With about two weeks of Training Camp behind us, the 53-man roster is already beginning to take shape. It's easy to see the guys who are locks to make the squad, and it's easy to see the guys who are simply warm bodies at this point.
The interesting part, however, comes with the guys on the bubble. Every year, there are a couple surprise cuts, and every year there's a guy making the final roster who shouldn't have been anything more than a guy holding the bags.
And this year, more than years past, we're seeing a lot of those bubble players.
So let's just hop right into everyone's favorite guessing game at this point of the NFL season, play Andy Reid, and try to figure out who will be on the roster when the Birds face the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 12.
1. Kevin Kolb
Fairly obvious. The Birds traded away a potential Hall of Fame quarterback so that Kolb could take the reins, and even the worst of training camps wasn't going to change that.
2. Michael Vick
Again, this isn't exactly rocket science. Vick has looked very good throwing the ball so far in camp, but he's got to work on the chemistry with the receivers. If he could get a better read on where they were breaking, he could look even better.
3. Mike Kafka
He's been impressive throughout camp. He's a big guy with a good arm, a high football I.Q., and will be more than ready to become the backup next season.
Running Backs (3)
1. LeSean McCoy
I said all of last season that I thought McCoy was a fantastic value in the second round and that he could prove to be more productive than Brian Westbrook ever was.
And I stand by that.
He's a much better runner than Westbrook, and if he can become a better pass-blocker he's going to become a superstar sooner rather than later.
2. Mike Bell
Bell is a good change-of-pace to McCoy. While McCoy makes himself small and finds seams that allow him to cut through the heart of a defense, Bell will do it by lowering his shoulder and plowing through people.
Although, he does have the speed to make some people miss as well.
3. Charles Scott
Something tells me the Eagles want J.J. Arrington to win this job, and will give him every opportunity to do so, but he's looked bad at camp and will have to be spectacular in the preseason if he's going to get back in the coaches' good graces.
Scott, on the other hand, has been drawing praise from everyone. He doesn't have the greatest hands out of the backfield, but they're not bad.
He has also shown an ability to split out wide and run patterns very well, which is something Andy Reid obviously loves, and is big enough to be one hell of a blocker.
Just Missed Out: Martell Mallett, J.J. Arrington, Eldra Buckley
Mallett is a guy who could stick with another team unsure of their running back situation. He hasn't gotten a whole lot of reps in camp, but when he has it's easy to see why he ran all over the place in the CFL. He's a very good cut-and-go type of guy, and could flourish elsewhere.
Buckley, in the end, gets pushed out because of the talent ahead of him. His forte is special teams.
1. Leonard Weaver
For the first time in a long time, this position is set. Weaver is probably the best fullback in the league, let alone on the roster. In fact, he's the only fullback left on the roster. So if this wasn't obvious before, it surely is now.
Just Missed Out: Dwayne Wright
Wright got cut very early on, but was never a threat to Weaver's job anyway.
Tight End (3)
1. Brent Celek
Celek will be the starter again in 2010, and could become a starter in the Pro Bowl as well. He's looked very good in Training Camp and seems to have gotten even smarter with his route-running and is doing all the little things it takes to be great.
2. Cornelius Ingram
Ingram has been a bit inconsistent thus far in camp, but I expect that to go away as he gets more comfortable with his knee and the system. He still looks a bit hesitant, but that will go away with time, and we'll begin to see the freakish athlete we saw while he was at Florida.
3. Clay Harbor
He's got strong hands, isn't afraid to stick his nose in the middle of field, and is versatile enough to play fullback in a pinch, so there is no way Harbor doesn't make this team.
Just Missed Out: Martin Rucker
It's a shame that Rucker gets caught up in a numbers game, but the Birds can't keep four tight ends and, even though he might be better than Harbor at the moment, it's pretty clear that won't last for very long.
He'll find a job elsewhere pretty quickly after he makes a few plays during the preseason.
Wide Receivers (6)
1. DeSean Jackson
As of now, Jackson is the best weapon the Eagles have, regardless of position. He's a threat to score every time the ball is in his hands and, as long as he can stay healthy and make some plays in the Birds' new-look timing offense, he should have another Pro Bowl-caliber year.
