Eagles Wake-Up Call: Depth Chart Notes

With kickoff just five days away, the Eagles have released their Week 1 game notes, which come complete with an unofficial depth chart.

Here are some thoughts on various positions.

Running back: It should come as no surprise that Bryce Brown is listed behind LeSean McCoy, and Chris Polk is third. McCoy will get the bulk of the carries when he’s healthy. And while Chip Kelly will find a way to spell him given the tempo, remember, McCoy played more snaps than any other running back in the NFL back in 2011. In other words, he’s capable of handling a heavy workload.

Brown will certainly get his chances, and Polk could be mixed in here and there.

Tight end: Interestingly enough, the first team features 12 personnel, or one running back and two tight ends. Kelly has flat-out said that Brent Celek is the starter. And on the depth chart, he is joined by James Casey. Rookie Zach Ertz is on the second team, along with Emil Igwenagu. The guess here is that snap counts among the tight ends will largely depend on the game-plan each week. But if I had to project playing time from most to least for the season, I’d go Celek, Ertz, Casey. As we’ve mentioned several times, look for a lot of two tight-end sets.

Offensive line: Allen Barbre is listed as the top backup at both guard spots. The truth is, he may be the top backup at every offensive line position except for center. Right now, Dennis Kelly is listed as the backup at right tackle, but it’s unclear when he’ll be fully recovered from back surgery. Undrafted free agent Matt Tobin is listed behind Jason Peters. And Julian Vandervelde is your backup center.

Defensive line: Probably shouldn’t read too much into it, but if this depth chart is any indication, undrafted free agent Damion Square figures to be the seventh D-Linemen and a likely gameday inactive. The first team is Fletcher Cox, Isaac Sopoaga and Cedric Thornton. The second team is Vinny Curry, Clifton Geathers and Bennie Logan. All six defensive linemen are expected to rotate. All except for Sopoaga are options as pass-rushers in nickel. Cox figures to play the most snaps out of the group.

Inside linebacker: Underrated concern on this roster: The Eagles could be in trouble should DeMeco Ryans or Mychal Kendricks go down. Casey Matthews, Jake Knott and Najee Goode are the backups. On the depth chart, Matthews is listed behind Ryans and Knott behind Kendricks. Goode is on the third team. Should Ryans or Kendricks suffer an injury, we’ll find out what kind of confidence the team has in Knott, an undrafted free agent.

Safety: Nate Allen is listed as the starter alongside Patrick Chung. Their backups are Earl Wolff and Kurt Coleman, respectively. If Allen struggles, which is entirely possible, Wolff or Coleman could replace him early on. Colt Anderson is listed with the third team.

It’s also worth noting that DeSean Jackson is the No. 1 punt returner, ahead of Damaris Johnson. Johnson is the top kickoff returner, ahead of Brandon Boykin.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Danny Watkins responds to Howie Roseman’s comments, questioning his toughness.

A roundup of what the national media are saying about the Eagles, including preseason predictions and wide-ranging opinions on Kelly.

T-Mac has the practice squad tracker updated.

Here are 10 Eagles numbers that matter as we look ahead to the opener.

McManus looks at what the Eagles’ roster moves tell us about Kelly.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Good No-22 breakdown of the Eagles’ defense by Derek Sarley:

Lacking pressure from the front four, Davis will turn to the blitz, where he’s already demonstrated a Jim Johnson-esque flair for breaking protection schemes. The last 2 years of “send four and hope for the best” are definitely behind us.

Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com offers thoughts on Najee Goode:

There are things to like about Goode. He has a thick, squatty build at 6-0, 245. He is a physical player. He’ll take on blocks. Tampa had him blow up FBs on iso runs. In the preseason finale, Goode broke up one pass (that he probably should have picked off) and then a few plays later made a good pick and returned it for a TD.

I just didn’t see anything special about him. He doesn’t have great instincts. He’s not speedy. He isn’t a great hitter.

COMING UP

Back to NovaCare for practice and the official start of game week. We’ll hear from Kelly this morning.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Davis Updates Starter Battles On Defense

Billy Davis indicated today that he’ll make his final evaluations on starters after Saturday night’s preseason game against the Jaguars.

Keeping that in mind, here’s a position-by-position look at which spots are up for grabs, along with comments from Davis.

DEFENSIVE LINE

The starters up front have been Isaac Sopoaga at nose tackle, Cedric Thornton at LDE and Fletcher Cox at RDE. Cox is a mainstay, but the other two are being pushed.

Bennie Logan has played very well through two games and has the versatility to line up at the nose or defensive end.

“Bennie has had two good games,” Davis said. “Like all of them, they’re pushing and we’ll see with this game. …This is a real big determining factor, this will help see where Bennie is. He’s taken each step, he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do and has played very solid in the two preseason games he’s played.”

Undrafted free agent Damion Square has also shown flashes. And 2012 second-round pick Vinny Curry has been perhaps the Eagles’ best defensive player in the preseason.

Asked if Curry’s still in the mix to start, Davis said: “Absolutely. Nothing has been determined yet in terms of starters, and we are continuing to evaluate all of them, and Vinny’s absolutely in the mix.”

Both Davis and Chip Kelly have indicated that the Eagles will likely rotate six defensive linemen in the regular season. That de-emphasizes the importance of starters, but in the past, the first-team guys have still played the most snaps.

The other thing to note here is that the Eagles will be in their sub packages probably 50 percent of the time. That means, in most cases, two defensive linemen on the field, playing as interior pass-rushers.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

We can pencil Connor Barwin in at one starting spot, and by all accounts, Trent Cole will man the right side.

That means Brandon Graham starting the season as a rotational player.

Asked about the progress Cole and Graham have made with their position switches from the first game to the second game, Davis said: “They’ve done a nice job. We keep putting them in drop situations. Again, we’re evaluating what the package can do and who can do it and we’ve tried to put them in as many drop scenarios as we can. And they’re really working hard at it, they look good. They’re much more comfortable moving backwards.”

“You can see that they’re really getting the feel for the little nuances of how to play the ‘I’m dropping, no I’m rushing’ game with quarterbacks. And it’s really coming along well.”

The truth is, we won’t really know what Davis thinks of Graham and Cole until Week 1 of the regular season when the games count.

* Note: Nothing to add on inside linebackers. It’ll be DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks starting.

CORNERBACKS

Davis went in a couple different directions when asked about Brandon Boykin. The sense I got, though, is that he prefers to have Boykin focus on playing inside, with Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams on the outside.

Davis said Boykin is “pushing the other two” but when asked about the possibility of starting the second-year player on the outside and then moving him inside when the Eagles are in nickel, he sounded a bit hesitant.

“I do think that’s challenging… especially in the same series,” Davis said. “When you start the season, to start at corner and to start at nickel, it becomes more challenging. It is something usually the older veterans can pull off, guys that have played a lot of nickel or played a lot of outside corner. Early on, it’s a little more challenging.

“If you can make it easier without deteriorating from the best 11 on the field, then you can have a guy do one, not both. If there’s clear separation, then you try to get a guy to do both.”

SAFETIES

Patrick Chung seems to have nailed down one starting spot. Nate Allen will get the nod at the other spot on Saturday night. But Davis said he’ll likely rotate other guys in during the first half.

The one player Davis has gotten a lot of questions about is Kenny Phillips. Phillips has had trouble staying healthy and is currently dealing with a quad injury. It’s unclear whether he’ll be on the field Saturday night.

“Anybody that goes through the injury process, doesn’t get into the games or even into the practices, it does make it harder to evaluate when you get less looks at a guy,” Davis said. “I think that just goes without saying.”

