What They’re Saying About the Eagles

Here is some pre-game reading before the Eagles take on the Jaguars tonight at 7:30.

We’ll have a live chat with updates and observations during the action, so be sure to stop back.

Until then…

Andy Benoit of TheMMQB.com previews the Eagles. He’s not impressed with the team’s safety situation:

The situation at safety is just as bad. Hard-hitting Patrick Chung has never been a mentally sharp pass defender. His running mate, Kenny Phillips, has scintillating talent but chronic knee problems. If one of these downhill thumpers are unavailable, the Eagles will have to call on either former second-round stiff Nate Allen, the perpetually out of control Kurt Coleman or the athletically limited (but at least more reliable) Colt Anderson. In fact, taking the whole group into consideration, Philadelphia may wind up seriously considering fifth-round rookie Earl Wolff in a starting spot.

According to NFL.com, it looks like Nnamdi Asomugha is going to make the 49ers’ roster:

According to Rapoport, 49ers coaches realize Asomugha no longer is the player he was at age 25. They love the “chip on his shoulder” as he’s out to restore his reputation after two miserable seasons in Philadelphia, but they also plan to limit Asomugha’s snaps and spell him from time to time.

Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times indicates that the Raiders could still have interest in Matt Barkley down the road:

Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com offers a thought on tonight’s game:

Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew revealed this week that coach Gus Bradley wants to run roughly 85 plays per game. That would put them among the league leaders. They face a Chip Kelly-led Philadelphia Eagles squad that should play even faster. Every Eagles game, even in the preseason, is becoming a must-watch affair. Also keep an eye on how Jones-Drew looks in his most extensive action since foot surgery.

Jason Babin chimes in on facing his former teammates, via TheMMQB.com:

I think playing the Eagles, my former team, next week in the preseason, will be more like playing Chip Kelly than playing the Eagles. It’s not the guys that I left. I do have a few players, a few buddies who are still on the team that I talk with. They’re coming to our place, so we’ve got to represent.

Les Bowen of the Daily News identifies 10 Eagles on the roster bubble, including defensive tackle Antonio Dixon:

Everybody pulls for Dixon, in his second tour with the Eagles, who grew up homeless and has made a career for himself, taming a severe stutter in the process. When the Eagles went to a 3-4, he seemed a good fit at nose tackle. But a hamstring problem kept Dixon from making an impact, while rookies such as Bennie Logan and Damion Square forged ahead. Plus, coordinator Bill Davis stresses versatility on his defensive line, and Dixon is strictly a tackle. He needs a big night, and maybe for someone else to get hurt.

Paul Domowitch of the Daily News projects the 53-man roster. He’s got Clay Harbor making it:

Harbor is going to be a TE/WR swingman, which saves Chip Kelly a roster spot to use elsewhere. I think he’ll keep five wideouts in addition to Harbor, but I wouldn’t be totally shocked if he only kept four. If Shepard doesn’t make it and no one else claims him, he’ll likely be on the practice squad.

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The State Of the Eagles’ Pass-Rush And D-Line

Since the start of free agency, the Eagles have added nine new players, but only one true pass-rusher – Connor Barwin.

Much of the offseason focus has been on rebuilding the secondary, but Howie Roseman, Chip Kelly and company still have work to do in bolstering the front seven – specifically, the defensive line.

Gone from last year’s squad are veterans Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Darryl Tapp, Derek Landri and Mike Patterson.

Trent Cole, Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry are expected to make the switch to outside linebacker (joining Barwin). Isaac Sopoaga has been brought in to play nose tackle, and Antonio Dixon could provide some depth on the interior. Fletcher Cox is expected to play DE in a 3-4, and Cedric Thornton will get a shot there too.

DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks figure to get the nod at inside linebacker.

Before we take a look at what areas still need to be addressed, let’s look at what the Eagles have on their current roster. There are six players who got at least 100 opportunities to rush the passer last year.

Below is a table showing pass-rushing chances, sacks, hurries, QB hits and balls batted at the line of scrimmage. The data is courtesy of Pro Football Focus.

The last column shows the frequency with which each player notched a sack, hurry, hit or batted ball.

