As we look ahead to tonight’s matchup against the Steelers, here’s an updated projection of the Eagles’ 53-man roster.
Quarterbacks (3): Nick Foles, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley.
Not a lot to say here. Foles is the starter, Sanchez the backup and Barkley the third-stringer. Any other arrangement would be a surprise.
Running backs (4): LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, Chris Polk, Kenjon Barner.
This group received a recent shakeup. McCoy and Sproles are the obvious locks. After that, there’s some guesswork involved.
The Eagles dealt David Fluellen to the Colts and acquired Barner for a conditional seventh-round pick. The condition, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, is that Barner has to be active for four regular-season games. The Eagles made the trade for a reason, and the guess here is that Barner sticks.
Chip Kelly made it clear this week that he’d like Polk to get back on the field. The third-year back is dealing with a hamstring issue and has been banged-up quite a bit. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of him getting cut, but I still think Polk sticks.
That leaves Matthew Tucker and Henry Josey out. The coaches talked Tucker up earlier this offseason, but I think they’ll prefer Barner over him. Both Tucker and Josey have practice squad eligibility.
Wide receivers (6): Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff, Brad Smith, Jeff Maehl.
This is one of the more difficult positions to project (after the first three guys). Huff said he has an AC sprain (shoulder) and hopes to be ready for the regular season. The coaches, however, may have a different plan, and it’s possible that Huff lands on IR.
I have him sticking for now, and I feel really good about Smith making it. The sixth spot comes down to Maehl, Ifeanyi Momah and Arrelious Benn. Momah has the most upside, but I think Kelly will opt for someone more reliable. He knows Maehl can play special teams, and he saw him play last year.
Because of that comfort level, I think Maehl ends up beating out the other two.
Tight ends (3): Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, James Casey.
No other tight ends have really flashed. I think these will be the only three on the roster.
Offensive linemen (8): Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, Allen Barbre, Matt Tobin, David Molk, Andrew Gardner.
This might seem a little light, but considering Lane Johnson is only out for the first four games, I think keeping eight offensive linemen is a possibility. On gamedays last year, the Eagles only kept seven active anyway.
Tobin has really played well, and Molk is the backup center. I think Gardner snags the final spot.
If the Eagles keep a ninth, the guess here is it’ll be Dennis Kelly.
Defensive linemen (7): Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Cedric Thornton, Taylor Hart, Vinny Curry, Beau Allen, Brandon Bair.
The top six here are locks. Allen and Curry have really played well on the second team, and Hart’s not going anywhere.
I decided to give Bair the nod. What does he have going for him? At 6-6, 290, he has the measurables the Eagles covet out of their defensive ends, and he’s played well in the preseason, two-gapping and stopping the run. Oh, he also went to Oregon, which doesn’t hurt.
On the flip side, he’s 29-years-old.
I have a hard time seeing Joe Kruger or Damion Square beating Bair out for a spot. Kruger has shown very little, and Square would be a third nose tackle, which seems unnecessary. The Eagles could very well go with just six defensive linemen, but if they had to make cuts today and wanted to keep a seventh, I think it’d be Bair.
Outside linebackers (6): Connor Barwin, Trent Cole, Marcus Smith II, Bryan Braman, Travis Long, Brandon Graham.
What I know: Barwin, Cole, Smith and Braman are going to make the roster.
But the fact that Smith might not see the field early makes the projection more complicated. Any time you ask the coaches about Long, they seem to love him. Any time you ask about Graham, you get a lukewarm response.
I probably have one too many OLBs in this group, but considering that Long has been cross-training inside and that Braman is considered a core special-teamer, I’m going with six for now.
Having said that, I still think there’s a chance Graham doesn’t make it to Week 1.
Inside linebackers (3): DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Najee Goode.
The Eagles are really thin here. They cut Jason Phillips, and Jake Knott has been suspended for the first four games. Emmanuel Acho hasn’t shown much in the preseason.
As I mentioned above, the Eagles are cross-training some OLBs like Long to play inside.
I’ll duck after this, but there’s still a shot that Casey Matthews makes the roster as the fourth inside linebacker.
Cornerbacks (5): Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Nolan Carroll II, Jaylen Watkins.
I don’t see this one changing (barring injury).
Safeties (5): Malcolm Jenkins, Nate Allen, Earl Wolff, Chris Maragos, Ed Reynolds.
Wolff flashed a little last week, but the starting job next to Jenkins still seems like it’ll go to Allen to start the season.
Maragos will fill a special-teams role, and the Eagles could try to stash Reynolds on IR. He seems unlikely to contribute as a rookie.
Specialists (3): Jon Dorenbos, Alex Henery, Donnie Jones.
The Henery spot is no guarantee. It seems pretty clear the Eagles will be taking a look at who gets released by other teams. It’s tough to picture a scenario where Cody Parkey beats Henery out, considering we’re just a little more than two weeks away from the opener.