Take 3: Projecting the Eagles’ 53-Man Roster

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Darryl TappEight days from now, the Eagles will have to trim their roster to 53 players.

The official date and time is Friday, Aug. 31 at 9 p.m.

That means this is the final trial run for me and McManus. Next week, we’ll have to submit our final projections. Here’s what I’ve got as of Thursday morning. T-Mac will reveal his projections on Friday.

And to switch things up. I’ve provided my confidence level for each group. Nothing scientific here – just a 1-10 ranking, with 1 signifying I am completely guessing here and 10 meaning Mark it down. These are locks.

Quarterbacks (3): Michael Vick, Mike Kafka, Nick Foles.
Confidence level: 9

This one is pretty much set in stone. While quarterback is a question mark – with Vick suffering injuries in each of the Eagles’ first two preseason games – these will be the three guys on the 53-man roster. If Trent Edwards was going to be given a real shot, I think it would have happened by now.

The question is: Can Foles beat out Kafka for the backup job? As I wrote yesterday, it seems quite possible. But as Paul Domowitch of the Daily News pointed out today, the Eagles could keep all three quarterbacks active on gamedays and not designate a backup. I can just see it now: Andy Reid answering a hypothetical question about who would potentially go in for an injured Vick with, “Well, we’ll just see there.”

I took a look, and last year, the Eagles had three quarterbacks active in eight of 16 games. Some of that had to do with injuries to Vick and Vince Young though.

Running backs (4): LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown, Stanley Havili.
Confidence level: 9

Havili made a move in the last preseason game with a nice 14-yard run, a decent lead block on McCoy’s touchdown and an outstanding special-teams tackle. The Eagles could still add a fullback once teams cut down their rosters, but Havili has the edge for now.

Brown flashed big-time vs. the Patriots with a 27-yard run up the middle. He’s shown upside, and the Eagles won’t be willing to let other teams have a shot at him. Brown can play special teams as a rookie, hone his skills and work to be a contributor down the road.

Lewis is still the favorite to spell McCoy or fill in if he gets injured. He knows the offense and has looked capable in blitz pick-up during the preseason.

I’m not seeing a spot for Polk. Brown has a clear edge over him as a runner at this point. The Eagles have some roster flexibility, and if they really like Polk, they could probably find a way to keep him. He could land on IR or the practice squad (only if another team doesn’t sign him).

Wide receivers (6): DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Damaris Johnson, Marvin McNutt.
Confidence level: 6

The first four names above are locks. After that, there’s some indecision.

I still am confident that Johnson makes it, but he’s dropped passes in each of the first two preseason games and fumbled a punt against New England. The Eagles need him to be reliable on special teams.

McNutt is a bit of a wild card. He’s shown nothing as a receiver in the first two preseason games, and it doesn’t look like he’d be able to contribute if the Eagles needed him offensively.

Then again, that sixth wide receiver is likely to be inactive on gamedays. If the Eagles saw enough potential in McNutt to draft him in April, the guess here is that they’ll hold on to him for now.

As for Chad Hall, friend of the blog Sam Lynch pointed out over at Iggles Blitz that he’s still practice-squad eligible. If Cooper isn’t ready to go in Week 1 (recovering from surgery for a fractured collarbone), perhaps Hall would get the nod over McNutt. But I don’t think he gives you enough as a fourth wide receiver to justify that spot.

Tight ends (2): Brent Celek, Clay Harbor.
Confidence level: 10

I don’t see it going any other way. The Eagles have no need for a third tight end, and neither Brett Brackett nor Chase Ford has stood out this summer.

Harbor, on the other hand, had a great camp, caught all six balls thrown his way Monday night and got in the end zone twice. He could see a bump in playing time in the regular season.

Offensive linemen (9): King Dunlap, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Danny Watkins, Todd Herremans, Demetress Bell, Julian Vandervelde, Dennis Kelly, Steve Vallos.
Confidence level: 4

Pretty much every day at training camp, Bo Wulf of PhiladelphiaEagles.com would come up to me and make some type of Steve Vallos reference. “Look at that snap!” or “Great block by Vallos!” he’d say. Why? Because Wulf and Vallos share a bond as Wake Forest Demon Deacons, and apparently Bo has a lot of school pride.