Davis added that the Eagles have tape on Phillips, but obviously that was in a different scheme.

If Allen is a disaster against the Jaguars, Davis could shake up the starting lineup before Week 1. But if Allen at least looks competent, he’ll likely get the nod to start the season.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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State Of the Eagles’ Roster: Defense

Kenny PhillipsWe did the offense on Thursday. Now here’s the D.

Below is a position-by-position primer on what to look for tonight as the Eagles get ready to host the Patriots in their first preseason game.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

Fletcher Cox is the best player on this defense. Tonight, we get a chance to see how he’ll be used in Billy Davis’ scheme. How much two-gapping will the linemen be asked to do? Will Cox get one-on-one opportunities as the 3-technique in the 4-3 under? It’s finally time for some answers.

Isaac Sopoaga will play nose tackle, and Cedric Thornton will likely start opposite Cox.

Plenty of intrigue with the second and third teams. We’ll find out what Davis’ plans are for rookie Bennie Logan, and Vinny Curry will try to prove he’s a fit in the new scheme. Don’t be surprised if Clifton Geathers mixes in with the first team. And keep an eye on undrafted free agent Damion Square.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

All eyes will be on Trent Cole and Brandon Graham as they make the position switch from defensive end. During practices, they dropped back into coverage a lot because that’s where the coaches wanted to evaluate them. Tonight, we’ll get a better idea of their full range of abilities in the new scheme.

Will Cole and Graham ever be on the field together? Or will Graham just spell Connor Barwin with the second team?

Speaking of Barwin, keep an eye on him when the Eagles go to nickel. He’ll line up all over the place and be used in a “joker” role.

As for the backups, Chris McCoy, Travis Long, Phillip Hunt and Everette Brown are fighting to make the roster.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

Mychal Kendricks was tight-lipped earlier this week when asked about his role. The second-year player apparently didn’t want to spill the beans. But he did say in the spring that he expects to be freed up more in the new scheme, and Kendricks has had a good camp. He seems to be on track to make the second-year leap and will be playing alongside DeMeco Ryans.

The backup spots are up for grabs. None of the candidates for roster spots – Jamar Chaney, Casey Matthews, Jake Knott, Emmanuel Acho – have stood out at camp. With Jason Phillips out for the season (torn ACL), the Eagles will need one or two of these players to emerge.

Look for the inside linebackers to spend time up near the line of scrimmage threatening the A-gaps. Even if they end up dropping into coverage, this can create confusion for the offensive line.

CORNERBACKS

Getting torched by Tom Brady during a couple practice sessions is no reason to panic, but the fact remains that the Eagles have question marks throughout their secondary.

Cary Williams skipped much of the spring, got benched for a scuffle Tuesday and has missed more practice because of a hamstring issue. He won’t play vs. the Patriots.

Bradley Fletcher hasn’t done much to impress at camp, but he’ll start on the outside tonight. Brandon Boykin has had an excellent camp and is getting a serious look to be more than just the team’s nickel corner.

Keep an eye on what the Eagles do in their sub package. One option is to move Boykin inside and bring in Curtis Marsh to play outside. Another is to keep Boykin on the outside and bring in a third corner like Brandon Hughes, Eddie Whitley or Jordan Poyer.

And the third option is to bring in a third safety, moving Patrick Chung up to cover the slot. That’s a look we saw some of in practice this week.

SAFETIES

Probably the most wide-open position on the team. Chung and Nate Allen will start, but others like Kurt Coleman, Kenny Phillips and Earl Wolff will get opportunities.

Miscommunication was a constant last year with this group. And tonight, they’ll likely see New England’s up-tempo offense. The defense has had practice with that all offseason. We’ll see how much that’s helped tonight.

Another thing to key in on is how these guys react when the ball’s in the air. During practices against New England, it wasn’t that they were always out of position or getting beat vertically. But when Brady let his receivers try to make plays, they did. And the Eagles’ safeties struggled to react.

As for specific players, Phillips hasn’t done much to eliminate doubts about his health. He’s a player to keep an eye on.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Depth Chart Analysis

Chris PolkThe Eagles have released their game notes for Friday night’s matchup with the Patriots, and included is an (unofficial) initial depth chart.

Here are some thoughts, position-by-position:

Quarterback – The depth chart has both Michael Vick and Nick Foles listed with the first team. The guess here is that Vick will start vs. the Patriots and Foles will start the following week. We’ll find out for sure on Wednesday or Thursday.

Running back – The top two spots are no-brainers: LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown. The third running back will play an important role though. He’ll be expected to play significant snaps should McCoy or Brown go down with an injury. Chris Polk has had a really good camp so far, and he’s listed with the third team, ahead of Felix Jones and Matthew Tucker. Polk has shed weight and has stood out during practice. His forte is running defenders over, and Polk will get a chance to prove he can still do that against New England.

Wide receiver – Interestingly enough, Riley Cooper is still listed as a starter opposite DeSean Jackson. Damaris Johnson and Jason Avant are second-teamers, while Russell Shepard and Greg Salas are with the third team. Arrelious Benn, who just returned to practice on Sunday, is back with the fourth team. There are plenty of spots up for grabs at this position. I’m specifically looking forward to seeing Shepard in the preseason.

Tight end – It’s been widely assumed that we’ll see a lot of two tight end sets, and the depth chart shows “12” personnel, or one running back and two TEs. The two guys listed here with the first team are Brent Celek and James Casey. In reality, that means very little. The Eagles didn’t take Zach Ertz so he could sit the bench. He’ll likely play as big of a role as the other two and could emerge as the best receiving threat out of the three.

Offensive tackle – No surprises here. Lane Johnson and Jason Peters are the starters. Dennis Kelly is battling an injury, but he is in the driver’s seat to be the first backup. Don’t forget that the Eagles could also choose to bump Todd Herremans outside in the event of an injury to Johnson or Peters. Worth noting that newcomer Michael Bamiro is listed with the third team.

Guard/center – No surprises here either. Danny Watkins and Allen Barbre back up Evan Mathis and Herremans. Barbre got a look at tackle Monday. If he can flash some versatility, he could earn a roster spot. At center, Dallas Reynolds is listed with the second team behind Jason Kelce, and Julian Vandervelde is with the third team. Vandervelde has gotten some first-team snaps with Kelce out, though, and could still earn a roster spot.

Defensive line – The first team is Fletcher Cox, Isaac Sopoaga and Cedric Thornton. Thornton is no lock to start though. Clifton Geathers is listed with the second team, but he has a chance to steal a starting job. Second-round pick Bennie Logan is the backup nose tackle. Vinny Curry is on the second team too. The coaches seem to like undrafted free agent Damion Square. He’s listed with the third team.

Outside linebacker – As we’ve seen all camp, Connor Barwin at LOLB and Trent Cole at ROLB. Brandon Graham is listed as Barwin’s backup. Billy Davis will need to figure out what he’s got in Cole and Graham during the preseason. Right now, Graham’s role is a mystery.

Inside linebacker – The Eagles’ starters are solidified in DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks. Backup spots are up for grabs. Casey Matthews and Jamar Chaney are listed with the second team. Third-teamers Jake Knott and Emmanuel Acho will look to make a move and earn roster spots.

Cornerback – Free agents Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher are the starters. Brandon Boykin has been the best defensive player on the field during camp. He and Curtis Marsh are listed with the second team. Rookie seventh-round pick Jordan Poyer is way back with the fourth team.

Safety – There’s been a lot of mixing and matching at this position during camp. Nate Allen and Patrick Chung are listed as the starters, with Kenny Phillips and Kurt Coleman on the second team. Earl Wolff is back with the fourth team, but I wouldn’t read too much into that.

