Coming into the Philadelphia Eagles' 2010 training camp, there are some positions open for a player ready to take the next step in his game—and some players worthy of a starting job who are ready.
After all the 2010 acquisitions made through the free agency period, the draft, and then filling some additional needs through undrafted players, the Eagles have accumulated a total of 88 players currently on the roster.
By the time the new season kicks off, the team must cut that number to a league maximum of 75 players.
There is plenty of talent on both sides of the ball with a good mix of rookie and young veteran talent. Speed and strength have been the focus throughout it all.
With that said, let's dip our toes into some of the highly competitive roster battles we will see at Lehigh Valley.
Focus Scale: 1 (low focus) - 10 (high focus)
Leonard Weaver: Sixth year - 6'0", 250
Dwayne Wright: Second year - 5'11", 234
Chris Zardas: Rookie/Massachusetts (undrafted) - 6'0", 238
It is a small list for a position that the Philadelphia Eagles haven't paid much attention to until last season.
Leonard Weaver isn't going anywhere anytime soon, as he just signed a three-year contract extension, which leaves the other two players battling for a special teams roster spot.
I don't need to speculate any further on this position, do I?
Projected Starter: Leonard Weaver
DeSean Jackson: Third year - 5'10", 175
Jeremy Maclin: Second year - 6'0", 198
Jason Avant: Fifth year - 6'0", 212
Hank Baskett: Fifth year - 6'4", 220
Dodson Collins: First year - 6'2", 178
Blue Cooper: Rookie/Tennessee-Chattanooga (undrafted) 6'2", 185
Riley Cooper: Rookie/Florida - 6'3", 222
Chad Hall: First year - 5'8", 180
Kevin Jurovich: Rookie/San Jose State (undrafted) 6'0", 188
Jordan Norwood: First year - 5'11", 180
Pat Simonds: Rookie/Colgate (undrafted) - 6'5", 229
The Philadelphia Eagles have two premier talents at the wide receiver position in DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin and a rising player in Jason Avant.
One competition to watch for is between Jackson and Maclin.
Who will be the premier wideout in 2010 is yet to be foreseen. Both players had very productive rookie seasons, run very crisp routes, have great hands, and were also both considered among the best in their respective class.
Jackson is the main man in Philadelphia, no question about it, but Maclin could become more of a vital piece, as he has the more prototypical frame for a receiver.
DeSean is just blazing fast!
Another noteworthy competition happening in training camp is who will land the fourth and fifth roster sports at WR.
The Eagles have signed a couple of very tall names in the past couple of days who could prove to be tremendous threats in the red zone.
Pat Simmons is a 6'5", 229-lb. monster out of Colgate who was signed as an undrafted free agent, along with Florida's Riley Cooper, who is 6'3", 222 lbs.
Both players have phenomenal hands but lack speed, and their route running needs attention, but if all you're asking them to do is go 10 to 15 yards and jump to catch a ball, those two could be potent.
The Birds also have a few other players like Tennessee-Chattanooga product Blue Cooper (6'2", 185 lbs.), Kevin Jurovich (6'0", 188 lbs.), Chad Hall (5'8", 180 lbs.), and Dodson Collins (6'2", 178 lbs.) all fighting for those final two roster spots.
Who will be the odd men out? I don't know but I do like the theme I'm seeing—get tall kids who have great hands, Hall being the exception.
Projected Starters: DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin (with a ton of Avant plays)
Charles Alexander: Rookie/LSU (undrafted) - 6'4", 300
Brodrick Bunkley: Fifth year - 6'2", 306
Antonio Dixon: Second year - 6'3", 322
Austin Howard: Rookie/Northern Iowa (undrafted) 6'7", 333
Mike Patterson: Sixth year - 6'0", 292
In 2009 defensive tackles Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson had a total of 2.5 sacks on 11 quarterback hurries—combined.
I am not sure this needs to be said, but I'll say it.
Both Bunkley and Patterson better come to camp like they are going to lose their jobs. To this point their jobs have been relatively safe, as they have been the standouts on the team.
2009 could have opened some eyes throughout the franchise, as backup Antonio Dixon started playing with real urgency.
Dixon, who appeared in all 16 games but played very sparingly, notched himself a sack and still proved he can be a force against the run as well. Has he become a more complete player over the offseason, and is he now ready to make his mark in the NFL?
The Eagles could keep all six players on the roster, but they typically keep four on the active roster.
