Now that the Eagles’ roster sits at 90 players, we can start to take a look ahead at which spots are up for grabs in the spring and summer.
Today, we’ll provide a position-by-position breakdown of the offense. On Tuesday, we’ll check in on the defense.
Quarterbacks (4): Nick Foles, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley, G.J. Kinne.
The only question here is: Who will win the backup job? Unlike last summer, Foles figures to get all the first-team reps. Barkley and Sanchez will battle it out for the No. 2 spot. The loser of that competition will be third.
Chip Kelly has praised Barkley this offseason, but if the team had really been confident in him to back up Foles, the guess here is they would not have signed Sanchez so quickly. I still think it’ll be an open competition, but if I have to peg a favorite in May, it’s Sanchez. Kelly will likely rotate Sanchez and Barkley as the No. 2 guy all the way into the preseason before making a decision.
Running backs (6): LeSean McCoy, Chris Polk, Darren Sproles, Matthew Tucker, Henry Josey, David Fluellen.
When the Eagles cut down to 53 players last summer, they only kept three running backs. If they go that way again this time around, the depth chart is easy: McCoy, Polk and Sproles. As I’ve written previously, Sproles figures to be much more of a factor as a receiver than a running back. He turns 31 next month and only had 53 carries last year. If Sproles carried the ball much more than that in 2014, I’d be surprised.
The trade of Bryce Brown suggests the Eagles have confidence in Polk to back up McCoy. The second-year back played just 48 snaps last year, per Pro Football Focus, but he made the most of his touches, averaging 8.9 yards on 11 runs and 15.3 yards on four catches. Small sample size? Of course. But the way things currently stand, if McCoy were to suffer an injury, Polk would be the most likely candidate to carry the load. It’s worth noting that Polk reportedly had shoulder surgery in the offseason, so he’s a player to watch this spring.
There’s a chance the Eagles go with four running backs this year. Kelly raved about Tucker last week. Josey is perhaps the most intriguing of the undrafted free agents. And Fluellen could get a shot if he impresses. In other words, consider this a three-man race for a possible fourth RB spot.
Wide receivers (13): Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff, Brad Smith, Jeff Maehl, Damaris Johnson, Arrelious Benn, Kadron Boone, B.J. Cunningham, Ifeanyi Momah, Quron Pratt, Will Murphy.
The Eagles broke camp with five wide receivers last summer, and we have four locks in this group: Maclin, Cooper, Matthews and Huff.
There’s a chance they keep six this year, so we have one or two spots up for grabs. The favorite among the second group to make the team is Smith, primarily because of his versatility. He can play special teams and line up at wide receiver. Kelly even put him in at quarterback last year to run the ball.
Maehl has an outside shot of sneaking onto the roster. The same can be said for Benn, who is coming off an ACL injury. I’d be surprised if Johnson hung around for another year. And Boone is being mentioned as a potential sleeper.
Cunningham, Momah, Pratt and Murphy are all long-shots.
Tight ends (6): Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, James Casey, Emil Igwenagu, Trey Burton, Blake Annen.
It seems just about everyone is predicting a break-out year for Ertz, and I can definitely see that. But overall, I’m not yet convinced he’ll play more snaps than Celek, who is the far superior blocker. The Eagles are still a run-first offense, and that means they need their starting tight end to get the job done at the line of scrimmage. Ertz’s improvement as a blocker is a storyline to keep an eye on this summer.
James Casey is due $3.985M in 2014. He started to play more snaps down the stretch last season – primarily as a blocker in the run game. The Eagles could keep him on at that number or ask him to restructure. They could also decide that one of the other guys is capable of carrying out those run-blocking responsibilities at a lesser price. But it’s worth noting that Casey had 13 special-teams tackles last season, second on the team. The guess here is that Kelly still values him.
Last year, the Eagles kept four tight ends on the roster when they broke camp. Igwenagu provides familiarity, but Burton is the most intriguing name. The undrafted free agent out of Florida played a variety of positions in college and could appeal to Kelly as a “toy” on offense.
Offensive line (16): Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, Lane Johnson, Allen Barbre, Dennis Kelly, Matt Tobin, Julian Vandervelde, Michael Bamiro, David Molk, Donald Hawkins, Kevin Graf, Andrew Gardner, Karim Barton, Josh Andrews.
Barring injury, the starting lineup is set with the first five names here. And Barbre proved last year that he can be a valuable backup both at guard and tackle.
Howie Roseman wanted to add depth here during the draft, but was unable to do so. The Eagles also had free agent Daryn Colledge in for a visit last week.
The Eagles kept nine offensive linemen on the roster last summer, and depth is an issue. At tackle, Kelly, Tobin and Bamiro will battle for a spot (or two). Dennis Kelly was injured for much of last year. Chip Kelly offered some praise for Tobin last week. And Bamiro will have to take the leap from project to contributor.
On the interior, Vandervelde and Molk will compete for the backup center job.
Hawkins, Graf, Gardner, Barton and Andrews all face uphill battles as undrafted free agents. But again, spots are up for grabs so anything is possible with impressive performances in the coming months.