Yes, T-Mac got the best of me last year in our 53-man roster projection contest. But I’m back to avenge that loss in 2013.
Teams must trim their rosters down to 53 by 6 p.m. on Aug. 31. Between now and then, Tim and I will release our projections. I’ll take this week, he’ll take next week, and so on.
On Aug. 30, we’ll release our final versions, matching our projections up vs. the Eagles’. The loser will have to buy the winner a year’s supply of smoothies… or sconces… or something like that.
Anyway, I’m up first. Here’s what I came up with.
Quarterbacks (3): Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley.
The guess here is that Vick begins the season as the starter. But even if Foles wins out, I don’t think Vick will be cut or traded. The entire offseason plan was a way for Chip Kelly and the Eagles to hedge their bets at quarterback. And Kelly has emphasized on multiple occasions that he knows he’ll likely need two guys at some point anyway. Sure, Vick might not be happy as the backup, but I doubt he’ll create a serious stir. He’s been a good teammate in Philadelphia and knows his best shot will be to eventually replace Foles, rather than try to learn another new system on a different team.
Unless he surprises in the next couple weeks, Barkley starts the season as the No. 3 guy. Dennis Dixon and GJ Kinne don’t make the cut.
Running backs (4): LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk, Matthew Tucker.
McCoy and Brown are obviously locks. Polk has had a good camp and is in good position to make the squad.
Given the emphasis on the running game (and no fullback), my guess is Kelly will want to keep four tailbacks. The fourth spot could very well be claimed by a player not currently on the roster. Felix Jones has flashed bad hands and missed a blocking assignment last week. For a guy whose trademark is versatility, he has yet to stand out for anything positive this summer. There is still time, but right now, I’m leaving him off.
As for Tucker, he hasn’t really impressed either. He failed his conditioning test at the start of camp and was unimpressive against the Patriots. He has a chance, but if he doesn’t flash more of his potential, he’ll be replaced by someone who gets cut by another team.
Wide receivers (6): DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper, Jason Avant, Damaris Johnson, Greg Salas, Russell Shepard.
Six feels like a high number here, but this year’s projection is especially difficult. We don’t know exactly how Kelly wants to construct his roster, and it was difficult to find 53 guys to fill spots.
Jackson, Cooper, Avant and Johnson are relative locks. Salas has really come on and seems to be moving up the depth chart. Shepard looked great early in camp, but has been quiet as of late.
It’s possible the Eagles could try to keep Shepard on the practice squad if they only want five receivers on the 53-man roster. Or they could decide his potential is worth more than what Salas provides right now.
Ifeanyi Momah does not look ready. He is a practice squad candidate. Newcomer Jeff Maehl will have to beat out Salas and/or Shepard to earn a spot.
Tight ends (3): Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, James Casey.
I think we’ll see plenty of 2-TE sets from the Eagles. But 3-TE sets? Not so much.
Ideally, Kelly might want to keep a fourth tight end, but I just don’t see an appealing option on the roster. Clay Harbor has a shot if Kelly is serious about making his evaluations based primarily on this summer’s performance. But Harbor just hasn’t shown much in his first three seasons.
This is another area where the Eagles could look to make an addition when rosters around the league are trimmed
Offensive linemen (9): Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, Lane Johnson, Allen Barbre, Danny Watkins, Dennis Kelly, Julian Vandervelde.
The starters here were easy. The backups? Not so much.
Barbre has a great chance of sticking. He has at least some experience (32 games, 7 starts), and more importantly, he possesses versatility, which is a huge asset for a backup lineman. Barbre played guard for much of camp, but has since been getting reps at tackle. He stepped in for Jason Peters at left tackle against New England and was OK.
I don’t think Watkins has much of a role on this team, but will pencil him in only because the Eagles need bodies.
Kelly is an X-factor. He had back surgery recently and won’t play again in the preseason. Prior to the injury, he had been the first backup tackle off the bench. Given that the Eagles have Barbre and can move Herremans to tackle if necessary, the guess right now is that they keep Kelly on the 53-man roster even if he’s not ready for the first few weeks.
