The Philadelphia Eagles closed their preseason on Thursday night with a 21-17 loss to the New York Jets.
More important than the score were the final impressions made, and now the Birds have less than 48 hours to decide on and assemble their 53-man roster.
The NFL’s mandated 53-man deadline is 4 p.m. Saturday, and until then, speculation will run rampant on which bubble players made it and which didn’t.
If I were Andy Reid and/or GM Howie Roseman, this is how that final group would look.
Of course, all positions (and the practice squad) are subject to change depending on who is released by other teams; remember, that’s how the Eagles acquired Tracy White.
IN: Kevin Kolb, Michael Vick, Mike Kafka
No surprises here, as the Birds have only had three signal-callers on their roster for most of the preseason.
The way Vick and Kafka played in the preseason, however, makes me wonder if it wouldn’t be fruitful to sign a veteran (either a current free agent or a final cut) and let Kafka spend a year on the practice squad.
IN: LeSean McCoy, Mike Bell, Eldra Buckley, Leonard Weaver
OUT: JJ Arrington, Martell Mallett
Also not much of a surprise here; Bell makes the team because of what the Eagles want him to be, and Buckley hangs on to the third spot because of his goal-line and special teams ability.
Arrington could also play special teams (especially as a returner), but Buckley’s simply a better option.
Mallett had a good preseason but is a victim of circumstance here because again, Buckley has the special teams experience.
The former CFL Rookie of the Year is a likely practice squad candidate, however, and he would quickly be called back if another injury befalls Bell.
IN: DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Kelley Washington
OUT: Hank Baskett, Dobson Collins, Jordan Norwood, Chad Hall
The top three were locks, but Cooper and Washington get the final nods for what they can do.
Cooper has had an excellent camp and established himself as a quality NFL possession receiver already, so he’ll be the fourth guy.
He has great hands, knows how to get open, and can also excel on special teams.
That last attribute is what wins Washington the fifth job, but make no mistake that he is a capable receiver when needed; Washington did have a career high 34 catches for 431 yards in Baltimore last year.
Still, he’ll see most of his time as the gunner opposite Dimitri Patterson on punt teams.
Baskett could also make the team if the Birds decide to keep six for some reason, but here he gets squeezed out because he didn’t really show much in the preseason.
Collins, Norwood and Hall are all speedsters, which the Eagles already have two of in their starters, so there’s no room for them.
Hall could head to the practice squad in case the team has some return issues early on.
IN: Brent Celek, Clay Harbor
OUT: Cornelius Ingram, Nate Lawrie
The Eagles only carried two tight ends last year, and think they can do so again thanks to the emergence of Harbor.
The Missouri State product had a great camp as the No. 2 guy and probably would’ve played his way onto the team even without Ingram’s unfortunate camp.
The former Gator, who missed 2009 with a torn ACL in his left knee, just hasn’t been able to get healthy.
He has a Baker cyst in the same knee, and coupled with a pair of torn ACLs in consecutive years, it makes you wonder if he ever will be.
Ingram will likely be placed on injured reserve, but an outright cut isn’t out of the question either.
Nate Lawrie had a decent camp, and because there are only two guys here, is likely ticketed for the practice squad.
IN: Tackles Jason Peters, Winston Justice, Austin Howard and King Dunlap; Guards Stacy Andrews, Todd Herremans, and Max Jean-Gilles; Center Jamaal Jackson; UTIL Nick Cole and Mike McGlynn
OUT: Tackle Jeraill McCuller; Guards Fenuki Tupou and Dallas Reynolds; Center AQ Shipley
Due to injury issues and inconsistency, the Eagles will have to keep 10 linemen early.
If Herremans and Jackson prove they’re healthy and Andrews doesn’t struggle, than either Dunlap or Jean-Gilles could find themselves cut.
Howard is the lone “surprise,” but the undrafted rookie out of Northern Iowa has had a stellar camp and may even supplant Dunlap as the third tackle.
As for the cuts, Shipley is the big “surprise” but the fact that Jackson starts on the active roster squeezes him out. Tupou really never showed anything and McCuller was a camp body, so those are easy cuts.
Reynolds is the tough one, as he showed the versatility that Andy Reid likes, and he’s likely to hit the practice squad as insurance.