Specialists – Jackson is the No. 1 punt returner; Johnson the No. 1 kick returner. And Donnie Jones is ahead of Brad Wing for the punting job.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Your running diary of Eagles practice observations.

Chip Kelly goes to every special-teams meeting and takes notes.

Peter King chimes in with some thoughts on the Eagles.

An All-22 look at how the defense is moving towards a 3-4.

T-Mac answers three popular questions.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com likes what he’s seeing from Chris Polk:

Chris Polk continues to impress. On one play, he was lined up in the slot, 1-on-1 against Mychal Kendricks. Polk smoked Kendricks on a slant route. Impressive. I haven’t seen Kendricks beaten that badly all camp, and he has covered guys like Damaris Johnson and Russell Shepard from the slot. Polk also tore off a long run, which was legit, even without tackling. Nobody even got a finger on him. Good burst. Polk is a completely different player than what I saw in camp in 2012. If he continues to play this well, he’s not only going to wrap up the #3 RB job, but he’s going to contribute in a meaningful way. Meanwhile, Felix Jones had a drop and a double-catch today.

Elliot Harrison of NFL.com has Brian Dawkins going into the Hall of Fame in 2018:

There are some out there who might feel Dawkins was a superior player to John Lynch. Still, Lynch will have waited several years by the time Dawkins’ name first surfaces. Also, given the difficulty safeties have encountered in finding their way to Canton, even a nine-time Pro Bowler will have to wait a year.

COMING UP

The Patriots are in town. We’ll have you covered all day long.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles’ Roster Breakdown: The 90-Man Rating System

Today marks the beginning of a new era of Eagles football, and here at Birds 24/7, that means it’s time to try something new.

At the beginning of each training camp, I like to take a look at the roster, position-by-position. It helps me figure out where the true battles will take place, how the final 53 might shape up, etc.

This week, 90 men will take the field at the NovaCare Complex. Some are hoping to be Pro Bowlers; others would be happy with a spot on the practice squad.

Keeping that in mind, allow me to introduce the Kapadia Training Camp Rankings (yes, the name needs work). The idea is simple. Below you will find a five-tiered rating system.

Tier 5: These are the longshots. If any of these players land on the 53-man roster, consider it an upset.

Tier 4: These are the fringe guys. Don’t count them out, but they’ll very much be fighting for roster spots over the next several weeks.

Tier 3: These are your backups. They might not play a lot this season, but going into camp, they look like pretty good bets to make the team.

Tier 2: These players will be expected to contribute significantly. They’re either starters or true rotational players.

Tier 1: These are your difference-makers. They’ll be the guys responsible for determining how many games the Eagles win in 2013 and what direction the franchise is headed in going forward.

It’s not rocket science (or even sports science, for that matter). So let’s get started, beginning with the bottom of the roster. Note that certain players require longer write-ups, while others do not. Also, specialists are not included.

Tier 5: The Longshots

GJ Kinne, QBFascinating story, but he’s mainly here to give the offense enough arms during camp.

Dennis Dixon, QB – Some will argue he should be bumped up one category, but I don’t see it. It’s unlikely the Eagles keep four quarterbacks, and the top three spots are accounted for. If, however, Nick Foles, Michael Vick or Matt Barkley suffers a devastating injury, Dixon would have a chance.

Will Murphy, WR – Need a lot of wide receivers too during camp, especially given the new tempo. He played in Chip Kelly’s offense at Oregon.

Nick Miller, WR- Has bounced around the league since 2009. Another guy to take reps.

Greg Salas, WR – Claimed off waivers last season. Don’t see him sticking.

BJ Cunningham, WR – Spent last year on the Eagles’ practice squad. Too many guys ahead of him.

Will Shaw, TE – The Eagles are expected to practice quite a bit with multiple tight ends and need bodies.

Emil Igwenagu, FB/TE – Gave some thought to bumping him up to the next tier, but the Eagles don’t need a fullback on the roster. The caveat is if James Casey gets injured in the preseason. Igwenagu has the ability to line up in the backfield as a lead blocker.

Julian Vandervelde, G/C – A fifth-round pick in 2011, he was released and then brought back last season. Has an outside chance of making it as a backup center, but that’s unlikely.

Nic Purcell, OT – The New Zealand native did not start playing football until he was 27.

Daryell Walker, DL – Hampton product made the 90-man after participating in rookie camp on a tryout basis.

Isaac Remington, DL – Played for Kelly and Jerry Azzinaro at Oregon. Was signed as an undrafted free agent.

Everette Brown, OLB – Was out of the league last year and has only played in three games since the end of the 2010 season. Seems like a longshot.

Trevard Lindley, CB – A fourth-round pick in 2010 who hasn’t played a snap since his rookie season. Re-signed with the Eagles in January.

Eddie Whitley, CB – Spent part of last year on the Eagles’ practice squad. Was an undrafted free agent in 2012.

David Sims, S – Safety is the most wide-open position on the team so anything can happen. But Sims will have a tough time sticking.

** Note: It’s worth mentioning that the players above have worked their entire lives for this shot, and I’m not discounting that. The purpose of this exercise is just to assess the roster going into camp. I’ve been proven wrong before.

Tier 4: The Fringe Guys

Chris Polk, RB – Went undrafted last year because of the shoulder injury, had a good camp/preseason and ended up earning a roster spot. Kelly played against him in college, and Polk has dropped weight. He’s in the mix for the No. 3 RB spot.

Matthew Tucker, RB – Like Felix Jones, he knows up-front that Kelly liked what he saw on tape. The undrafted free agent out of TCU needs a strong camp to stick as either the No. 3 or No. 4 back.

Felix Jones, RB – The main thing he has going for him is his versatility. Jones has battled injuries and did not perform well last year, but he’s only 26 and was chosen by the new regime. The guess here is that he has the inside track on the No. 3 RB job.

Ifeanyi Momah, WR – You’ll notice a total of six wide receivers in this section. That should tell you how wide-open the position is. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are guaranteed spots. After that, they’re up for grabs. Fans are intrigued by Momah’s 6-foot-7 frame, but he didn’t stand out much during the spring.

Russell Shepard, WR – When the third-team offense was on the field in the spring, it seemed like Matt Barkley was constantly finding Shepard. He’s got athleticism and versatility. Probably a longshot to make the roster, but I’ll claim him as my deep sleeper.

Riley Cooper, WR – Tough guy to place. Cooper did not do much when given the opportunity to play increased snaps last year (29.4 yards per game in the final seven). On the other hand, he’s tall, athletic and can play special teams. There’s room for him on someone’s 53-man roster.

Arrelious Benn, WR – The Eagles acquired him from the Bucs this offseason and obviously like his physical tools (All-22 breakdown here). But Benn has had a disappointing career so far. If healthy, he’s almost certainly the best blocking receiver on the team. Benn’s special-teams ability should help his chances.

Damaris Johnson, WR – Showed improvement as a punt returner and led the team in average yards after the catch as a rookie. Johnson is small (5-8), but versatile. He’s got a good chance of making the final 53.

Jason Avant, WR – I’m squarely on the fence with Avant. On one hand, he’s a quality veteran who can get open, make catches in traffic and has the best hands on the team. On the other hand, he’s 30, lacks great athleticism and would likely see fewer snaps, given the emphasis on tight ends. One of the tougher guys on this list to figure out.

Derek Carrier, TE – He’s a longshot, but seemed to get in the mix a little bit during the spring when Zach Ertz was absent and Casey was injured.