Vandervelde is a bit of an upset pick. Didn’t think he had much of a shot a few weeks ago, but Vandervelde has been taking second-team reps at center. I’m giving him the nod over Dallas Reynolds right now.
We could see movement with the backups in the next couple of weeks. Michael Bamiro is a developmental tackle prospect. Undrafted free agent Matt Tobin could get into the mix for a backup job. And Matt Tennant will have a chance to claim the backup center job from Vandervelde/Reynolds.
Defensive linemen (7): Fletcher Cox, Isaac Sopoaga, Cedric Thornton, Bennie Logan, Damion Square, Vinny Curry, Joe Kruger.
Kelly may have dropped a hint about his plans for the roster yesterday when he said the Eagles would play all six defensive linemen, if of course they keep six on the active roster.
I initially had them keeping six, but Kruger seems like a good bottom-of-the-roster candidate. He just turned 21 in June, and many did not expect him to leave Utah early for the draft. I don’t think the Eagles are expecting him to contribute in 2013, but if they like Kruger enough, they could keep him as a seventh lineman. The other option would be practice squad.
Clifton Geathers has a shot to stick, but he needs to show more in the preseason. Just being tall and long won’t be enough. Square has versatility and has impressed the coaching staff this summer. Because he and Logan can play multiple positions, I don’t see Antonio Dixon sticking. I left seventh-round pick David King off as well.
Outside linebackers (4): Trent Cole, Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Chris McCoy.
We still don’t know what these guys’ exact responsibilities will be once the real games start, but Barwin, Cole and Graham are locks to make the roster.
The fourth spot is up for grabs, but McCoy (6-4, 261) has good measurables and has flashed – both in coverage and as a pass-rusher – this summer. He gets the nod here over Phillip Hunt, Everette Brown and Travis Long.
Inside linebackers (4): DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Jake Knott, Casey Matthews.
I feel pretty good about the first three spots. Ryans and Kendricks are obviously the starters, and I’m buying the Knott hype. The undrafted free agent looked good during the first preseason game, and Kelly said recently Knott’s impressed the coaches all summer long.
The fourth spot is open. I gave it to Matthews because he was a productive special-teams player last year, making 14 tackles, second on the team to only Akeem Jordan.
Jamar Chaney could end up earning a backup spot. And same goes for Emmanuel Acho. Let’s see how the next three preseason games play out.
Cornerbacks (5): Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Curtis Marsh, Jordan Poyer.
To be honest, it was extremely difficult finding five worthy corners. The first three seem set, but after that, you’re pretty much throwing darts.
Marsh has been unable to get consistent snaps in his first two seasons and has not moved up the depth chart this summer. I thought about leaving him off, but maybe the coaching staff still thinks it can work with his physical tools.
Poyer, a seventh-round pick, has been unimpressive this summer, but he makes it pretty much by default.
You really can’t rule anyone out here. Brandon Hughes is a good special-teams player, and Billy Davis inserted him into the starting lineup last week for Williams. Trevard Lindley could possibly steal one of the final spots. Or maybe the coaches think Eddie Whitley has potential.
Again, after the first three, it’s a crapshoot.
Safeties (5): Patrick Chung, Nate Allen, Earl Wolff, Colt Anderson, Kenny Phillips.
Safety is difficult too. I feel confident that Chung, Wolff and Anderson will make the cut. Chung seems likely to start. Wolff was a fifth-round pick who could earn some immediate playing time. And Anderson is a special-teams ace.
That leaves one or two spots for Allen, Phillips, Kurt Coleman and David Sims. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s “believe it when I see it” mode with Allen. Everyone seems to like the fourth-year player, but he just has not produced consistently.
Phillips does not look like the talented player who played big snaps for the Giants, but he might be better than their other options. Coleman has a chance to beat him out for a backup spot, especially if the team doesn’t like what it sees out of Phillips health-wise.
Sims seems like a longshot.
I would say this is an area where the Eagles could add someone from another roster, but most teams in the NFL need safety help, so that seems unlikely at this point.
Specialists (3): Alex Henery, Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos.
Not much to add here. Jones has been better than Brad Wing this summer.