 
Pass-Rushing Chances
Sacks
Hurries
Hits
Passes Batted
Success
Connor Barwin6403261467.7%
Trent Cole43232913110.6%
Brandon Graham2205.5317120.5%
Fletcher Cox3035.514618.9%
Cedric Thornton18118105.5%
Isaac Sopoaga16222203.7%

What stands out here? First of all, it’s clear that Graham should have received more playing time last year. His production on a per-snap basis far exceeded any of the other players in the table. Graham made something happen on 20.5 percent of his opportunities.

As we explained previously, Barwin got more pass-rushing chances in 2012 than he did in 2011 when he totaled 11 sacks. He wasn’t very productive at getting after the quarterback last season, although that could have been because his role changed (we’re currently taking a look at the All-22 for clarification).

One thing to take note of is Barwin batted six balls down at the line of scrimmage. In 2011, he batted seven. I’m guessing Kelly also values Barwin’s versatility. He played over 94 percent of Houston’s defensive snaps – 1,019 total. That was fifth-most among all 3-4 outside linebackers in 2012. Barwin will be expected to start, but if the Eagles use a rotation like Oregon utilized on defense, he’ll see fewer snaps.

Cole had a down year, but as you can see by the numbers, he wasn’t entirely invisible.

The numbers for the interior pass-rushers are naturally going to be lower. Cox showed pass-rushing chops as a rookie and should only improve in his second season. He figures to transition smoothly to a 3-4 defensive end. Thornton didn’t do much as a pass-rusher in 2012. And Sopoaga figures to come off the field in pass-rushing situations.

A quick sampling of 3-4 teams shows they generally keep six or seven defensive linemen. That means the Eagles have roster spots to fill. Cox and Sopoaga have a hold on two of them. Thornton will get a long look. Dixon and Ronnie Cameron have a shot too.

But don’t be surprised to see the Eagles add several more defensive linemen to the roster. They were interested in Desmond Bryant and Ricky Jean-Francois before they signed with the Browns and Colts, respectively. Over the weekend, the Eagles were linked to Vaughn Martin, although he could end up back with the Chargers.

The key (and this has been a running them) is versatility. The Eagles need players who can play 3-4 defensive end and rush the passer from the interior in sub packages. There aren’t a lot of young options available who fit that mold, so this could be an area the Eagles target with draft picks and undrafted free agents.

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What the Eagles Need At Nose Tackle

The Eagles have dropped not-so-subtle hints about a scheme change all offseason long.

Chip Kelly has talked about preferring a 3-4. And Howie Roseman has discussed the versatility of specific players like Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham.

But one position the Eagles likely will have to address in the coming months is nose tackle. Antonio Dixon could be in the mix, but he’s played a total of 122 snaps the past two seasons.

Before we look at some free-agent options, it’s important to identify what kind of player the Eagles might be looking for. Mike Triplett of The New Orleans Times-Picayune recently provided a breakdown of 3-4 teams vs. 4-3 teams. He found that 14 teams ran a 3-4 or a hybrid that required some use of a nose tackle.

Below is a table with those 14 teams and their nose tackles. Playing time percentages are from Pro Football Focus.

Team
Nose Tackle
Height
Weight
Playing Time
RedskinsBarry Cofield6-431867.5%
PackersB.J. Raji6-233768.4%
CardinalsDan Williams6-332741.6%
49ersIsaac Sopoaga6-233032.2%
SeahawksBrandon Mebane6-131162.7%
TexansEarl Mitchell6-330036.1%
ColtsAntonio Johnson6-331049.3%
PatriotsVince Wilfork6-232581.8%
JetsSione Pouha6-332537.9%
RavensTerrence Cody6-434132.1%
SteelersCasey Hampton6-132549.6%
ChiefsDontari Poe6-335074.4%
ChargersCam Thomas6-433537.2%
CowboysJay Ratliff6-430367.3%
AVERAGE6-2 4/5324.152.7%

A few things stand out here. First of all, let’s look at height and weight. All 14 nose tackles fall within the range of 6-1 and 6-4. The average height for the group is 74.8 inches, or just a shade under 6-3.