Unless King Dunlap has shown tremendous progress with his footwork and leverage, he could end up battling just to get any roster spot on the team.
I think Bunkley and Patterson will still be the starters to open the season, but the Birds have the manpower to replace them if they begin to slack.
Projected Starters: Brodrick Bunkley (RDT) and Mike Patterson (LDT)
LeSean McCoy: Second year - 5'11", 208
Mike Bell: Fifth year - 6'0", 225
Eldra Buckley: Second year - 5'9", 207
Keith Flemming: Rookie/West Texas A&M (undrafted) - 5'10", 208
Martell Mallett: First year - 5'11", 200
Charles Scott: Rookie/LSU - 5'11", 238
The Eagles currently have six running backs on the roster which will be trimmed down to three.
Second year stud LeSean McCoy is at the helm, and it is highly anticipated that Mike Bell will be his complement.
Not so fast.
There's this rookie named Charles Scott, who the Eagles selected in the sixth round, who could open a ton of eyes among the Eagles organization and its fanbase.
Scott is an animal in the backfield, a solid thumping back who doesn't dilly-dally around. When he has the ball in his hands, he lowers his head and shoulders and simply punishes whoever gets in his way.
Either way you look at it, the battle comes down to Bell and Scott for the backup role, with the loser taking the third string position on the squad.
Eldra Buckley is a decent back, but I think Scott will have no problem removing him from the lineup.
It looks as if the remaining players should come in fighting for a practice squad spot here in Philly, as the running back position is squared away.
Projected Starter: LeSean McCoy
King Dunlap: Third year - 6'8", 310
Austin Howard: Rookie/Northern Iowa (undrafted) - 6'7", 333
Winston Justice: Fifth year - 6'6", 320
Jeraill McCuller: Rookie/NC State (undrafted) 6'6", 328
Jason Peters: Seventh year - 6'4", 340
Fenuki Tupou: Second year - 6'5", 323
The tackle position is one that has just a spot or two to fill, primarily to be backups, but a team can never have enough offensive tackle talent, so four players better show up with a chip on their shoulder.
Among those four players are Fenuki Tupou, Jeraill McCuller, Austin Howard, and King Dunlap. Tupou is a solid player, and I believe he will remain an Eagle, but those other three players are unknowns within the Eagles franchise.
Dunlap was at training camp in 2009 but had real struggles with his footwork and leverage.
McCuller is a player to watch in camp in my opinion.
Between he and Howard, McCuller has the most experience at the tackle position. In 2008 he started all 12 games for the Wolfpack and allowed only two sacks.
Howard is a decent player but is a converted TE. He does not have near the experience that McCuller has, so I think the roster battle to watch for in training camp is between Dunlap and Howard.
Projected Starters: Jason Peters (LT) and Winston Justice (RT)
Stacy Andrews: Seventh year - 6'7", 340
Zipp Duncan: Rookie/Kentucky (undrafted) - 6'5", 297
Todd Herremans: Sixth year - 6'6", 321
Max Jean-Gilles: Fifth year - 6'3", 358
Mike McGlynn: Third year - 6'4", 315
Shawn Murphy: Third year - 6'4", 315
Dallas Reynolds: Second year - 6'4", 314
This is a relatively full house, and I would say any one of the players mentioned could become legitimate starters, but the Eagles are going to go with tradition (Herremanns) and one who they are very high on (Andrews).
Stacy Andrews needs to come back and show he is completely healthy. He must also show the Eagles that he can be as dominating as they think Andrews can be.
If not, the Eagles have players who are more than willing to come in and snatch his job away without thinking twice about it.
Players like Mike McGlynn, Max Jean-Gilles, and Shawn Murphy are all looming in the background, hoping to show enough talent to become an NFL starter.
Removing whoever are the starters, it will leave the Eagles with five players to compete for three or four (at most) spots on the roster.
At the least, one person is the odd man out on this list. Who is that person?
I'm going to say Zipp Duncan, unless he has an extremely strong camp, will be the man to get cut to trim the roster. If they go as far as cutting a second player at the guard position, I believe Dallas Reynolds could also see the red slip in his locker.
Projected Starters: Stacy Andrews (RG) and Todd Herremans (LG)
Brent Celek: Fourth year - 6'4", 255
Clay Harbor: Rookie/Missouri State - 6'2", 252
Cornelius Ingram: Second year - 6'4", 245
Martin Rucker: Third year - 6'5", 255
The Philadelphia Eagles have four very capable tight ends on the roster. Brent Celek is the obvious starter at this time after a close encounter with the Pro Bowl in 2009.