Clay Harbor, TE – I’m not sure the Eagles are going to keep four tight ends. And even if they do, I’m not sure Harbor will be the guy. Not a great blocker and doesn’t break enough tackles to be a serious threat as a receiver.

Dallas Reynolds, C – Last year taught us backup centers are difficult to find. Reynolds ended up starting 14 games, and the Eagles didn’t do much to add a better option this offseason. In the spring, Reynolds played with the first team when Jason Kelce was out.

Matt Tennant, C – You’ll see nine offensive linemen in this group. A firm indication that backup spots are up for grabs. A fifth-round pick by the Saints in 2010, Tennant has a chance to beat out Reynolds and be the team’s backup center.

Allen Barbre, OG – If spring practices are any indication, Barbre is very much in the mix for a backup spot. He’s been in the league since 2007 and has appeared in 32 games.

Nate Menkin, OG – Was considered a developmental prospect when the Eagles claimed him off waivers from the Texans last September. Menkin suffered what sounded like a gruesome throat injury during practice in December. Like the others in this group, he’s fighting for a backup job.

Matt Kopa, G/T – Has tackle size (6-6, 310), but played some guard in the spring. Another name to add to the list of potential backups.

Danny Watkins, OG – We’ll find out by early September whether the coaching/scheme changes have really benefited him. Best-case scenario for Watkins in 2013? First backup guard off the bench. Worst case? He’s off the roster completely.

Ed Wang, OT – Added earlier this offseason, his chances of making the cut decreased when the Eagles signed Michael Bamiro.

Michael Bamiro, OT – Speaking of developmental prospects, the Eagles got one last week when they signed Bamiro. Friend of the blog, Sam Lynch looked at the contract details and concluded that the Birds pretty much guaranteed Bamiro practice squad spots the next two seasons. Over the next several weeks, he’ll get a chance to show he deserves a place on the 53-man roster.

Matt Tobin, OT – If I find a way to not confuse Matt Tobin with Matt Kopa and Matt Tennant, I’ll consider this training camp a success. Unlike the other two Matts, Tobin was signed after Kelly came on board as an undrafted free agent out of Iowa.

Damion Square, DL – Six defensive linemen in this group, and there’s a chance only two make the cut. One scout had flattering things to say about Square, an undrafted free agent out of Alabama.

David King, DL – Players added post-Kelly probably have a leg up, considering the new coach chose them based on tape and skill set. King was a seventh-rounder and will look to show he’s worthy of being in the D-Line rotation.

Joe Kruger, DL – He’s the youngest player on the team (21), and the Eagles took him with the future (not 2013) in mind. That could mean either one of the final roster spots or potentially the practice squad.

Antonio Dixon, NT – The additions of Isaac Sopoaga and Bennie Logan hurt his chances. Dixon potentially could add depth and a big body to the interior, but he’ll have a hard time making the cut.

Vinny Curry, DL – He was on the short list of “guys I had no idea where to slot.” The Eagles took Curry in the second round of the 2012 draft to play 4-3 DE. He had trouble getting on the field as a rookie, and while some of his counterparts are making the switch to OLB, Curry’s added weight to play the 5-technique DE spot. During the spring, he ran mostly with the second team. The Eagles are thin at defensive line, and teams don’t like to just give up on former second-round picks, but there’s been little indication that Curry’s a fit in the new scheme.

Clifton Geathers, DL – One of the more intriguing players to watch this summer. No player better embodies the “Big people beat up little people” mantra than the 6-8, 340-pound Geathers. The coaches tried him at a variety of spots in the spring. Geathers is in the mix for a depth position and could potentially compete with Cedric Thornton for a starting job.

Emmanuel Acho, ILB – Seems like a longshot, but not ready to count anyone out for backup spots at inside linebacker. There isn’t a lot to go on so far with Acho. The Eagles acquired him in the Dion Lewis trade with the Browns.

Casey Matthews, ILB – Through his first two seasons, Matthews has not shown he’s capable of playing at a high level on defense. But backup linebackers have to be special-teams contributors, and Matthews had 14 special-teams tackles last year, second on the Eagles to only Akeem Jordan. He’s obviously familiar with Kelly from his days at Oregon, but Matthews will have to earn a spot.

Jamar Chaney, ILB – He has experience (23 starts) but has not been productive. Chaney practiced with the second team mostly in the spring, but like the other players in this group, he’s fighting for a backup job.

Jake Knott, ILB – I’m hoping to catch up with him this week. Knott reached legendary status among Iowa State fans. The undrafted free agent will compete for a backup spot.

Phillip Hunt, OLB – I’m guessing the Eagles want a fourth outside linebacker on the roster behind Connor Barwin, Trent Cole and Brandon Graham. But it’s tough to find one. Hunt had a great preseason last year, but did not produce in limited action once the real games started. He seems like an unlikely fit in the new scheme.

Chris McCoy, OLB – Signed from the CFL, McCoy (6-4) was another post-Kelly addition. Again, not a lot of depth for the Eagles right now at outside linebacker, so tough to rule anyone out.

Jordan Poyer, CB – Thought about putting him one tier higher, but decided this was a better spot. Poyer lasted all the way to the seventh round and has experience playing inside, outside and even safety. He has a good chance of making the team, possibly as the backup nickel.

Brandon Hughes, CB – He seems to be in the same spot every summer – in danger of being cut. But Hughes somehow always manages to hang around. Part of that has to do with his special-teams production (was the first man down in coverage a team-high 37 times last season, per team stats). He’ll have to fight for a spot once again.

Kenny Phillips, S – It’s all about the knee. Phillips got no guaranteed money and already missed part of spring practice for health reasons. He’s on the short list of key players to watch in the coming weeks.

Kurt Coleman, S – His effort has never been questioned, but Coleman just hasn’t been productive enough as a starter when given the opportunity. He’s got plenty of experience (29 starts), but the Eagles added three safeties this offseason, and Coleman is no lock to make the final roster.

Tier 3: Likely Backups

Matt Barkley, QB – I’m not ready to completely count him out for the starting job, but in all likelihood, Barkley will begin the season as a third-stringer. Of course, at this time last year, I was convinced Foles would be a third-stringer, and he became the starter late in the season. A lot of uncertainty at the quarterback position, but you knew that already.

Dennis Kelly, OT – He had ups and downs as a rookie, but the coaches seem to value his potential. Before Lane Johnson was ready to run with the starters, Kelly lined up at right tackle during the spring. He’s in good position to land a backup job.

Jason Phillips, ILB – He was one of the Eagles’ first free-agent signings and spent most of the spring with the second team. Phillips is a standout special-teams player and should make the roster.

Curtis Marsh, CB – He gets put into this tier basically by default. When the Eagles took Marsh in the third round of the 2011 draft, he was considered a project pick with tools. But he’s yet to start a game going into Year 3. The way things are currently set up, Marsh will likely be the first backup, although he will get a chance to compete for more playing time in camp. Barring additional roster moves, he should make the team.

Colt Anderson, S – I had some trouble deciding where to slot him. If Kelly is serious about fixing the Eagles’ special teams, keeping Anderson is a no-brainer. And last year, in four starts, he showed he’s fine in a temporary fill-in role on defense.

Earl Wolff, S – He might not be ready to contribute right away, although it’s too early to rule out that possibility. A fifth-round pick with athleticism, Wolff will (at the very least) earn a backup spot.

Tier 2: The Contributors

Bryce Brown, RB – I gave serious consideration to moving him up a tier. The expectation is that Kelly will rely on a heavy dose of the run game, which should mean plenty of action for Brown. As I mentioned last week, there’s a precedent for rookie running backs fixing their fumbling woes in Year 2. Brown has shown the upside. Next is the consistency.

