Chip Kelly likes to say that the Eagles only have a seating chart, not a depth chart, this time of year.
Luckily, here at Birds 24/7, we don’t have to abide by the same rules. So now that we’ve seen all of the spring practices and have our eyes on the start of training camp (July 25), here’s our stab at what the offensive depth chart looks like (we’ll do the defense tomorrow). I tried to make this as useful as possible, so there are explanations below.
|QB||Nick Foles||Mark Sanchez||Matt Barkley|
|RB||LeSean McCoy||Darren Sproles||Chris Polk|
|WR||Jeremy Maclin||Arrelious Benn||Damaris Johnson|
|WR||Riley Cooper||Jeff Maehl||Ifeanyi Momah|
|WR (slot)||Jordan Matthews||Brad Smith/Josh Huff||Brad Smith/Josh Huff|
|TE||Brent Celek||Zach Ertz||James Casey|
|LT||Jason Peters||Allen Barbre||Matt Tobin|
|LG||Evan Mathis||Allen Barbre||Dennis Kelly/Michael Bamiro|
|C||Jason Kelce||Julian Vandervelde||David Molk|
|RG||Todd Herremans||Allen Barbre||Michael Bamiro/Dennis Kelly|
|RT||Lane Johnson||Allen Barbre||Dennis Kelly/Michael Bamiro|
Quarterbacks: Not a whole lot to explain here. I know what Kelly said in the spring, but I firmly believe that if the Eagles had a game to play this weekend, Mark Sanchez would be the backup quarterback. Matt Barkley can change the conversation this summer, but the hints have been there all offseason. If the coaches were confident in Barkley to be the backup based on what they saw in his first year, they wouldn’t have signed Sanchez in the first place.
Running backs: One of the messages everyone in the Eagles’ organization seemed to want to get out this spring was that the team believes Darren Sproles can still get it done as a ball-carrier, despite the fact that he’s 31 and averaged just 3.5 rushing attempts per game last season. Obviously Sproles will be used in a variety of ways (in the backfield, in the slot, etc.), and the guess here is still that his impact will be felt more as a pass-catcher than a ball-carrier.
So this section comes with a caveat. If LeSean McCoy stays healthy, Sproles projects to get more snaps and more touches than Chris Polk. But if McCoy goes down, the probable outcome is that the two backs would split time, and Polk would likely get more carries. Guys not listed here like Matthew Tucker, Henry Josey and David Fluellen could get into the mix with strong performances this summer. The Eagles could even add a back if someone they like gets released.
Wide receivers: This is probably the trickiest one to sort out. You’ll notice the depth chart shows ’11’ personnel (one RB, one TE, three WRs) because that’s what the Eagles most often used in 2013. It would be an upset if Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper did not start on the outside in Week 1. Brad Smith took the most reps in the slot with the ones during the spring, but if the season started this weekend, the guess here is that Jordan Matthews would take over that role. And that will almost definitely be the case by the time September comes around.
The Eagles specifically targeted wide receivers whom they think can play inside or outside. I listed Arrelious Benn and Jeff Maehl as the backups on the outside, but if Maclin or Cooper were to go down, Matthews figures to be the most likely candidate to take over their spots. The Eagles could then plug Smith or Josh Huff in the slot.
Maclin, Cooper, Matthews and Huff are locks to make the roster. Guys like Smith, Benn, Maehl and Ifeanyi Momah are fighting for spots. Out of that group, Smith seems like the most likely to stick.
Tight ends: The allocation of snaps between Brent Celek and Zach Ertz will depend mostly on one factor: Ertz’s ability as a run blocker. And because we didn’t see the players in contact drills during the spring, it’s impossible to know how far the second-year player has come in that area. Celek was very good in the run game last year, and even though he only had 32 catches, he averaged a career high 15.7 yards per reception and scored six touchdowns.
Ertz came on strong down the stretch and has a chance to be an outstanding pass-catching tight end. But given how often the Eagles lean on the run game, he’ll need to prove himself in that area to overtake Celek as a starter.
Casey, meanwhile, figures to be a situational player who adds depth and can contribute on special teams.
Offensive linemen: The Eagles will return the same five starters from a year ago. From left to right: Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans and Lane Johnson.
Dropping Allen Barbre into four of the five backup spots on the depth chart above was not a mistake. If any of the starters except for Kelce goes down, Barbre will take over. At center, Julian Vandervelde appears to still have the edge over David Molk for the backup job.
The second-team offensive line during practices was Matt Tobin, Barbre, Vandervelde, Michael Bamiro and Dennis Kelly. Last year, the Eagles kept nine linemen on their 53-man roster after making cuts. Tobin, Bamiro and Kelly could be fighting for two spots.
For our purposes, I used the Kelly/Bamiro designation for third-team spots at both guard positions and right tackle. They practiced at all three positions, and the Eagles value versatility from their backups.
Some of the other guys who actually practiced with the third team – Donald Hawkins, Karim Barton, Kevin Graf, Andrew Gardner and Josh Andrews – face uphill battles to make the roster. But surprises could emerge during training camp and the preseason.