Think back to training camp 2009, before Ingram went down with a knee injury. There was chatter around the team that Celek could potentially lose his starting job.
The question that needs to be asked is, if Ingram comes back and stays healthy, is it possible that same chatter could restart this training camp?
Either way, as long as Ingram can stay healthy, there is a roster spot on this team with his name on it.
So there could potentially be a battle for the starting job, but if not (I'm fine with Celek being the starter), it then turns over to landing the backup spot and the third string position.
I am sure Celek will keep his job, making Ingram the backup, and if that is the case, I believe Clay Harbor will beat out Martin Rucker for the third string spot.
Projected Starter: Brent Celek
Jamaal Jackson: Seventh year - 6'4", 325
Nick Cole: Fifth year - 6'0", 350
A.Q. Shipley: First year - 6'1", 315
That's, it folks—there is the roster for the center position as listed on the Philadelphia Eagles website.
Sure, there are some guards on the team that could man the position, like Mike McGlynn or Shawn Murhpy, both listed at 6'4", 315 lbs., but more girth is needed there.
I actually think Shipley would be ideal at guard rather than center, but the Eagles signed him up for center.
It would appear that Nick Cole is labeled the starter in 2010, but let's not count Shipley out just yet. He is a good four inches taller but is outweighed by 25 pounds. It will be tough, but if he shows enough strength to hold the line, he could be Jackson's backup until he returns.
Projected Starter: Nick Cole
Stewart Bradley: Fourth year - 6'4", 255
Ernie Sims: Fifth year - 6'0", 230
Akeem Jordan: Fourth year - 6'1", 230
Omar Gaither: Fifth year - 6'2", 235
Joe Mays: Third year - 5'11", 246
Alex Hall: Third year - 6'5", 250
Moise Fokou: Second year - 6'1", 236
Keenan Clayton: Rookie/Oklahoma - 6'1", 229
Jamar Chaney: Rookie/Mississippi State - 6'0", 242
Is it possible for the Eagles to have three solid linebackers on the field playing at the same time?
They sure have a legitimate shot, as Stewart Bradley is expected to make a full recovery and return, while the Eagles added a top-notch weakside LB in Ernie Sims from the Detroit Lions.
This is another position that is fully stocked with players to compete during camp. So who plans on taking the next step in his game and becoming a force at strongside?
There are a ton of names on the current roster. Some are true linebackers, while others are hybrid DE/LBs. The team must get to a mandatory maximum of 75 players, and this is one position where players will get cut.
Expect a lot of tough, no-nonsense competition at this position come training camp.
Bradley is the main man in the middle, so the roster spots there will all be for a backup role, but as seen last season, the Eagles need a sure answer if the need should arise again.
Is that where Hall comes in?
Gaither is a solid player but lacks the ideal size to play the strongside, so I believe he and Sims will compete for the weakside. Sims will win out, making Gaither a backup on the roster.
Jamar Chaney and Keenan Clayton are both very competitive rookies who could end up surprising a lot of people this summer.
We must also not forget that hybrid player Ricky Sapp. Sure, he is better suited as a 3-4 linebacker, but do you actually think Andy Reid won't rehash his experimental days and see what Sapp has to offer?
In the end, I believe the battle for strongside will come down to Gaither, Fokou, Hall, and Clayton.
Clayton has a good skill set and earned All-Big 12 conference honors after notching 75 tackles, two INTs, two forced fumbles, and 1.5 sacks. He needs to bulk up to land a starting job, but he is a player to absolutely watch during camp.
Wait, I'm not done yet!
Andy Reid also has DE Darryl Tapp, could make a transition to LB with the Eagles. Fokou will start the season off as the starter, but Tapp will close out the year manning the position as soon as Reid feels Tapp is comfortable enough with the system—thats my prediction!
Projected Starters: Fokou/Tapp (SAM), Bradley (Middle), Sims (WILL)
Trent Cole: Sixth year - 6'3", 270
Juqua Parker: Tenth year - 6'2", 250
Victor Abiamiri: Fourth year - 6'4", 267
Brandon Graham: Rookie/Michigan - 6'2", 268
Eric Moncur: Rookie/Miami (undrafted) - 6'1", 237
Ricky Sapp: Rookie/Clemson - 6'4", 252
Darryl Tapp: Fifth year - 6'1", 270
Daniel Te'o-Nesheim: Rookie/Washington - 6'3", 263
With a total of eight defensive ends, the Eagles generally keep six. Which two players won't make the grade?