Dallas Reynolds is still listed as the second-team center, but Vallos played there on Monday night and has started eight NFL games in his career. Right now, he gets the nod.

Given everything else that’s happened this preseason, the issue of offensive line depth has been largely ignored. I’m convinced the Eagles are going to make some moves here after teams cut their rosters to 53. We’ll get a look at Kelly Friday night, but if Bell isn’t good enough to start, chances are he’s not going to be reliable as a backup either.

Depth at guard and center is a major concern, especially considering that Kelce is taking on more responsibility this year with line calls. Reynolds and Mike Gibson are still in the mix, but my guess is those spots get filled with guys not currently on the roster.

By the way, if I had to wager right now on who the left tackle would be Week 1, my money’s on Dunlap.

Defensive linemen (11): Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Fletcher Cox, Derek Landri, Brandon Graham, Darryl Tapp, Phillip Hunt, Vinny Curry, Cedric Thornton, Antonio Dixon.
Confidence level: 6

I strongly considered bumping Tapp and Dixon this week. Hunt is really coming on, and with Jenkins seeing snaps outside, Tapp is probably expendable. Dixon, meanwhile, just looks like a bad fit for Jim Washburn’s style and is showing very little as a pass rusher.

The problem? I didn’t really see anyone else on the roster worth keeping over either one of those guys. If the Eagles can get some kind of conditional pick in a trade for either Tapp or Dixon, I think they pull the trigger. If not, beef up the defensive line and cover yourself in case of injury. What are the odds all the defensive linemen in the rotation stay healthy from until Week 3 or 4? Not high.

Mike Patterson on PUP looks likely at this point. Reuben Frank of CSN Philly is reporting that Patterson’s already been ruled out for Week 1.

As for the rotation, the way things are currently constructed, Curry and either Dixon or Thornton would likely be inactive on gameday to start the season.

Linebackers (6): DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Brian Rolle, Jamar Chaney, Casey Matthews, Akeem Jordan.
Confidence level: 7

Good sign for the Eagles linebackers: The way Kendricks is playing, it seems likely that he and Ryans will stay on the field in nickel situations to start the season. That should lead to less shuffling of personnel and less confusion, specifically when opposing offenses go no-huddle.

As we’ve discussed, Jordan and Keenan Clayton are battling for the final spot. Jordan gets the nod because of special teams. If the Eagles really like Clayton (and there’s not a lot of evidence to suggest they do), he could make the team as a seventh linebacker, and they could keep one fewer defensive lineman.

Cornerbacks (5): Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Curtis Marsh, Brandon Boykin, Joselio Hanson.
Confidence level: 5

This is a tough one. Boykin is pushing Hanson for that nickel job. But can he do enough in the next eight days to snatch it away? Important game for him coming up on Friday.

If Boykin wins the job, I see no need to keep Hanson, considering he’s not a factor on the outside.

Brandon Hughes has a shot to sneak on if the Eagles want experience on the outside. As for Cliff Harris, not sure if he’s healthy. Don’t think he played at all vs. the Patriots. Unless the Eagles want to give him the 53rd spot and concede that he won’t play as a rookie, but could contribute down the line, I think he’ll be cut.

Safeties (4): Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Oshiomogho Atogwe, Jaiquawn Jarrett.
Confidence level: 5

This is another area where the Eagles very well could add a player off another team’s roster before the season starts.

I kept Jarrett off last week, but now Tom Nelson has a high ankle sprain, so the former second-round pick gets back on by default. Atogwe, meanwhile, didn’t play in Monday’s preseason game because of a hamstring injury. I have no clue at this point how effective he’d be if he had to go into a game. But again, not seeing other options here right now. Colt Anderson is not practicing yet and is still recovering from a torn ACL.

At the end of last season, I thought Coleman would have to hold off competition to remain a starter, but that hasn’t been the case. He and Allen, who played well vs. the Patriots, are clearly the first-team safeties.

Specialists (3): Alex Henery, Mat McBriar, Jon Dorenbos.
Confidence level: 8

Both McBriar and Chas Henry punted better Monday night. Still think it’s McBriar’s job to lose though.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

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  • Mac

    I agree Jordan makes the team over Clayton… but mainly due to his ability to play all 3 LB positions and his experience. Clayton has “upside” in his favor, but I think at the end of the day the Eagles need Jordan as an insurance policy.