Jeremy Maclin, WR – Maclin has been productive, but not spectacular through his first four seasons. He does a lot of things well, but no one thing great. Now in a contract year, he’ll look to prove that his ceiling is higher than he’s shown up to this point.

James Casey, TE – Slotting the tight ends was difficult. During certain weeks, Casey could see more snaps than Brent Celek and Ertz, but the guess here is that he’ll be used a little bit less than the other two. Look for him to line up all over the place (All-22 breakdown here) and be one of the tone-setters on offense.

Brent Celek, TE – Many have asked whether they could deal him. I don’t see it, primarily because the compensation is unlikely to match his value to the team. Celek has inconsistent hands, but is capable of making plays after the catch. He brings a toughness to the offense and has improved as a blocker.

Zach Ertz, TE – We’ll get our first real look at him this week. Ertz is probably the toughest matchup (tape breakdown here) out of the three from a receiving standpoint. He’ll see plenty of action as a rookie – sometimes in place of Celek/Casey and other times in addition to them.

Evan Mathis, OG – He’s been incredibly consistent the last two years, starting 31 of 32 games and playing at a high level on a weekly basis. Not much else left to say about Mathis at this point. A reliable, valuable asset at left guard.

Todd Herremans, OG – By moving him from right tackle to right guard, the Eagles are expecting to upgrade at two positions. Herremans played well at tackle in 2011, but that was not the case last year before he got injured.

Isaac Sopoaga, NT – The younger defensive linemen are already referring to him as the leader of this group. Sopoaga won’t play a ton of snaps and will come off the field in sub packages, but he’ll anchor the middle in the 3-4 base.

Bennie Logan, DL – The third-round pick will be asked to contribute right away. He should get a look at multiple spots on the defensive line and be a rotational option from the get-go.

Cedric Thornton, DL – He had some really nice moments last year, specifically against the run. The Eagles are banking on Thornton being a scheme-versatile player who will now line up at the 5-technique opposite Fletcher Cox. At the very worst, he seems like a rotational option.

Brandon Boykin, CB – As we mentioned recently, he finished strong, allowing just five completions on 12 targets in the Eagles’ final seven games last year. Boykin has the athleticism and skill set to be one of the better nickel corners in the league.

Bradley Fletcher, CB – He’s got the inside track on a starting job, but has to be viewed as a question mark. Fletcher got benched by the Rams’ coaches in the middle of 2012, and two of his first three seasons in the league ended due to knee injuries. He’ll have to hold off Marsh for the starting job.

Cary Williams, CB – The Eagles rebuilt their secondary in the offseason, and Williams was the most expensive addition. He did not put up good coverage numbers in Baltimore, but adds a physical element that was sorely missing the last two years. There’s no guarantee that the secondary will show significant improvement just because the players are different, but Williams’ performance will go a long way in determining the success of this unit.

Nate Allen, S – Everybody (teammates, coaches, etc.) seems to like Allen, but the production just hasn’t been there through his first three seasons. The Eagles hope that the story this year will be about how the new scheme has helped him prove he can be an asset on a good team. Allen’s in position to land a starting job, but he might be out of chances soon.

Patrick Chung, S – Of the three offseason additions at safety (Kenny Phillips, Wolff), Chung seems most likely to step in and contribute right away. He’s healthy, young (25) and has put together stretches of high-quality play with the Patriots. Bill Belichick benched Chung last year though. Kelly, Davis and company are counting on a rebound.

Tier 1: The Difference-Makers

Michael Vick, QB – At 33-years-old, asking Vick to improve his decision-making, cut down on turnovers and stay healthy seems like a lot. But Kelly saw enough on tape last year to hedge his bets and bring the veteran back. We learned in the spring that Vick will be handed nothing. If he’s on the field in Week 1 against the Redskins, it will be because he’s outplayed his peers in the next seven weeks.

Nick Foles, QB – The circumstances last year were far from ideal. Foles played behind a makeshift offensive line and was without DeSean Jackson for five of six starts. The results, for the most part, were not pretty, but Foles showed toughness throughout. By all accounts, the Eagles never seriously considered trading him this offseason, and he’ll be given the opportunity to earn the starting job this summer.

LeSean McCoy, RB – With a healthy offensive line in front of him and a run-friendly scheme, there’s plenty of reason to believe McCoy can get close to the level of production he had in 2011. As probably the most talented player on offense, he’ll be a key factor in determining how this season plays out.

DeSean Jackson, WR – Let’s face it: He’s a bit of a wild card at this point. Jackson had a sitdown with Kelly in the spring to clear up his role and expectations. He was relatively productive through 11 games last year before suffering a season-ending injury on an end around. The range of possibilities here is wide. Best-case scenario, Kelly finds a way to take advantage of Jackson’s unique talents, and he has a career year. Worst-case, he doesn’t buy in, things go downhill, and his future with the franchise is up in the air.

Jason Kelce, C – It might not be as significant as the left tackle upgrade, but going from Reynolds to a healthy Kelce should really help the offense. He’ll set the protections and use his athleticism in the run game. It seemed like Kelce had a chance to make a name for himself during his second season before he got injured in Week 2. He’ll now get to try again in Year 3.

Jason Peters, OT – Want a reason for optimism? Consider that the Eagles are going from a King Dunlap/Demetress Bell combination at left tackle to one of the best offensive lineman in the game (when healthy, of course). Peters had the drag racing incident this offseason, but he drew rave reviews on the field during the spring. The Eagles are hoping he’ll help the offensive line rebound from last year’s disaster.

Lane Johnson, OT – The first-round pick is another X-factor. The Eagles’ coaches will be tested early as they try to mold the athletic specimen into an immediate, productive starter. Johnson is a football lifer, but has only played offensive tackle for two seasons. With the other four linemen, you know what you’re getting when they’re healthy. With Johnson right now, you have no idea.

DeMeco Ryans, ILB – If you’ve been reading this offseason, you know I’m not buying the “doesn’t fit in a 3-4″ theme when it comes to Ryans (All-22 breakdown here). He was outstanding in 2012 playing behind the Wide-9. Ryans had 115 solo tackles and 16 tackles for loss (per team stats). No player under Andy Reid put up better numbers in the last 13 years. He’s not great in coverage, but Ryans does a good job of tackling the receiever after completions in front of him. We’ll find out what the coaches think of his cover skills based on what they do in sub packages.

Mychal Kendricks, ILB – The second-year player has a great shot of breaking out in 2013. The new scheme should allow him to use his athleticism and not have to deal with offensive linemen in his face all game long. Kendricks can cover, play the run, and he even rushed the passer in college. Look for big things out of him.

Connor Barwin, OLB – His pass-rushing numbers went down last season, but Barwin is the only outside linebacker on the roster with 3-4 experience in the NFL. As I pointed out earlier this offseason (All-22 breakdown here), my guess is the Eagles are looking to use him in a variety of roles.

Trent Cole, OLB – He looked more comfortable than I expected at outside linebacker during the spring. I don’t know if Cole will ever get back to being a double-digit sack guy, but at 30-years-old, it’s premature to say he’s washed-up. The Eagles’ success up front will be determined to a large degree by Cole and Graham.

Brandon Graham, OLB – He also fits into the “X-factor” category. Graham was one of the most productive pass rushers in the league on a per-snap basis last season. But will that translate as he makes the switch to outside linebacker? If Davis’ aim is to get the 11 most talented players on the field, Graham has to have a prominent role.