With the possibility that the Eagles have found an outstanding complement to Pro Bowl DE Trent Cole, it has become a position that most fans can't wait to see unfold.
Don't be fooled, however!
Even though Brandon Graham is all but penciled in to be the starting left defensive end for the Eagles' 2010 regime, there are other contenders looming.
There is a lot of talent on the Eagles' roster at the defensive end position, so this position too will be a focal point at camp.
There are three odd men out in the list above—Eric Moncur, Victor Abiamiri, and Juqua Parker.
Parker has hit that sore age in Andy Reid's eyes, and with such promising young talent coming aboard, he could find himself unemployed by the end of training camp.
So it would then come down to Abiriamiri and Moncur. If Moncur can prove to be more durable than Victor, he could land himself a job.
Yes, fans are anxious to see how this unfolds, but there are two other spots that fans should be paying a little closer attention to.
Projected Starters: Trent Cole and Brandon Graham
Asante Samuel: Eighth year - 5'10", 185
Ellis Hobbs: Sixth year - 5'9", 195
Joselio Hanson: Sixth year - 5'9", 185
Macho Harris: Second year - 6'0", 200
Dimitri Patterson: Fifth year - 5'10", 190
Geoff Pope: Third year - 6'0", 190
Trevard Lindley: Rookie/Kentucky - 5'11", 183
Devin Ross: Rookie/Arizona (undrafted) - 5'10", 183
Josh Morris: Rookie/Weber State (undrafted) - 5'11", 186
David Pender: Rookie/Purdue (undrafted) - 6'0", 180
The Eagles, looking at the above list, have a full stable of 10 players who all have their own skill sets to bring with them to training camp, so this will be a very intriguing battle to watch.
We already know Asante Samuel is going to be the starting CB for the Eagles in 2010, but who is up for the challenge to become the starter opposite of him?
Ellis Hobbs is the leading candidate, but there are a few players that could really open some eyes in training camp.
Other than Hobbs, from the mentioned names I think Trevard Lindley or Devin Ross have the best shots. Keep on eye on sleeper Geoff Pope; he has great size for a CB and could factor in nicely.
Projected Starters: Asante Samuel and Ellis Hobbs
Nate Allen: Rookie/South Florida - 6'0", 207
Marlin Jackson: Sixth year - 6'0", 196
Quintin Demps: Third year - 5'11", 206
Quintin Mikell: Eighth year - 5'10", 206
Nate Allen is the man expected to win the job as the starting safety for the Eagles in 2010, but Quintin Demps has something up his sleeve I'm sure—be a starter!
There is also newly acquired Marlin Jackson, who isn't here to be a backup either, as he'll fight for his right—to be a starter. His durability is a concern due to his numerous knee injuries, but he is here to compete and also brings a winning mentality to the defense.
Let's also not forget about Macho Harris. While I think he would be better served playing as a cornerback, he is another player who could again look to safety to land a job in 2010.
Everyone will be focused on this position!
Projected Starter: Nate Allen (FS) and Quintin Mikell (SS)
Kevin Kolb: Fourth year - 6'3", 218
Michael Vick: Ninth year - 6'0", 215
Joey Elliot: Rookie/Purdue (undrafted) - 6'3", 215
Mike Kafka: Rookie/Northwestern - 6'3", 225
QB Kevin Kolb will be under the spotlight, but it will only begin during training camp.
Following a franchise player like QB Donovan McNabb, Kolb will be the focal point of the entire 2010 season.
Kolb being the starter and the amount of progress he shows will be highly analyzed, but that isn't the only thing to look for in training camp.
It is figured that Michael Vick also moves up the depth chart, becoming the Eagles' backup QB, so that leaves two players to show enough talent to be the third-string quarterback in 2010.
Mike Kafka would be the choice that makes the most sense, but Joey Elliot could show up to camp completely prepared and sway the minds of head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.
The battle for the third-string QB should also be an interesting one for the fans.
I do have Elliot being the one who is ultimately cut from the squad, so his focus is just to try to make enough of a statement that any team will pick him up.
Projected Starter: Kevin Kolb