Final Take: Projecting the Eagles’ 53-Man Roster

Update: Three changes to my final 53-man roster, based on the events of the last 48 hours. They are reflected in italics below.

1. Chris Polk is in, and Chad Hall is out. This isn’t based just on Thursday night’s preseason game, although Polk looked good against the Jets. I just don’t think Hall gives them enough to warrant a roster spot, and Polk’s unique skill set (more on that here) gives him the edge.

2. Oshiomogho Atogwe is out, and Brandon Hughes is in. Atogwe had hamstring trouble again Thursday night and will have an MRI today. The hamstring has been an issue for weeks now. It doesn’t appear he can stay healthy enough to be one of the team’s backup safeties. For now, I’ve got Hughes, a cornerback, taking his roster spot. The guess is the Eagles pick up a safety from another team in the next 24 to 48 hours.

3. Mat McBriar is out, and Chas Henry is in. Strange situation here. McBriar’s agent Tweeted that the punter would be cut, but Andy Reid made a point last night of saying that hasn’t happened yet.

From Wednesday:

With cuts just two days away, it’s time for the Kapadia/McManus battle to reach its conclusion.

My final 53-man roster projection is below, and Tim will unveil his on Thursday.

If a player gets injured against the Jets, or if the Eagles make a trade before the Friday 9 p.m. deadline, I’ll update this post. But unless one of those two things happens, here’s how I see things shaking out.

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

Cut: Trent Edwards.

The Kafka/Edwards decision is a tough one. The way I see it, this coaching staff was confident enough in Kafka all offseason to have him penciled in as Vick’s backup. In the last three weeks, Kafka’s been sidelined with a fractured left hand, and Foles has seized the opportunity.

But Edwards was never really given a chance to win the backup job in practice. If the Eagles really liked what they saw from him, wouldn’t they have at least given him an opportunity to be the No. 2 guy? I’m of the opinion that a couple good performances in the preseason will not change their opinion, especially since Kafka has been injured. It’s not like he’s been on the field and played horribly.

As for the backup job, remember, the Eagles don’t technically have to name one publicly. They can keep both Foles and Kafka active on gamedays and let the rest of us know who the No. 2 guy is when he has to enter the game. Again, I think Foles will be the backup, but I’m not sure the Eagles will officially say that.

Running backs (5): LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown, Stanley Havili, Chris Polk.

Cut: Emil Igwenagu.

McCoy’s the starter, and Lewis gets the backup nod. Brown looks to have a clear edge over Polk. He’s flashed as a runner and appears to be ready to contribute on special teams.

Polk was one of my last guys left off. He’s been OK as a runner, but certainly has not blown anyone away. The Eagles have a couple options here if they want to take a longer look at him: They could try to stash him on injured reserve, or they could try to sneak him onto the practice squad. For the latter to happen, the other 31 teams would have to pass on Polk. But remember, he made it through seven rounds of April’s draft without being selected.

As for the fullback battle, I actually think Havili has had a solid summer and very well could be the first-team fullback. But, as I mentioned this morning, the Eagles could still look to add a fullback once another team makes cuts.

Wide receivers (5): DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Damaris Johnson.

Cut: Marvin McNutt, Mardy Gilard, Chad Hall.

I had a tough time here. Jackson, Maclin, Avant, Cooper and Johnson are on. People still seem to question why Cooper’s on, but it’s simple: He’s a good special teams player and has been productive when asked to fill in as a starter. He may not be ready to go Week 1, butAndy Reidsaid he should be back not long after that. Johnson, meanwhile, will start the season as the primary punt returner and could very well be the team’s No. 4 wide receiver until Cooper gets healthy.

Hall was one of my last guy’s on. He’s basically an insurance policy – someone who knows the offense if he needs to fill in as a fourth wide receiver or return punts in an emergency. There’s certainly not a glaring need for him to be on the roster, and the Eagles could just go with five receivers, but I gave him a spot.

I’ve had McNutt on in previous versions, but left him off here. He still has a shot to make it though. The Eagles obviously saw potential when they drafted him in the sixth round. If they still see that, despite his quiet preseason, why not keep McNutt as the sixth receiver, make him inactive on gamedays and let him go down the line if necessary? That’s a possibility.

Worth noting: Both Hall and McNutt could be practice squad candidates.

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

Cut: Brett Brackett, Chase Ford.

I just don’t see a need to keep three tight ends. Harbor has had a really good summer and could be given more of a shot to contribute as a receiver this year. Brackett could be a practice squad candidate.

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

Cut: D.J. Jones, Dallas Reynolds, Brandon Washington.