Fletcher Cox, DL – Ok fine, Tommy Lawlor gets to drive the bandwagon. But can I at least ride shotgun? If Cox is not at least in the Pro Bowl conversation at the end of the season, 2013 should be considered a disappointment for him. Look for Davis to try to come up with ways to help take advantage of Cox’s strength and athleticism. He’s the most talented player the Eagles have on defense.

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Eagles Training Camp Preview: Safeties

Nate AllenEach day this week, we’ll take a look at a different position group as we count down to training camp.

What’s changed?

Let’s go ahead and allow Kurt Coleman to explain it.

“Not to say that the safeties aren’t going to be called on to make plays against the run, but we’re not going to be the first guys onto the scene,” he said this spring. “It’s going to be a big change for us, which is kind of good. It allows us to sit back and read the QB a little more, be more patient.”

During the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Eagles safeties had big-time run responsibilities. That not only led to struggles against opposing tailbacks, but disastrous results against play-action.

“Any time you ask the secondary to be primary B or A gap run defenders, you’re just asking for trouble on play-action and deep balls,” said Billy Davis. “I hate to talk too much about last season not being here, but just all the transition and all the different communications that happened, I don’t know how you fight through that and play good. I really don’t.”

From a personnel standpoint, the Eagles made additions, but just like with the cornerbacks, there’s no guarantee that the new guys will provide a significant upgrade.

The Birds signed Patrick Chung, who was benched by the Patriots last season. They also took a flier on Kenny Phillips, a talented player who has struggled through knee injuries. And they drafted Earl Wolff out of N.C. State in the fifth round.

Meanwhile, Coleman and Nate Allen return with hopes that they can produce better results in a different scheme. The Eagles also brought back special-teams ace Colt Anderson.

The pressing question: What are fair expectations for Phillips?

If the Eagles were getting a healthy Phillips, there would be legitimate reason for excitement. But the signs so far have not been promising. For starters, he signed for no guaranteed money. That means, in all likelihood, he didn’t receive a better offer elsewhere.

In the spring, he missed portions of OTAs because of his left knee, the one he had microfracture surgery on back in 2009.

The hope – for the Eagles, for Phillips and for the fans – is that he can get healthy enough to be a productive player, especially since he is only 26-years-old. But hope and expectations are two different things. And with the opener about seven weeks away, there’s no guarantee he’ll even be on the 53-man roster.

Don’t be surprised if…

Wolff competes for playing time as a rookie. Many seem to be writing off the N.C. State product as a backup in Year 1, but it’s not like the Eagles have Pro Bowlers ahead of him.

Wolff (5-11, 209) has the physical tools Chip Kelly covets, having run a 4.44 at the Combine. And he was a three-year starter in college. He will need to impress during training camp, but nothing is off the table. During the team’s final mini-camp, position coaches told him “everything’s open” when it comes to the safety position.

It’s possible that Wolff spends his first season as a backup/special-teams player. But there’s also a chance the other Eagles’ safeties falter and he gets a shot to contribute right away.

Roster battles to watch

This is probably the most wide-open position on the team. During the spring, Allen and Chung got the bulk of first-team reps, but others mixed in quite a bit.

As things stand now, barring injury, Chung seems like the safest bet to make the roster. Wolff should be on the final 53 too. And given the importance Kelly seems to place on special teams, I’d be surprised if Anderson didn’t make the cut.

That leaves one or two spots for Allen, Coleman and Phillips. Of that group, Allen is the most likely to stick. And the Coleman/Phillips decision, if there is one, could come down to Phillips’ health.

Like I said, there’s a lot still to be determined at safety in the coming weeks.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: CB Training Camp Preview

Each day this week, we’ll take a look at a different position group as we count down to training camp.

What’s changed?

Can I just write “everything” and move on to the next section?

Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are out. Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher are in.

In the summer of 2011, the Eagles appeared to be in excellent shape at this position. They had Asante Samuel on the roster, traded for Rodgers-Cromartie and signed Asomugha. They even drafted a developmental prospect in the third round in Curtis Marsh.

Just two summers later, Marsh is the only one still on the roster.

The pressing question: Did the Eagles do enough to improve this group?

The names are different, but will the results be?

According to the Football Outsiders Almanac, Williams finished 79th out of 87 corners in success rate (definition here) last season. As a point of reference, Rodgers-Cromartie and Asomugha finished 62nd and 65th, respectively.

Williams also allowed a combined 41 first downs/touchdowns, third-most in the NFL, per the FOA. On the flip side, he only missed two tackles all season and had four interceptions to go along with 17 passes defensed.

Flethcher, meanwhile, got benched during the second half of last season in favor of younger options, but has had productive stretches in the past.

It would be hard for the corners as a group to be worse than last year. The Eagles allowed a league-worst 33 touchdown passes in 2012 and only had eight interceptions (30th). But there’s no guarantee that Williams and Fletcher will provide a significant upgrade either.

Don’t be surprised if…

Boykin emerges as one of the better inside corners in the league. His 58 percent success rate last year ranked 15th, according to Football Outsiders.

And per Pro Football Focus’ charting numbers, Boykin only allowed three receptions in the Eagles’ final six games.

The Eagles played with at least one extra corner 49 percent of the time last year. I’d be surprised if Boykin got a shot on the outside, but if he improves in the slot, the Eagles will be ecstatic.

Roster battles to watch

While Williams and Fletcher are the favorites, Marsh has an outside chance of stealing some playing time. The third-year corner had good measurables coming out of Utah State, but he’s yet to prove he can be a productive player in the NFL.

Seventh-round pick Jordan Poyer has generated some buzz nationally as a potential sleeper. Given his versatility, he has a chance to stick, although I don’t see him unseating Boykin for the nickel job.

Brandon Hughes, meanwhile, seems to just make the cut every year.

Williams, Fletcher and Boykin look like locks to make the roster. Marsh, Hughes and Poyer will probably be competing for two spots.

WHAT YOU MISSED

The Eagles have invested $1 million in technology upgrades. T-Mac has the details.

Peter King makes a Chip Kelly/Jimmy Johnson comparison. Here’s what they’re saying about the Eagles.

Yesterday’s installment of the camp preview series looked at the running backs.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

SI.com’s Don Banks wonders whether Kelly will have the Eagles looking like an NFL version of Oregon by the end of the preseason:

Complicating the situation, of course, is the quarterback competition that will rage in the coming weeks, with Michael Vick, Nick Foles and maybe even rookie Matt Barkley vying to prove their skill set is the best fit for Kelly’s aggressive and attacking approach. The sooner the Eagles’ offense identifies its trigger man, the better. Starting next week, all seat belts should be fastened for a full-speed takeoff in Philly.

Paul Domowitch of the Daily News looks at Kelly’s decision to hold camp in Philadelphia:

As everyone knows, Kelly places a premium on players’ getting a good night’s sleep. You don’t have to be the CEO of Serta to figure out that a player is likely to sleep better in his own bed or at the Airport Marriott than on a lumpy dorm-room mattress with a 330-pound offensive lineman with sleep apnea lying 4 feet away from you.

COMING UP

Some notes on Kelly and what he looks for in the box score.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: RB Training Camp Preview

Each day this week, we’ll take a look at a different position group as we count down to training camp.

What’s changed?

Chip Kelly’s Oregon squad totaled 21 running plays of 30+ yards last year, tied for most in the country.

That’s excellent news for LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown. While the exact identity of the Eagles’ offense has yet to be revealed, all signs point to Kelly leaning on the running game and featuring a healthy dose of his top two backs.