They are all also between 300 and 350 pounds. The average weight of the group is 324.1.

And then there’s playing time. This might be the most important factor because it shows not all nose tackles are created equal. The Patriots run a hybrid scheme, but they have a five-time Pro Bowler in Vince Wilfork, who played 81.8 percent of the snaps last season. Isaac Sopoaga, meanwhile, is a true first- and second- down, play-the-run, nose tackle. But that meant he was only on the field for 32.2 percent of San Francisco’s snaps.

In other words, this position can be as important as Kelly and defensive coordinator Billy Davis want it to be. As Kelly has said time and again, scheme decisions will be personnel-driven.

Back in July, Field Yates of ESPN.com provided this description for a 3-4 nose tackle:

A 3-4 nose tackle requires an athlete strong and large enough to consistently hammer up against double teams, while also one athletic and instinctive enough to play laterally and diagnose offensive plays.

And Seahawks coach Pete Carroll once offered his description of the nose tackle in a 4-3 under (per FieldGulls.com):

“At Nose Tackle you have to find a player who likes to mix it up. We want a big guy in there who likes to get down and dirty. He is going to get doubled a lot on the run and pass and is going to get down blocked a lot. He has to be a tough player. This guy can be a short and stubby type of player.”

In other words, the nose tackle’s job is often to do the dirty work, not pile up gaudy tackle and sack statistics. His contributions will be measured by how much other players benefit from his actions.

Keeping all that in mind, who are some potential nose tackles available in free agency?

Sopoaga is one. Tom Gamble is obviously familiar with him from his time in San Francisco. But Sopoaga turns 32 in September and does not provide the versatility the Eagles might be looking for. If they simply want a veteran, big-bodied nose tackle who can play the run, though, he could be an option.

Tampa’s Roy Miller is another. He’s 6-2, 310 and only 25-years-old. Miller played 48.7 percent of the snaps last year. He’s also a two-down player and won’t provide a lot of versatility as a pass-rusher. Tommy Lawlor over at IgglesBlitz.com has a good scouting report up on Miller.

Temple product Terrance Knighton will be on the market too. From a size/age perspective, he fits the bill, even though the production and consistency haven’t always been there. Knighton, 26, is 6-3, 330.

Alan Branch (6-6, 325) is another name to watch, especially if the reports about Kelly valuing length on defense are true. Branch is 28 and played the last two seasons in Seattle (a 4-3 under). However, he did not play nose tackle for Gus Bradley and company.

Some have asked about Pittsburgh’s Casey Hampton, but he turns 36 in September. Houston’s Shaun Cody (6-4, 307) is also on the market.

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How Eagles’ Current Pieces Fit In 3-4, 4-3 Under

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Trent ColeHowie Roseman believes the Eagles have some pieces in place to transition to a new defensive scheme – one that will not include Cullen Jenkins or Mike Patterson.

As for the details, there’s not a whole lot we know right now. We know Chip Kelly prefers a 3-4. We know defensive coordinator Billy Davis has a background in multiple schemes, including the 4-3 under. Having spoken to Davis and some of the other assistants, I got the impression that pre-snap disguise is going to be a big part of whatever the Eagles do.

As we look ahead to free agency (March 12) and the draft (April 25), now seems like a good time to take stock of the Eagles’ defensive linemen to see how they might fit going forward.

Fletcher Cox – In a 3-4, Cox shifts out to defensive end. If you remember from the previous post on the 4-3 under, one of the linemen is a 3-technique (between the guard and tackle). On the weak side, this player gets designed one-on-one opportunities and needs to be a good pass-rusher. Cox would seem to fit the mold perfectly.

“He can be an end, a 3-technique, a nose tackle, he can be a 5-technique, a 4-technique,” Roseman said at the Combine. “He’s got an incredible skill set. He does all those things really well. I think you’re looking for a jump from him year one to year two, a young guy, 21-years-old. We’re excited about Fletcher Cox and what he can bring to our football team.”

Trent Cole -He’s coming off a down year, and while Cole’s best days are probably behind him, he’s only 30-years-old and should still be able to contribute. The question is: Where?

