPhilly.com, and there’s no questioning that guy’s worth.

    Braman was a free-agent addition primarily aimed at upgrading the Eagles’ special teams. Anything the Birds get from him on defense is a bonus.

    The one player on this list I can envision being left off the final roster is Graham. I still maintain the 2010 first-round pick would be better suited to play end in a 4-3 defense, to the point he could potentially start somewhere else. If some team has an injury or wants to upgrade its pass-rushing unit come late August, making an offer for Graham wouldn’t be the worst move in the world.

    If Graham were to be traded, look for dark-horse Travis Long to slip into his roster spot.

Interior Linebacker

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    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Najee Goode, Jason Phillips (4)

    The Eagles made almost zero changes here. Every interior linebacker on the 90-man roster with the exception of former Oregon linebacker Josh Kaddu was in Philly’s training camp a year ago.

    Ryans and Kendricks return as a tandem in the middle, and if you ask me, they seemed to be developing a rapport toward the end of last season. Picked up off the free-agent scrap heap in September, Goode made one spot start in place of Kendricks and was spectacular, performed on special teams and now appears to have carved out some kind role for himself.

    The fourth spot is up for grabs, but if you recall, Phillips was one of the club’s notable free-agent signings in 2013 before a torn ACL knocked him out for the year.

Cornerback

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Nolan Carroll, Jaylen Watkins (5)

    The Eagles are almost pot committed to Williams in 2013, seeing as over half his cap hit would convert to dead money if released, according to Spotrac. How do they feel about Fletcher, though?

    Carroll left the Miami Dolphins for Philadelphia after starting 22 games over the past two seasons, so he probably didn’t sign intending to be a backup. Fletcher was actually the better of the Eagles’ starting cornerbacks last season, but, theoretically, he can be cut without consequence.

    Ultimately, all three should make the roster, as depth became an issue last year. Williams missed one play during the Wild Card Round loss to the New Orleans Saints, and Drew Brees converted a 3rd-and-13 against Roc Carmichael.

    Boykin tied for second in the NFL with six interceptions last season, so it’s safe to say his job is secure, while the Birds used a fourth-round pick on Florida’s Watkins, locking up the developmental spot.

Safety

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    Bill Haber/Associated Press

    Malcolm Jenkins, Nate Allen, Earl Wolff, Ed Reynolds, Chris Maragos (5)

    Once the team’s biggest weakness, suddenly the safety position is filled with youth and promise.

    A free-agent arrival from the New Orleans Saints, Jenkins won’t be confused for a star, but he's a perfect scheme fit in Philadelphia, one whom the front office could ink in at the top of the depth chart for the next three years. Allen, a competent 16-game starter last season, and Wolff, a fifth-round pick in ’13, will battle for the other job.

    The Eagles used another fifth-round pick this year on Reynolds, who is likely a year away from contributing but should be stashed on the roster nonetheless.

Specialists

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    Tim Sharp/Associated Press

    Alex Henery, Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos (3)

    I still have faith in Carey Spear, which is mostly based in how awful I view Henery to be. However, if I’m being honest about the early reports coming in on the competition at place-kicker, Henery is in the lead, per SB Nation's Brandon Lee Gowton. I’ll judge that for myself at training camp.

    Jones was re-signed during the offseason after setting the Eagles' franchise record for punts downed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. That guy literally won the Birds a couple games.

    Dorenbos has been the Eagles’ long snapper forever. When’s the last time you remember him botching one? Hint: You don’t.

The Full 53-Man Roster

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Quarterback

    Nick Foles, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley (3)

     

    Running Back

    LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, Chris Polk, Henry Josey (4)

     

    Wide Receiver

    Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff, Brad Smith (5)

     

    Tight End

    Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, James Casey (3)

     

    Offensive Line

    Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, Lane Johnson, Allen Barbre, Dennis Kelly, Michael Bamiro, David Molk (9)

     

    Defensive Line

    Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Cedric Thornton, Vinny Curry, Joe Kruger, Taylor Hart, Beau Allen (7)

     

    Outside Linebacker

    Trent Cole, Connor Barwin, Marcus Smith, Brandon Graham, Bryan Braman (5)

     

    Interior Linebacker

    DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Najee Goode, Jason Phillips (4)

     

    Cornerback

    Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Nolan Carroll, Jaylen Watkins (5)

     

    Safety

    Malcolm Jenkins, Nate Allen, Earl Wolff, Ed Reynolds, Chris Maragos (5)

     

    Specialists

    Alex Henery, Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos (3)

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