2. Jeremy Maclin
In a few years, Maclin might actually be the best receiver the Eagles have. He plays a lot bigger than he is, and is deceptively fast. He has a great nose for the ball and has shown, even in camp, that he's not afraid to go over the middle.
3. Jason Avant
It's a crime that when people start talking about the best hands in the league that Avant is always left out of the conversation. Aside from a guy like Larry Fitzgerald, he might have the strongest hands in the league and will be a huge factor on third downs this season.
4. Riley Cooper
I'm not quite as high on Cooper as everyone else is. I think his lack of maturity is going to get in the way of his progression, but his size will certainly allow him to make plays. I would expect to see Cooper every time the Eagles get into the red zone.
5. Kelley Washington
Washington is mostly known as a special teams player, but another big body (6'3, 220) won't be a bad thing. Hopefully he can get into the end zone a few times so we can see his ridiculous dance.
6. Chad Hall
Perhaps this is just wishful thinking, but I don't see the Eagles keeping Hank Baskett around when he serves basically the same purpose as Washington, but isn't quite as good on special teams.
Hall truly does move like Wes Welker and could contribute in the passing game as well as on special teams.
Just Missed Out: Hank Baskett, Dobson Collins, Jordan Norwood, Jared Perry
Collins and Norwood spent time on the Eagles' practice squad last year, and could wind up there again, but neither has a real chance of making the roster. Perry, a former teammate of Maclin's at Mizzou, is a camp body.
Offensive Line (9)
LT1. Jason Peters
Peters has looked very good in camp, even manhandling Trent Cole at times. He certainly wasn't great last year, but I believe 2010 will show the tackle the Eagles thought they were getting when they traded for him last season.
LG1. Todd Herremans
I'm not a huge fan of Herremans, but he's the best option they've got and will definitely be the starter in Week One, unless his foot injury takes a turn for the worse.
C1. Nick Cole
This could change as Mike McGlynn becomes more acquainted with the offense, but for now it looks like Reid is playing it safe and keeping Cole as the No. 1 guy.
Cole, I think, is a guard and should stay there whereas McGlynn is a natural center and probably fits the bill better as far as size goes.
RG1. Stacy Andrews
Last season was definitely disappointing. No one is denying that. But the talks that Reid no longer likes him as a starter or that he's just not a good player is typical media "I don't know what I'm talking about" nonsense.
RT1. Winston Justice
Justice was another guy I said last season would play very well. And I don't believe it's a stretch to say he was the Eagles' most consistent lineman. With a year as a starter under his belt, I think Justice will quickly make it into the Pro Bowl conversation.
OL6. Mike McGlynn
McGlynn is versatile in that he can play both guard positions and center, so Reid is going to find a way to keep him around for as long as he can. We all know Reid loves youth and versatility, and McGlynn has both.
OL7. Max Jean-Gilles
He has shown he'll go to great lengths to get himself into shape with his offseason lap-band surgery, and the dropped weight has led to a much more athletic MJG. He's moving much better and has been taking first-team reps at left guard while Herremans recovers.
OL8. Fenuki Topou
Topou spent his rookie season on the injured reserve, but it seemed more like a tactic to keep him around without using a roster spot or taking the chance of putting him on the practice squad and having another team scoop him up.
He's got the versatility (there's that word again) to play guard or tackle, and that is what will ultimately earn him a job
OL9. Austin Howard
Unless you've been to camp or have been following the reports religiously, you probably have absolutely no idea who this guy is.
But you'll most likely know it soon enough. He's already pushed King Dunlap from backup left tackle to backup right tackle, and seems to be the guy Reid has picked out as his annual undrafted project.
PUP: Jamaal Jackson
Even though Jackson believes otherwise, it's unlikely he's able to play Week One and will most likely wind up on the Physically Unable to Perform list, which makes him ineligible to play for the first six weeks of the season. Once he returns, it's likely McGlynn could be the guy to get the axe.
