Analyzing Philadelphia Eagles' 5 Deepest Roster Spots
After several weeks of silence surrounding the team following the 2015 NFL draft, the Philadelphia Eagles have finally started their OTAs. The big storyline is that new quarterback Sam Bradford hasn't yet been cleared to participate, as he's still recovering from his second torn ACL in as many seasons.
It's impossible to predict how the Eagles will do in the 2015 season, as there are so many questions. New acquisitions like Sam Bradford, DeMarco Murray and Kiko Alonso all have injury issues, and each is among the most important players on the team this year.
Whether the Eagles are the best team in the NFC East remains to be seen, but it's apparent that the Eagles have a lot more depth on their squad this year. The following slides will highlight the five positions on the team where the Eagles have the most depth.
The Eagles have one of the best starting running backs in the league, one of the best backups and one of the best third-down backs. Add that together, and you have easily the most dominant position group on the team.
Their starter, DeMarco Murray, rushed 392 times for 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2014, winning the league's rushing title by a landslide. Murray also caught 57 passes, and even though he turned 27 this offseason, he doesn't have the mileage of many other running backs his age.
Backup Ryan Mathews was a Pro Bowl running back in 2011 and rushed for more than 1,250 yards in 2013. But he's struggled with injuries in four of his five seasons. As a starter, he'd be a question mark, but as a backup who will carry 10-12 times per game, he's as good as it gets.
Veteran Darren Sproles is one of the best third-down running backs in the game. He's electric, explosive and among the most shifty backs in the National Football League.
Although technically still the No. 2 tight end, Zach Ertz is the most productive player on the team at his position. In 2014, many expected a breakout season, but he ended with just 58 catches for 702 yards and three touchdowns. At 6'5", Ertz has the skill set to be a red-zone threat for years to come. Expect his most productive year yet in 2015.
Veteran Brent Celek is still among the best blockers in the game, although his receiving numbers have dipped dramatically in recent years. He caught 32 passes for 340 yards and a touchdown, and at age 30, don't expect his numbers to improve. But Celek is still one of the more reliable veteran tight ends in the game, and he knows the offense better than anybody.
Former undrafted free agent Trey Burton didn't catch a single pass last year, although he did carry five times to close out the end of the Eagles' shutout victory over the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football in Week 6. He's a candidate to catch 10 to 15 passes in 2015, and he's a player Kelly will enjoy lining up all over the field in various roles.
The defensive line's dominance begins with 2012 first-round pick Fletcher Cox, who has established himself as the best defensive player on the Philadelphia Eagles. In fact, Cox might be the most dominant defensive lineman on the Eagles since Trent Cole five to seven years ago.
Cox, who has established himself as a force against both the run and in pass rushing, is joined on the other side of the line by veteran Cedric Thornton. Thornton is easily the best run-stopper on the team, and he's the biggest reason why the Eagles allowed the fourth-fewest rushing yards per carry in 2014.
Vinny Curry collected nine sacks in a limited role last season and could start in a 4-3 defense for many teams across the league. Last year's fifth-round pick, Taylor Hart, didn't play in a single snap in 2014, but the hope is for the former Oregon lineman to become a regular contributor in 2015.
Veteran Brandon Bair, who added 1.5 sacks and dominated on special teams, rounds out the rest of the crew at defensive end.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Eagles are absolutely loaded at inside linebacker. That is, assuming they keep 2012 second-round pick Mychal Kendricks, who has been dangled on the trade block this offseason.
If Kendricks stays, the Eagles will have a tremendous trio of Kendricks, newly acquired Kiko Alonso and veteran DeMeco Ryans, who is quickly recovering from his second torn Achilles. Third-round linebacker Jordan Hicks is a solid option as a depth player. Najee Goode rounds out the options at inside 'backer, if he even makes the squad.
Apart from prized free-agent signing Byron Maxwell, the Eagles really don't have a solid No. 2 option at cornerback. However, the overall depth on the squad makes it one of the deepest positions on the team.
The likely No. 2 cornerback will be either rookie second-round pick Eric Rowe or free-agent signing Walter Thurmond. If he's not traded, Brandon Boykin is one of the best nickel cornerbacks in the game. Veteran Nolan Carroll has a chance to compete for a starting job, although he'll likely be the team's fourth corner for the second straight year.
Rookie sixth-round picks JaCorey Shepherd and Randall Evans round out a group of cornerbacks that will likely need to either release or trade at least one for all of the players to find their way onto the 2015 team.