IN: DE Trent Cole, Juqua Parker, Brandon Graham, Darryl Tapp, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim; DT Brodrick Bunkley, Mike Patterson, Antonio Dixon, Trevor Laws
OUT: DE Eric Moncur and Pannel Egboh; DT Boo Robinson and Jeff Owens
Once Ricky Sapp was placed on IR, the five ends were pretty much set. Moncur had a nice camp, but really can’t crack that rotation, and Egboh was brought in as roster filler for the final preseason game.
At tackle, the emergence of Trevor Laws this preseason knocks Owens and Robinson to the curb. The Eagles like Antonio Dixon in certain situations and Laws in the nickel packages, so they’ll see a lot of time.
Like Moncur, Robinson has a decent camp but couldn’t crack the rotation. Owens, meanwhile, played very well, and could get a practice squad look, but he hasn’t done enough to make the team.
IN: Ernie Sims, Stewart Bradley, Akeem Jordan, Omar Gaither, Keenan Clayton, Jamar Chaney, Tracy White
OUT: Moise Fokou
The loss of either a third tight end or a sixth receiver may allow the Birds to keep seven backers and 10 in the defensive backfield, and the beneficiaries of that are Keenan Clayton and Tracy White.
The starters were set, and Gaither can play anywhere. White also makes the team because he can play in the middle and is an excellent special teams hand.
The final spots then go to rookies. Clayton has been a buzzsaw in the preseason, and while Chaney has struggled a bit, he too can play the middle and is unlikely to clear waivers.
Fokou is squeezed as the odd man out, meaning he’d go from starting SAM to unemployed in one year, but it’s not something he shouldn’t have seen coming.
He bounced around between SAM and DE after he lost his job to Jordan, and still makes too many mistakes. He could, however, end up on the practice squad as a hybrid DE/LB.
IN: CB Asante Samuel, Ellis Hobbs, Joselio Hanson, Dimitri Patterson, and Trevard Lindley; S Nate Allen, Quintin Mikell, Quintin Demps, Kurt Coleman, and Macho Harris
OUT: CB Jorrick Calvin, David Pender, Geoff Pope; S Anthony Scirrotto
The starters and Patterson were long set, and without saying it outright, the Eagles told the world that Trevard Lindley played his way onto the team when Macho Harris was moved back to safety.
Hanson is penciled in as the nickel backer, but depending on how the brass feels about Lindley, he could be let go and replaced—likely by Calvin, who the Eagles liked enough to pick up in the Charles Scott deal.
At safety, Kurt Coleman has played his way onto the team, but Macho Harris is too valuable as a nickel guy, special teamer, and kick returner to let go—not to mention that he could, in theory, play anywhere in the secondary.
Again, because the Eagles only keep 24 on offense and nine on the defensive line, they have the luxury of keeping 10 defensive backs.
On the cut side, Pope simply couldn’t crack the rotation (because he was outplayed by Lindley) and both Scirrotto and Pender were “camp bodies.”
Calvin could make the team in Hanson’s stead, but the likely move is to cut him and keep him on the practice squad.
IN: K David Akers; P Sav Rocca; LS Jon Dorenbos
Status quo from 2009. This was set as soon as Ken Parrish was released weeks ago.
IN: OL Dallas Reynolds, WR Jordan Norwood or Chad Hall, TE Nate Lawrie, RB Martell Mallett, DE/LB Moise Fokou, DT Jeff Owens, CB Jorrick Calvin, one spot TBD
The Eagles like to keep a lineman on both sides of the ball, a corner, and a few skill players on the squad.
Reynolds and Owens will fill the first role, while Calvin, who was acquired for Charles Scott, will stick as the CB because he’s got return skills.
On the skill side, Mallett sticks as the fourth running back, Lawrie stays on because of the lack of tight end depth, and either Norwood or Hall will stick around as the receiver.
Finally, as I said earlier, Fokou could end up on the squad as he continues to learn how to be a DE (and a SAM, quite honestly).
The eighth spot is a toss-up; Hall, Norwood, or another receiver could make it, but the money would be on the Birds bringing in another quarterback.
Mike Kafka and Michael Vick haven’t shown much this preseason, and the Eagles could either sign another project or stick Kafka on the practice squad if they sign a veteran third-stringer.