Cole has played defensive end in a 4-3 his entire career. In Davis’ 4-3 under scheme in Arizona, the “Predator” was a pass-rush specialist on the weak side. With the Cardinals, the Predator rushed the quarterback 94 percent of the time, according to Pro Football Focus. The Seahawks also ran a 4-3 Under, and Chris Clemons rushed the QB 89.9 percent of the time last year.

“Trent is the same way [as Brandon Graham]. He can rush the passer,” Roseman said. “If you look at 3-4 outside linebackers, Trent has the skill set that a lot of those guys have. I think obviously if we transition to that at some point, then you’re talking about guys who haven’t done it and they have to practice it and do it. You’re talking about a projection, but that’s what happens in the draft too. The teams that have been 3-4 teams, they’re taking ends and they’re dropping them back. It’s all projections.”

Many have questioned whether Cole would be good enough in pass coverage to play outside linebacker in a true 3-4. He’s dropped back into coverage 14 times the past two seasons. Cole did so a little more back in 2010 under Sean McDermott, but even then, it was only 7.5 percent of the time (43 total snaps).

The truth is, most 3-4 teams have an outside linebacker whose job it is to primarily rush the passer. DeMarcus Ware rushed the QB 88 percent of the time; Clay Matthews 85 percent; San Francisco’s Ahmad Brooks 81 percent; Aldon Smith 85 percent; Kansas City’s Tamba Hali 83 percent; and Washington’s Ryan Kerrigan 81 percent.

Cole averaged 11 sacks per season from 2007 to 2011. The key to his future is not whether he can cover, but whether he can get back being an effective pass-rusher.

Brandon Graham – His projection is probably similar to Cole’s.

“When he came out, there was a lot of discussion about him being a 3-4 outside linebacker and him being able to play on his feet,” Roseman said of Graham. “I think he can do that. He can play. He can rush the passer, he can hold the edge, he can play in space, so I think that is a transition Brandon can do. Wherever we go, I think Brandon is going to be a piece of that.”

On a per-snap basis, Graham was the Eagles’ most productive pass-rusher last season. He could fit in the Predator role or as an outside linebacker in a true 3-4. Graham has dropped back 23 times in his entire career.

One more follow-up on the coverage note I mentioned above. I took a look at PFF’s snap counts for 3-4 outside linebackers last season. Of the 25 3-4 OLBs who played the most snaps, only eight dropped into coverage 30 percent of the time or more. In other words, cover skills shouldn’t be ignored, but the focus of outside linebacker in a 3-4 is still to rush the QB.

Vinny Curry - He also falls in the same category as Graham and Cole – with a couple caveats.

For starters, we don’t know what Curry brings to the table as a pass-rusher. He only had 33 pass-rushing opportunities all of last season and didn’t have a sack or hurry, according to team stats. But obviously, that’s too small a sample size to make any projections off of. Curry could be in the mix for the Predator role or an outside linebacker role in a 3-4.

Our buddy Tommy Lawlor over at IgglesBlitz.com brought up another possibility for Curry: SAM. Right now, there’s no clear-cut option at SAM on the Eagles’ roster. In Davis’ Arizona scheme, this player rushed the passer 70 percent of the time and dropped back 30 percent of the time. Curry would have to prove himself as a cover guy to get a look at this spot.

Perhaps more likely, the Eagles target this position in free agency and/or the draft. Oregon’s Dion Jordan would appear to be a perfect fit.

Antonio Dixon – Roseman was asked about the possibility of Dixon playing nose tackle.

“I don’t think there is any question about it,” he said. “That’s his skill set. He’s a big body, good use of his hands, he’s a run-stopper. He’s kind of what you look for if you’re looking for a 3-4 nose tackle.”

Dixon played well for the Eagles in 2010, but he’s played a total of 122 snaps the last two seasons per PFF. I’ll be surprised if he’s the team’s Plan A going into offseason workouts.

Whether the Eagles go to a straight 3-4 or a 4-3 under, they’ll likely target a nose tackle or two in the coming months.