    I’m also inclined to believe the Eagles try to squeeze 6 CBs on the roster. I’m listing Hughes above Hanson (due to upside and outside potential) and perhaps Hanson stays on the 53 until Patterson comes off the PuP.

    I’ve been a fan of the Dunlap acquisition since the Eagles first drafted him. Now it looks like that late round pick is going to pay dividends. Here’s to the hope that the big man can stay healthy and play the whole season.

  • deerpathdave

    With the way Clay Harbor has performed, I see the Eagles keeping three TEs and only 5 WRs. Harbor is ending up with a clear role in the passing game,so expect alot of two TE formations. And the Eagles will want to continue to run two TE sets if either one were to get hurt.

    I also think Hanson only stays if Boykins messes up the next couple of weeks, likely allowing Hughes to make the roster. I don’t think the Eagles need as much out of the slot guy as they will likely move Asomugh in there half the time and put Marsh on the field.

    Jarrett needs to make some plays on Special Teams to make this team. I could see the Eagles going with just three Safeties. Why keep dead wood at Safety when you could put Rolle or Marsh on the field in a pinch?

    The Defensive Line perplexes me with Jenkins playing outside more, it suggests more of a need for Dixon and less for Tapp or Graham. Much depends if they think Patterson will eventually play as I could see them more likely to cut Dixon if they expect Patterson back in week 6.

  • erformc

    Sheil – Assuming your projections for the number of players at each position are correct, I think you’re going to see more than 2 DL’s inactive on game day. The reason? They don’t help you much on ST and if you keep 11 DL, you’re going to have to activate more guys at other positions.

    For example, I would view these players on your list as gameday inactives, starting with the OL and DL and working your way out. This list of course, assumes everyone is healthy on gameday, which rarely if ever happens.

    1. Bell (Todd can be the backup LT, and Kelly could move into Todd’s spot. Not that Kelly is better than Bell, but he’s the only one that can play RT).

    2. Vandevelde (Vallos can be the “swing guy” who can play either C or OG, whereas Valdevelde only plays G.

    3. Thornton. (Overall better than Dixon, but Dixon is the only true run-stuffer).

    4 & 5. Curry and Hunt – Hunt is the toughest one here to leave off. Assuming Tapp makes the roster, they’re not going to inactivate him and his $2-3 million in salary. Nor do I see them inactivating a former 1st round draft pick.

    6. McNutt – If he’s only there for development I can’t see him contributing enough on ST (like Riley)

    7. The 3rd QB- Don’t know if it’s Kafka or Foles, but if you activate a 3rd QB, you lose a ST guy. Should a 3rd QB be active on game day, then I see either Jarrett or Atogwe beomg inactive.

  • Erdessy

    I’d like to see a way for the Eagles to keep both Chris Polk and Cliff Harris. Maybe cut Dixon (or Tapp) and McNutt? I really think Harris has a lot of upside as a CB and as a returner and I think Polk could be a good short yardage bruiser back. I am confident that neither Polk nor Harris would make it to practice squad as another team will pick them up via waivers. I’m bummed Harris has been hurt and that it may coast him a spot.
    Also, cut Hanson. Please cut Hanson.

  • ian_no_2

    QB: Edwards over Kafka. Kafka has been inconsistent in game situations and has less physical ability than the more experienced Edwards. Edwards is a higher pick who was a solid starter, showing in the first preseason that he had a combination of the playbook and experience to run the offense in an emergency.

    There’s a difference between who will make the team and who should.

    Cliff Harris should make the 53 man roster. If they cut him he will make the team regret it somewhere else.

    I hope and expect Philip Thomas to get more work at safety, since he seems like the fourth best safety they have. If Colt Anderson, who played the position well in college to go with special teams, is ready they could just put him on the 53 man roster and wait for him to be active.

    See no reason to keep Jamar Chaney around. 5 LBs may be right since there is less talent there, watching the waiver wire or exploring trades.

    Chase Ford on the PS over Brackett. Hamler on the PS at WR, along with Hall.

  • Uncle Carm

    I see a problem at tight end. Not with the two guys we have; they are great. But if the Eagles are going to use alot of two tight end sets as expected, what if one gets hurt? It’s one thing to have a backup in the spot, while it’s totally another to have no one to put in the spot. This would severely limit the formations and play selection. Did Havili take snaps at tight end in training camp?