Just Missed Out: Zipp Duncan, Greg Isander, King Dunlap, A.Q. Shipley, Jeraill McCuller, Dallas Reynolds
Dunlap is the most notable cut here, and it's possible he earns his job back before the end of the preseason. Other than that, these guys are camp bodies and seeing them wind up on the chopping block isn't overly surprising.
Defensive End (6)
RE1. Trent Cole
Cole is the clear favorite here as he's not only the best defensive end, but probably the best overall defensive player.
After a Pro Bowl season in 2009, Cole should be even better in 2010 with a better pass-rush coming from the other side. The extra help should be enough to significantly cut down on all the double-teams he's been facing over the past few seasons.
So even though Cole has never had more than 12.5 sacks in a season, we'll likely see this year that it's always been a matter of a lack of a pass-rush from the other side rather than Cole reaching his ceiling as an individual.
LE1. Brandon Graham
As has been the case for the Eagles this offseason, youth wins out over experience. Graham, the 13th overall pick in the draft, has been very impressive at Training Camp and is making a very strong push to take this spot.
Graham has a fantastic burst off the edge and his low center of gravity makes it very difficult for taller right tackles to handle him.
That, along with an obvious understanding of how to use his hands and manipulate the guy across from him, should lead to an impressive rookie season and a great partner for Cole on the other edge.
DE3. Juqua Parker
Parker most likely loses his starting job to Graham, but that doesn't mean we won't be seeing a whole lot of him in the rotation. He's talented and experienced enough to play other side of the line and will likely be the primary backup at both spots.
DE4. Darryl Tapp
Acquired in a trade with Seattle, Tapp figures to see a good chunk of time. He'll not only be a key figure in the rotation at defensive end, but he'll also be one of the guys kicking inside in nickel situations to get the Birds an inside pass-rush.
DE5. Daniel Te'o-Nesheim
Like Tapp, Te'o-Nesheim (or T.O.) will get kicked inside in the nickel package. And at 6'4", 265 pounds, they expect T.O. to be a force shooting the A and B gaps. He'll also see some time at defensive end, but he's most likely going to see most of his time on third down in the nickel.
DE6. Ricky Sapp
Sapp is a huge wild card. He's very good with his hand in the ground, and is a great speed-rusher, but being limited to playing the edges could hurt his playing time. He'll most likely see a few snaps in a relief role, but his main contribution will probably come on special teams.
Just Missed Out: Victor Abiamiri
It's going to kill the Eagles to do it, but they simply cannot wait around for Abiamiri to decide he's going to get serious about his career and stay off the injured list. A guy with this many injuries usually isn't as unlucky as he is lazy.
He's been an underachiever even when healthy, so it's likely the Birds cut ties with this former second-round pick and move forward.
Defensive Tackle (4)
RDT1. Brodrick Bunkley
Bunkley has been very good in the starting role since seeing almost no time during his rookie season, and figures to only get better with time. He seems stronger and quicker this offseason than he has in previous years and figures to have a big season because of it.
LDT1. Mike Patterson
Patterson, like Bunkley, has been on the verge of a Pro Bowl year for the past couple of seasons, but can't seem to take that next step. He's emerged as a very good run-stuffer and, if he can learn to work his hands a bit better, could take the next step into being a Pro Bowl player.
RDT2. Antonio Dixon
A waiver-wire pickup last year, Dixon came out and played like a seasoned vet. If he can progress in season two, he could see a lot of time and really turn into one of the best under-the-radar moves this team has made in the Reid era.
LDT2. Trevor Laws
It's now or never time for Laws. He's looked good in camp, but he's going to have to carry that over into the preseason and the regular season if he doesn't want 2010 to be his last as an Eagle.
In fact, if he disappears in the middle of the season this year like he did last year, I wouldn't be surprised to see him get cut in favor of a practice squad guy.
Just Missed Out: Jeff Owens, Boo Robinson
Robinson is a camp body and hasn't even seen a lot of time in camp. There's no chance he makes the final squad, and I don't see him as a true practice squad candidate.
Owens, on the other hand, could get stashed away on the practice squad and be the guy called upon if Laws does his usual mid-season disappearing act.
Owens was a late-round draft pick, but the Eagles seem to like him and are probably looking for a reason to keep him around.