Cedric Thornton – The 4-3 under calls for the 5-technique (between the tackle and tight end) defensive end on the strong side to do a lot of the dirty work and be stout against the run. Thornton could be an option to fill that role. He didn’t do much as a pass-rusher last year, but has the size (6-4, 309) and motor the Eagles could covet from this spot.

Thornton will not be handed the job, however. It’s likely that the Eagles add some bodies who can play DE in a 3-4.

Phillip Hunt – He was a non-factor last year and saw limited playing time. Hunt could get a look at outside linebacker in the spring, but he’ll be fighting for a roster spot.

—–

I didn’t mention some of the new faces that have already been added –  like Ronnie Cameron (6-2, 295), Everette Brown (6-1, 256), Chris McCoy (6-3, 261). Cameron could get reps at DE; Brown and McCoy look like rush linebackers. All will obviously be battling for roster spots.

Looking ahead to the coming months, the Eagles’ need spots are nose tackle and SAM linebacker. But they will also likely add 3-4 defensive ends, and as we’ve learned over the years, they’ll always have their eyes open for pass-rushers.

So while some pieces are in place, there is plenty of work to do in the months ahead.

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Eagles Sign Dixon; Place Foles On IR

Antonio Dixon is back. The Eagles signed the defensive tackle to a two-year deal and placed Nick Foles on Injured Reserve. Linebacker Marcus Dowtin was also signed to the practice squad.

Dixon played in Philadelphia from 2009-11, compiling  62 tackles and three sacks. He appeared in two games for the Colts this season but was released on October 29.

Dowtin (6-2, 226) recorded four special teams tackles in three games for the New York Jets this season. He was waived by the team on November 20.

Foles has a hairline fracture in his throwing hand. The injury appeared to happen on a completion to LeSean McCoy at the end of the first half Sunday. Foles faked a screen to Damaris Johnson, spun and was hit by Barry Cofield as he released the ball and landed on his right hand. He was having difficulty gripping the ball at halftime, Reid said, but X-rays were negative at the stadium and the decision was made to keep him in. An MRI later revealed the hairline fracture.

Andy Reid indicated that this type of injury generally takes three weeks to recover from.

“He’s a pretty tough kid, obviously, by going through this. He never said a word about it,” said Reid.

What They’re Saying About the Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Nnamdi AsomughaIt’s time to check in on what the national media are saying about the Eagles. Here’s the roundup.

Bill Barnwell of Grantland.com put together trade value rankings of the top 50 players. Aaron Rodgers is No. 1, meaning the Packers wouldn’t consider trading him for any other player in the league. Tom Brady is No. 2, meaning the Patriots wouldn’t consider trading him for anyone except for Rodgers. Get it?

Barnwell has Michael Vick at No. 17, Nnamdi Asomugha at No. 40 and Trent Cole at No. 43. Here’s the writeup on Asomugha:

Everyone jumped off the Asomugha bandwagon awful quick, huh? After carrying Oakland’s secondary on his back and emerging as one of the top two cornerbacks in football at the end of the decade, embattled Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo (his actual name now, I think) moved Asomugha out of his comfort zone at cornerback and onto some sort of hybrid Charles Woodson shit that didn’t suit Asomugha whatsoever. Sticking a guy who uses the sidelines as an aid like nobody else in the league in the middle of the field makes a ton of sense, right? Maybe that’s the sort of move you would make if you didn’t have any experience at any level as a defensive coordinator! Asomugha will be back on the outside full-time this year, which means he should be the best cornerback in the NFC.

The FoxSports.com crew made predictions for the season. Two of the seven writers have the Eagles winning the NFC East. Four of seven have the Birds making the playoffs. None of them predict a Super Bowl appearance.

ESPN.com had a crew of 16 writers make NFL predictions. One of them, Bill Williamson, picked the Eagles to win the Super Bowl. Six of 16 pegged the Birds to win the NFC East (eight pick the Giants; two pick the Cowboys). Twelve of 16 think the Eagles are a playoff team. And four pick Andy Reid to win Coach of the Year.

