McManus: Projecting the Eagles’ 53-Man Roster

Chip KellyYes, I defeated Sheil in the 53-man projection contest last year. Yes, it was as easy as it looked.

I’ve been called many things since then — champion, Nostradamus, King 53, the Joe Lunardi of football — but honestly, I’d really prefer it if you just call me Tim.

Kapadia is back for more. He took a shot at the 2013 roster last week. My turn this week. Teams must trim their rosters down to 53 by 6 p.m. on Aug. 31. On Aug. 30, we’ll release our final versions, matching our projections up vs. the Eagles’.

Kapadia has already written his concession speech.

Without further ado, let’s get to the award-winning projections.

Quarterbacks (3): Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley.

Vick looks to have pulled ahead in the quarterback competition. Chip Kelly has preached the importance of having two capable quarterbacks at this level. That is particularly true when your chosen signal-caller has not played a full 16-game season since 2006. No reason to think Foles will be moved if he does not win the job. Kelly may very well need him. Barkley will be learning from the sideline unless Plan A and Plan B fail.

Believe it or not, Dennis Dixon still has some practice squad eligibility remaining. Dixon, a member of Baltimore’s practice squad last season, played the scout team role of Colin Kapernick in preparation for the Ravens’ Super Bowl matchup against the Niners. With RGIII in the division, he could be a useful asset on the practice squad here in Philly.

Running backs (3): LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk.

Could very well be a potent 1-2-3 punch.

The Eagles will be running the ball quite a bit this season (and will be running a ton of plays, period) so I’m sure Kelly is not opposed to keeping a fourth back for depth and insurance purposes. But Felix Jones has not impressed. Same can be said about the rookie Matthew Tucker. The move may be to put Tucker (or another back) on the practice squad and roll with three on the 53-man for now.

Wide receivers (6): DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper, Jason Avant, Damaris Johnson, Greg Salas, Russell Shepard.

The first four are locked in. What Kelly decides to do beyond that four is where it gets interesting.

Salas has been the next best receiver in camp but might not have the same upside as Shepard, who has shown a strong work ethic, good hands and little flashes that keep him in the conversation. Not sure he lasts on the practice squad. Clay Harbor has been working some at receiver. If he sticks, is there room for he, Shepard and Salas? Maybe not, but for now I’m projecting that they all make the cut.

Ifeanyi Momah isn’t ready for the show.

Tight ends (4): Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, James Casey, Clay Harbor.

Kelly has already shown a four-tight end set. We’re almost at the point where we have to ask: Is four even enough for this guy?

We have seen the value of having tight ends split out wide to serve as lead blockers for the oft-used bubble screens. This alone gives Harbor a role. Kelly likes tight ends, he’ll use tight ends, and, the guess here is he keeps at least four of them.

Derek Carrier and  Will Shaw are the other two tight ends on the roster at the moment. Neither have really stood out.

Offensive linemen (9): Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, Lane Johnson, Allen Barbre, Danny Watkins, Dennis Kelly, Julian Vandervelde.

Barbre has made the most of his opportunity in camp, and has moved into a position where he could be a primary backup both at tackle and guard. Kelly (back surgery) is hopeful he can return to the practice field around the start of the regular season. We’ll see.

Vandervelde could back up Kelce at center.

Watkins has been sidelined with a concussion since August 12. I wouldn’t be shocked if he doesn’t make the team. If the Eagles go in a different direction, Matt Tennant is an option. Rookie tackle Michael Bamiro (6-8, 340)  is an interesting prospect, but he’s raw. Maybe you can stash him on the practice squad.

Defensive linemen (7): Fletcher Cox, Isaac Sopoaga, Cedric Thornton, Bennie Logan, Damion Square, Vinny Curry, Clifton Geathers.

Square, an undrafted rookie out of Alabama, crashed the party and is in position to make the team. At who’s expense? We’ll say seventh-round pick Joe Kruger. The 21-year-old Kruger is a developmental pick. It’s possible he makes the 53 if the Eagles believe he’ll be plucked off the practice squad. The guess here is they take the chance. Fellow seventh-rounder David King has blended in during camp.

Kruger could make it over Geathers as well, but in terms of pure performance, Geathers gets the nod.

Logan has been impressive so far. Looks like he’ll have a role right out of the gates.

Outside linebackers (4): Trent Cole, Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Chris McCoy.

Big challenges ahead for Cole and Graham as they transition to a new role. If they fail, there isn’t much in the way of a backup plan.

McCoy has enjoyed a solid summer and should make the squad.

Inside linebackers (4): DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Jake Knott, Jamar Chaney.

Knott, an undrafted rookie out of Iowa St., has earned himself a job this summer.

The final spot probably comes down to Casey Matthews and Chaney. Flip a coin. I’m going with Chaney, mostly to be different than Sheil.

Cornerbacks (5): Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Brandon Hughes, Jordan Poyer.

Not the strongest crop of corners in the world.

Curtis Marsh is currently sidelined with a broken hand, but could make the team. We’ll give the nod to Hughes, who started in place of the injured Cary Williams against the Patriots.

Poyer has been very quiet this summer, but will make the team based on potential.

Safeties (5): Patrick Chung, Nate Allen, Earl Wolff, Colt Anderson, Kurt Coleman.

On paper, the group looks better with Kenny Phillips‘ name mixed in. But as we know, the game is not played on paper. Phillips has not done much to distinguish himself since arriving in Philly. Though he missed Thursday’s game with a quad injury, the knees are the real concern. Maybe he has been holding back in the name of keeping himself healthy for the regular season. Now is the time to prove himself if he wants to stick with the Eagles.

Specialists (3): Alex Henery, Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos.

Nobody is really talking about this, but Henery has not been very accurate during camp. He is missing rather frequently on the NovaCare practice fields. His one attempt in the first two preseason games was no good. Not sounding the alarm, but worth keeping an eye on.

Dorenbos is back from a concussion. Long live James Winchester.

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