WILL1. Ernie Sims
The Eagles feel like they got a steal when they traded a fifth-round pick to the Detroit Lions for the former ninth overall pick in the 2006 draft. And so far, it looks like they were right.
Sims has been flying all over the field, hitting people, playing the run well, sticking with guys in coverage, and showing why he was a top-10 pick.
He got lost in the crowd a lot in Detroit due to the putrid defense around him, but with some talented guys around him Sims just might flourish and make a significant impact for the Birds.
MIKE1. Stewart Bradley
Anyone who was worried about how Bradley would look after tearing his ACL one year ago can put their worries to bed. Bradley looks like he hasn't missed a beat.
At one point in camp, during a seven-on-seven, Kevin Kolb stood around for a good eight seconds before trying to dump the ball over the middle to Brent Celek. Bradley, however, had Celek blanketed (even after all that time) and knocked the ball away.
If he can stick with a Pro Bowl-caliber guy like Celek, he should be able to stick with most of the tight ends the Eagles will face this season.
SAM1. Akeem Jordan
I'm going out on a limb here, but I think Jordan will be the starting strong-side linebacker when all is said and done. He's far too fast and physical to keep off the field. He's plays much bigger than his size (6'1", 230), and would be able to better handle the added blockers that a SAM will see more so than anyone else on the roster sans Stewart Bradley.
WILL2. Keenan Clayton
Clayton, a fourth-round pick, has been running with the second-team defense throughout camp at almost every linebacker spot. But with Jordan, the former backup WILL, being moved to SAM, Clayton has seen, and will see, most of his reps on the weak side.
MIKE2. Omar Gaither
There's been a lot of talk that Gaither could be the odd man out in this linebacking corps, but I believe his versatility and willingness to play special teams will save his job. If Bradley were unfortunate enough to go down again, the Eagles believe Gaither can fill in well enough.
He appears fully healed from his Lis Franc sprain and could actually wind up being the backup at MIKE and WILL depending on how much Sean McDermott likes Clayton.
SAM2. Moise Fokou
Personally, I thought the hype surrounding Fokou was a bit much. Sure, he played well last season when he replaced Chris Gocong, but it wasn't good enough to anoint him the starter. Now, with Jordan taking over at SAM, Fokou will be relegated to role player and special teams guy until he takes the job for good.
LB7. Tracy White
Perhaps my desire to see White back on this team is overriding my better judgment, but I really think the Eagles don't have any choice other than to keep White around. New special teams coordinator Bobby April has to love that this guy is around, and will likely fight tooth and nail to keep him here for good.
White also has the added bonus of being able to play linebacker in a backup role, and has the speed and athleticism to play in the nickel package. Overall, he has far too much value for the Birds to dump him.
Just Missed Out: Simoni Lawrence, Jamar Chaney
As an undrafted rookie and a seventh-round pick respectively, Lawrence and Chaney were facing uphill battles from day one. They both have seen respectable time in Training Camp, and both have had their moments, but they're going to lose a heavy numbers game.
LCB1. Asante Samuel
There's no doubt Samuel is the most talented corner on this roster. He drives the fans and coaching staff crazy when he freelances and refuses to tackle, but when it comes to one-on-one covering the best receivers in the game, Samuel has shown an ability to shut guys down.
He hasn't had a great Training Camp, often getting beaten by speedsters DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, but Samuel rarely brings his A-game in August. It's going to be interesting to see if he'll make more of an effort to tackle and play within the scheme, but regardless he's this team's top corner.
RCB1. Ellis Hobbs
As a big fan of Sheldon Brown and the way he plays the game, I was very unhappy to see him go for what essentially amounts to peanuts. I thought it was ridiculous to let him go without a viable option behind him, but if camp is any indication, I might have been underestimating Hobbs.
He's been very physical at the line of scrimmage (even leading to getting popped in the head a few times by Riley Cooper) and has had an overall great camp to this point. If he keeps that up into the season, he could be one of the pleasant surprises.
CB3. Joselio Hanson
Since being picked up off the scrap heap back in 2006, Hanson has progressively gotten better and is now an integral part of Sean McDermott's defense.