McCoy averaged 4.2 yards per carry and 70 yards per game in 2012 – his lowest numbers since his rookie season. But he was running behind a banged-up offensive line and often had nowhere to go.

Brown, meanwhile, averaged 4.9 yards per carry and showed he has the size/speed to break off big runs. Brown had six gains of 20+ yards on 115 attempts (one every 19.2 carries).

The Eagles also have second-year player Chris Polk, free agent addition Felix Jones and undrafted free agent Matthew Tucker.

The pressing question: Can McCoy bounce back?

The 25-year-old was one of Andy Reid’s biggest supporters, but he should welcome the offseason changes. The key to how quickly the Eagles can pick up Kelly’s offense will be the offensive line. With Todd Herremans moving inside to guard, and Jason Peters and Jason Kelce returning, this group has a chance to be one of the best run-blocking units in the league.

Even last year, McCoy was one of 14 running backs to carry the ball at least 200 times and average 4.2 yards per carry or better. And he still had his elusiveness. According to the Football Outsiders Almanac, McCoy broke 44 tackles on 254 touches. The FOA crew projects McCoy for 1,155 yards, eight touchdowns and a 4.8 YPC average in 2013. Those numbers certainly seem reachable from this perspective.

Don’t be surprised if…

Brown fixes his fumbling issue. That was the problem in Year 1. He fumbled four times on 115 carries (136 touches), but remember that Brown was not your average rookie. He had only carried the ball three times in game situations since the end of the 2009 season. It seems reasonable to think he would need some time to get adjusted to the speed and chaos of the NFL.

The Football Outsiders Almanac cited a few running backs who had similar fumbling rates (percentage of touches with a fumble) to Brown as rookies. Ryan Mathews saw his rate drop from 2.8 to 1.8 in his second season. Toby Gerhart went from 2.9 to 0.8. And Chris Ivory from 2.9 to 0.0.

If history is any indication, Brown, whose fumbling rate was 2.9 last season, should be able to improve his ball security in Year 2.

Roster battles to watch

The only thing to really to keep an eye on here is depth. Polk didn’t play an offensive snap as a rookie, but shed weight this offseason and is looking to get into the mix.

The Eagles took a flier on Jones as a free agent. Last year, Jones was one of only eight players with at least 100 carries to average worse than 3.7 yards per carry. But for his career, he’s one of six active players to average 4.7 yards per carry on at least 500 attempts. It seems like Jones has been around forever, but he’s only 26. The Eagles are hoping he can get provide depth and versatility.

Tucker was a rotational player in college, but Kelly obviously liked his skills and measurables.

There’s a chance the Eagles will go four-deep at running back since they’re not keeping a fullback on the roster, but it’s also possible only one other player joins McCoy and Brown.

WHAT YOU MISSED

DeSean Jackson predicts that Michael Vick will win the starting QB job.

Do we expect to go 46-7 over the next whatever years? No,” says Kelly.

In yesterday’s camp preview, we looked at the offensive line.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Peters had charges dropped from an arrest for racing last month, per CSN’s Derrick Gunn:

Peters on June 12 was charged with speeding and resisting an officer by flight in Monroe, La.

According to CSN’s Derrick Gunn, via the District Attorney’s office in Monroe, those charges were dismissed on June 20. Instead, he was charged with having improper equipment — an after-market muffler.

Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com looks at the Eagles’ offensive line situation:

The Center position will be just fine if Jason Kelce stays healthy. Dallas Reynolds was a mess early last year, but improved as the year went along. He had some snap issues that must be fixed, but he did show that he could be an effective NFL starter. Matt Tennant was strictly a role player in 2012. He would like to win a spot and challenge for time this year. We’ll see how that goes.

COMING UP

We’ll do a national media roundup and more.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: OL Training Camp Preview

Each day this week, we’ll take a look at a different position group as we count down to training camp.

What’s changed?

Howard Mudd is out, and Jeff Stoutland is in. The new offensive line coach is hoping this group can avoid the injuries that helped turn 2012 into a disaster.

According to Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Games Lost metric, no offensive line in the NFL over the last 11 years suffered more devastating injuries than last year’s Eagles. Jason Peters was lost in the spring, while Jason Kelce and Todd Herremans also went down with season-ending injuries in Weeks 2 and 9, respectively.

Peters and Herremans were full participants during OTAs and mini-camp. Kelce is on track to be full-go for training camp.

With the pieces around him going down week after week, Evan Mathis turned in what was probably his best season as a pro in 2012 and has been the Eagles’ most consistent/durable offensive lineman during the past two seasons.

And finally, the Birds added Lane Johnson with the No. 4 overall pick to take over at right tackle.

The pressing question: How good will Johnson be as a rookie?

The words Chip Kelly used when talking about Johnson back in April were raw and upside.

Historically, those terms haven’t described players ready to step in and contribute right away at a high level.

Johnson has been playing football his whole life, but he was a quarterback for a long time, before getting a shot at tight end and defensive end at Oklahoma. In all, he has two full seasons of offensive line play under his belt – one at right tackle, one at left tackle.

There would seem to be a decent chance that Johnson might struggle as a rookie, before eventually turning into a really good player. But if something clicks right away, and Stoutland figures out how to take advantage of his athleticism, the Eagles have a chance to field one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.

Don’t be surprised if…

Danny Watkins fails to start a game all season. The 2011 first-round pick started six games in 2012 before suffering a “chronic” ankle injury. Even when he was healthy, he lost his spot to journeyman Jake Scott.

The Eagles don’t have a lot of line depth, and Watkins should make the team, but he’s unlikely to play a prominent role. Herremans has slid from right tackle to right guard, and Mathis has the left guard spot locked down. In a recent interview with Mike Kaye of Bleeding Green Nation, Mathis was asked for an under-the-radar lineman to keep an eye on.

Allen Barbre is, at the very least, a starting caliber offensive guard,” he said. “If we were to lose a guard to injury, I’d be totally confident with him filling in.”

Barbre saw some first-team reps during the spring, and clearly, he’s made an impression with teammates. If the coaches prefer Barbre to Watkins, the 2011 first-round pick could be a healthy scratch on gamedays to start the season.

Roster battles to watch

If everyone’s healthy, the starters are pretty much set: Peters (LT), Mathis (LG), Kelce (C), Herremans (RG), Johnson (RT).

But like last year, depth is a major question. At tackle, Dennis Kelly is on track to be the first backup, and with Herremans always an option to move back outside, the Eagles have some flexibility there. Beyond Kelly, there are a bunch of unknowns: Matt Kopa, Ed Wang, Nic Purcell and Matt Tobin. The newest Eagle, Michael Bamiro, will have a chance to land one of the last spots on the roster.

At guard, Watkins and Barbre seem like the favorites to land backup jobs. But others like Nate Menkin, Matt Tennant and Julian Vandervelde have a chance to compete for spots.

At backup center, the options are Tennant, Dallas Reynolds and Kyle Quinn.

WHAT YOU MISSED

I offered five thoughts on the Eagles’ QB situation.

Here’s our linebacker training camp preview.

And more on Bamiro, the 6-8 offensive tackle the team is expected to sign today.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

In an Allentown Morning Call piece, Jimmy Kempski says he thinks Nick Foles has the edge over Michael Vick:

The issue for Michael Vick, however, is that he is coming off two turnover-filled seasons. Not helping matters is that he was outplayed by Nick Foles in OTAs and minicamp. Foles got the ball out quicker than Vick, was generally more accurate, and is putting receivers in a better position to get yards after the catch.

Tra Thomas talked to the Daily News’ Les Bowen about Bamiro:

“I think he’s a solid athlete, someone that kind of fell through the cracks,” Thomas said Tuesday. “He has large hands, he bends well. We worked on both right and left stances; he’s coachable.”