I feel pretty confident here, although the Eagles could certainly add a lineman or two from another team. Your starters are Dunlap, Mathis, Kelce, Watkins and Herremans. Kelly is active on gamedays as the swing tackle. And don’t forget, he’s been used at guard too this preseason. Vallos is likely your backup center, and Vandervelde probably is inactive.

Bell needs to show improvement. Based on where he’s at right now, not only does Dunlap have the edge over him for the starting job, but I think Kelly has the edge over him for the swing tackle spot. Don’t be surprised if Bell is an inactive Week 1 against the Browns.

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

Cut: Frank Trotter, Ollie Ogbu, Monte Taylor.

I’m happy to remain on an island here, projecting that the team keeps 11 defensive linemen.

The thinking is simple: Everything the defense does is based on production from the front four. What are the chances all these guys stay healthy two or three weeks into the season? Why dump quality players when there’s not really a need to?

Having said that, the Eagles could deal Tapp or Dixon if they’re able to get something in return.

At defensive end, it’ll be interesting to see if Babin is definitely ready to go in Week 1. If not, Jenkins could start at left defensive end, in which case the Eagles would have to keep Dixon to be a part of the four-man rotation at tackle. If preseason is any indication, Hunt would replace Jenkins in passing situations, and Jenkins would swing inside, replacing Landri.

Hunt, Graham and Tapp would rotate at DE with the second group.

If everyone’s healthy, the Eagles could keep nine linemen active on gameday. Right now, it appears Curry likely won’t dress to start the season.

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

Cut: Keenan Clayton, Adrian Moten, Ryan Rau, Monte Simmons.

For now, the starters are Ryans, Kendricks (SAM) and Jordan (WILL). Chaney, Matthews and Rolle could all see time at that WILL spot before all is said and done. Kendricks has been the Eagles’ best linebacker all preseason, and Ryans should provide an upgrade in the middle.

Clayton was one of my final guys left off. Juan Castillo has talked about using the linebackers in specialized roles. That could be a good sign for Clayton, whose strength is coverage. He was the lone linebacker on the field in dime packages during the last part of the 2011 season. But at this point, Clayton has been given several chances to earn more playing time, and he hasn’t done so. The Eagles could keep seven linebackers or make a surprise cut with someone like Rolle, but the guess here is that this is the end of the road for Clayton.

Cornerbacks (6): Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Joselio Hanson, Brandon Boykin, Curtis Marsh, Brandon Hughes.

Cut: Trevard Lindley.

This was probably the toughest group to figure out. Asomugha, Rodgers-Cromartie, Marsh and Boykin are locks. But Boykin’s role has a significant impact on everything else the Eagles decide. He’s been competing with Hanson for the first-team nickel spot, but it looks like Hanson is holding on – for now.

If that’s not true, and Boykin is going to get the nod, then Hanson probably gets cut, and Hughes probably makes it. Remember, Hughes is the most valuable special-teams contributor of this group, he provides some versatility, and he was active for 13 games last year. I gave serious thought to leaving him on as the sixth cornerback, but ultimately decided against it.

The coaching staff’s confidence in Marsh is also a factor. Should Asomugha or Rodgers-Cromartie go down, he’d be a starter. It seems like he’s improved enough to be in that role, but if the coaches have doubts about him handling it, they could hang on to Hughes and make a cut elsewhere.

Safeties (3): Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Jaiquawn Jarrett.

Cut: Oshiomogho Atogwe, Phillip Thomas.

This projection is based on the assumption that Colt Anderson starts the season on PUP.

Allen and Coleman are your starters, but depth is a concern, especially considering Allen’s injury history. Jarrett and Atogwe make the team pretty much by default. And Thomas was active against Cleveland, but hasn’t shown enough. Again, the Eagles could look to add a safety off another team’s roster.

The Eagles probably want to give Jarrett a longer look, but should Allen go down, having him and Coleman as the starting safeties – specifically in coverage – would be worrisome. Atogwe would probably be a better option as the first backup, but he’s been battling a hamstring injury.

If there’s one area where the Eagles may look back in a few weeks and wish they’d done more this offseason, it probably is safety.

Specialists (3): Chas Henry, Alex Henery, Jon Dorenbos.

Cut: Mat McBriar.

I’ve been operating under the assumption that unless McBriar was horrible this preseason, the punting job was his to lose. So I think he gets the nod over Henry.

Inactives: I’ve received questions about who will be inactive on gamedays. A lot still needs to shake out, specifically with injuries, but your Week 1 list could look something like this: Cooper, Bell, Vandervelde, Curry, Dixon, Atogwe, Matthews.

Reid has already said that Cooper (collarbone) and Matthews (high ankle sprain) are unlikely to be ready vs. Cleveland.

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