The Eagles' scouting department gets an 'A' for finding Hanson, who played for the Frankfurt Galaxy in NFL Europa before the Birds scooped him up. He is now the team's nickel corner and backup at both positions were Samuel or Hobbs to go down.
CB4. Victor "Macho" Harris
Harris is a very intriguing guy because, quite honestly, I could not even make a prediction on what kind of season he'll have. He was a cornerback at Virginia Tech, but started at free safety during his rookie season last year.
It was a train wreck, and I was yelling the entire time that they should move him back to corner and see what he can do.
But now that he's at corner, he has not impressed me in camp. He doesn't seem to read his receiver very well and often allows catches that would have you pulling your hair out wondering how in the world he could be right over top of the guy and still give up the reception.
It's going to be an interesting year for the man they call Macho.
CB5. Trevard Lindley
As a fourth-round pick in this year's draft, Lindley is a guy the Eagles are going to count on to progress quickly and have a role on this team sooner rather than later. He's looked alright in camp (good, not great) but can't seem to avoid the typical rookie mental error.
Something as simple as thinking too much rather than just reacting has killed Lindley all camp and will continue to hurt him during the season if he can't get over it.
Football is about reaction, and Lindley knows that, but just like every other rookie, he's too worried about screwing up.
If he can get over that fear and rely on his instincts, he could have a very good year.
Just Missed Out: David Pender, Dimitri Patterson, Geoff Pope
Were it not for Lindley being drafted, Patterson would most certainly make this team. He's a guy the coaches seem to like, but there's no way they cut a fourth-round pick to make room for him.
However, if Tracy White would wind up being cut, Patterson could be the guy the Eagles peg to take his roster spot. That's certainly a possibility at this point, but White seems to hold a bit more value than Patterson, although it wouldn't surprise me if the Eagles disagreed.
Pope hasn't stuck out to me (or anyone else) at all, and Pender was expected to be a camp body.
FS1. Nate Allen
With Marlin Jackson on Injured Reserve and Macho Harris moving to cornerback, Allen becomes the only viable option at free safety.
The team has made it clear they don't trust Quintin Demps as the starter, and seem to feel comfortable turning it over to the second-round pick.
Allen is going to be a guy everyone keeps an eye on throughout the season, because he's the guy who the Eagles took with the draft pick they received from Washington for quarterback Donovan McNabb.
He's always going to be linked to that trade, so he better come up big and make the team and the city feel like it was a wise decision.
SS1. Quintin Mikell
If Allen can turn into the type of safety the Eagles think he can, it should make life a lot easier for Mikell at strong safety.
Last season he was pressing and trying to play two positions at once because he obviously didn't trust the guy next to him, no matter who it was. He always felt like he had their responsibilities as well, and it really showed on the field as his production dipped severely.
With Allen on board I think we see Mikell go back to the caliber of play that had him landing on a lot of All-Pro teams in 2008.
S3. Quintin Demps
They might not trust him as a starter, but there's no reason Demps can't be a very good backup and possibly the kick return guy, as well once they decide using a starter like Hobbs is not exactly a good idea.
Demps has been learning both safety positions, so he's likely the primary backup for both guys.
Just Missed Out: Kurt Coleman, Ryan Hamilton, Antoine Harris
Coleman is a guy who could wind up making the team depending on how they shift the numbers, but it's likely the team keeps only three safeties because they view Macho Harris as a guy who can provide depth at corner and safety and save them a roster spot.
Hamilton and Harris were only camp bodies and have seen little time even in camp.
Special Teams (3)
K. David Akers
It's been this way for over a decade, and it doesn't look to be changing anytime soon.
P. Sav Rocca
Until someone takes the job, it's Rocca's to lose.
LS. Jon Dorenbos
The Birds were lucky to have him after Mike Bartrum retired, and I wouldn't be surprised if they held onto him until he decides to call it quits.
Just Missed Out: Ken Parrish
For the second straight year, Parrish is just a camp body. It was expected that he would really push Rocca for the job, but there doesn't seem to be much of a competition. Unless Parrish looks phenomenal in the preseason, it appears as though he'll be sent packing once again.
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