COMING UP

More Kelly leftovers coming up.

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Five Thoughts On the Eagles’ QB Situation

During our sit-down with Chip Kelly last month, the most popular topic of conversation was the Eagles’ QB situation.

Here are five thoughts on the competition heading into training camp, after having listened to the new Eagles’ head coach.

1.  Kelly really does view this as a simple, straight-forward process. It goes like this:

  • Give all the quarterbacks a chance to compete during practice and in the preseason, maximizing reps.
  • Evaluate the film with the other coaches to track the competition.
  • Make a decision on the Week 1 starter based solely on who performs better during that time period.

As we mentioned yesterday, Year 1 is about building a culture. Kelly’s expectation is that by the end of the competition, one quarterback will have emerged, and the choice will be clear not only to the coaches, but to the other players on the team and the quarterbacks themselves.

“Everywhere I’ve been, it’s played itself out on the field,” Kelly said. “Does that mean it’s going to happen here? I don’t know. But I’ve never been in a situation where we’ve had to make a decision and it’s like 50-50, pick it out of a hat. Somebody over the course of time has stepped up and has ‘won the battle.’ That’s what you’re hoping to have happen again here, and hopefully it’s evident to everybody, like, ‘There’s no question that it’s this guy because his game stepped up.’ ”

The competition is wide open. If Nick Foles outplays Michael Vick all summer, and Kelly gives the job to Vick, he’ll lose credibility with the rest of his players.

I’ve written consistently that it’s unlikely Matt Barkley wins the job, but the same goes for him. If he ends up outplaying both Vick and Foles, Kelly’s going to give him a shot. NFL coaches often preach the May the best man win message. Sometimes they mean it. Sometimes they don’t. With Kelly, for now at least, it appears to be the former.

2. There’s been plenty of talk about whether the Eagles would cut Vick rather than name him the backup. And frankly, I don’t see it. If Foles beats him out, the guess here is that Kelly reminds Vick it’s a long season, and more likely than not, his number will be called at some point.

In other words, there’s no guarantee that the guy who begins the season as the starter will finish the season as the starter.

“I reserve the right to change everything,” Kelly said. “The best players play. Just because you’re the starter, you still need to understand that it’s always on the line. It’s on the line every single day for you. So if I name Joe Jones the starting quarterback and his first 50 passes are interceptions, I’d better make sure I go to the No. 2 guy, right? Just because they were named the starter, that’s not it. What’s the next step? Just because you get drafted, you didn’t make the NFL. Now you’ve got to make the team. Now once you make the team, you’ve got to become a starter. Now when you become a starter, now what do you do? Now what’s the next step? You have to be successful.”

I think it’s unlikely that Vick would pout publicly or demand to be released if he lost out on the competition. Because of the timing, it’s not like he would be able to just latch on to another team and start. Remember, the Eagles gave him a $3.5 million signing bonus this offseason. If they were to cut him, that would be wasted money, and they’d have to figure out their backup QB situation. It seems more likely that Vick would stay on as the No. 2 guy, wait for his opportunity and figure out what’s next in the offseason.

3. Turnovers were an issue for both quarterbacks last season. On the surface, it appeared that Foles actually did a good job of taking care of the football. He only threw five interceptions in 265 attempts, or one every 53 passes, an impressive rate.

But Football Outsiders released its almanac yesterday (highly-recommended purchase, by the way), and they have a stat they call adjusted interceptions. The idea is to add in interceptions that were just flat-out dropped by defenders and remove irrelevant interceptions like ones that come on Hail Mary attempts at the end of halves.

The adjusted interception total for Foles was 11, or one every 24.1 attempts. Vick’s was only slightly better – 14 (adjusted) INTs in 351 attempts, or one every 25.1 attempts.

And then there’s fumbles. Foles had eight in 453 snaps, or one every 56.6 snaps. Football Outsiders blamed Vick for eight also (official stats had 11) in 667 snaps, or one every 83.4 snaps. The difference in the three Vick fumbles comes from the game charters, who apparently saw three instances where the fumbles were not his fault. They could have been bad snaps, a running back messing up the exchange, etc.

Again, both quarterbacks did a poor job of taking care of the football. And both were playing through difficult circumstances behind a terrible offensive line. But the numbers are closer than some might have you believe.

Of course, with Vick, there is more of a track record. He led the NFL with 11 fumbles in 2010 and was sixth in 2011 with 10. Foles was playing for the first time at the professional level.

Regardless of who the quarterback is, it’ll be fascinating to see how much of an effect Kelly’s coaching and scheme have on the turnovers in 2013.

4. I would be stunned if Kelly named a starter before Aug. 24. That’s the date of the third preseason game against the Jaguars. While practice performance will surely play a big role, Kelly seems convinced that his best chance to evaluate the QBs will be when they’re facing opposing teams and are at risk of potentially getting crushed.

Asked about balancing preseason playing time and injury risk, Kelly said, “That’s the big question. How much body of work can you give those guys? That’s the same thing we talked about from a practice standpoint with being physical. How much are we going to get enough to evaluate them but also mindful that we can’t get them injured either? There’s a delicate line there.

“We’re going to have to name a starter at some point in time. That’s why I think it would be unfair right now because there hasn’t been enough situations to evaluate. If someone said ‘Hey, we have to play a game tomorrow, we have to make a decision.’ But we don’t have to play a game tomorrow. We have until September 9, so we’ll see how it works itself out. But as I’ve said before with a big decision like that, you want to make sure you take the whole body of work into consideration. If in practice three they have a [bad] practice, do they come back in practice four and bounce back pretty good? Or have you made your decision after practice three? We’re not forced to make a decision soon, and I don’t think the positives of making an early decision outweigh making sure we make the right decision.”

5. Kelly has to be confident, but realistic, in terms of the impact he can have on the quarterbacks.

Asked if he’s able to look at a QBs’ mechanics and properly assess why they might be struggling with accuracy, Kelly said, “You can see that, but a lot of times by the time they get to this level, that’s the way they do it. You’re not gonna be able to change it, because they’ve thrown it that way for thousands and thousands of hours of throwing the ball, and that’s just how they throw it.”

But he also emphasized that there are fundamental aspects of the position that the coaches and quarterbacks can work on in practice.

During the offseason, the Eagles chose to bring Vick back, and by all accounts, they showed little or no interest in trading Foles. In the absence of a bona fide starter, it was a way of hedging their bets. Both decisions were based on skill sets, rather than past results. Kelly admitted that when watching film of 2012, he couldn’t draw too many results-based conclusions because he didn’t know what each quarterback was being asked to do by the coaches on any given play.

“When we evaluated it, we were looking at skill sets and do they have the arm velocity? Do they have the ability?” Kelly said. “But our evaluation has to be from when we got our hands on them on April 1 until we get here in August, just because I don’t know what they were taught.”

In addition to accuracy, the other key aspect in Kelly’s decision-making process will be which quarterback has the best understanding of the offense. By all accounts, this system is going to require adjustments at the line of scrimmage based on the look of the defense.

Asked how important those pre-snap reads are, Kelly said, “Huge. It depends on what you’re doing. It’s huge understanding what the defense is doing, conceptually what we’re trying to get accomplished. There are certain run plays we can run vs. any look, so the pre-snap read isn’t that important. But there are certain things – some in the run game and a lot in the pass game – where you need to understand what you’re going against.”

The media will be allowed to watch training camp practices, but clearly, a big chunk of the evaluation process will take place privately in the classroom.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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