Antonio Dixon made Pete Prisco’s All-Cut Team on CBSSports.com. Prisco also put out an All-Division Team. LeSean McCoy, Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans all made it on offense. Jason Babin, Nnamdi Asomugha and Nate Allen got the nod on defense. On Allen:

He has to stay on the field, but he has the chance to be a really good player at a weak spot in the division.

Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com, a former scout for the Eagles, says the Birds have the second-deepest team in the league:

The Eagles have a lot of depth in key areas. They have an embarrassment of riches along the defensive line. How many teams boast six starter-caliber defensive ends? The actual starters, Jason Babin and Trent Cole, combined for 29 sacks last season. Backups Brandon Graham and Darryl Tapp are both solid pass rushers as well as stout run defenders. They also have Vinny Curry, a very talented rookie from Marshall who has been very productive in the preseason. However, the best player of the entire group during training camp was actually Phillip Hunt. The former CFL star dominated practices and preseason games.

Drew Magary of Deadspin provides his 2012 Eagles preview.

In an ESPN Insider piece, Khaled Elsayed of Pro Football Focus attempts to explain why Vick gets hit so much:

The line isn’t doing a terrible job, and Vick isn’t getting hit by pass-rushers at an alarming rate. It’s when he starts scrambling and believes he’s a running back — mind you, a running back with an extremely open running style that offers poor protection for his midsection — bad things happen.

Some good information in that piece, although it should be mentioned that Vick’s last six injuries have been sustained while he was in the pocket.

Dennis Dillon of SI.com writes that the Eagles need to win now:

A year ago, the Eagles came into the season as the so-called “Dream Team” (a moniker coined by then backup quarterback Vince Young) after acquiring such veterans as cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, defensive end Jason Babin and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The dream quickly faded into a disappointing 8-8 season.

The Eagles have the talent to go deep into the playoffs. And the time to do it is now, especially for Reid. On Thursday, team owner Jeffrey Lurie said that another 8-8 season would not be good enough to save Reid’s job.

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Life On The Bubble: Behind the Scenes Of Cut-down Day

Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Antonio Dixon.Moments after the 9 o’clock deadline had passed Friday night, Howie Roseman sat at the head of a long conference-room table on the first floor of the NovaCare complex, and reflected on the player he just cut.

The day had been dedicated to trimming the roster down to 53 players. Antonio Dixon was the last to go. Dixon is a remarkable story. He spent much of his childhood in and out of homeless shelters, went to about 10 different middle schools, battled dyslexia and a major stammer, and still fought his way through college and into the NFL. He was claimed by the Eagles in September of 2009 after being cut by the Redskins, and had been with the team ever since.

“I remember the first time I saw Antonio Dixon,” said Roseman. “He was a senior and I actually went to see him at a practice where he had a heat stroke, and they took him out in an ambulance at the University of Miami. I remember telling him that story when we got him here. He’s a tremendous individual, he’s a tremendous personality for our football team. I think he has a bright future ahead of him.

“It’s like the question, ‘Who’s your favorite child?’ It’s the same way when picking players. At some point we picked every man on this roster because they have some trait  we want them to bring to the Philadelphia Eagles. When you let them go, you’re letting go someone you have chosen.”

For bubble players, cut-down day is all about the phone call. If you go the whole day without one, you have made the 53-man roster. If the phone rings and the incoming call starts with a “215” area code, chances are you are being summoned to gather your things and drop off your playbook.

Just imagine how slowly time ticks by. Or how your stress level shoots through the roof when  your cell phone buzzes because a friend or family member is unaware of the circumstances.

“You go about your day. If they call you they call you, if they don’t they don’t,” said cornerback Brandon Hughes. “You get an unknown number, that’s probably them calling you. I can’t be sitting by the phone all day hoping the Philadelphia Eagles don’t call me.”

“It’s just trying to relax, hang out with the family. You’ve got the day off, so you try and go do something to keep your mind occupied and see if you get a phone call or not,” said reserve offensive lineman Dallas Reynolds late last week. “I’ve gotten a phone call every year so far.”

The NFL is the definition of a competitive marketplace. Your grip on a roster spot is never tight. Roseman said that before the team goes to training camp with their 90 assembled men, they put together a list of all the players on other teams that have been drafted in rounds 4-7 over the past two years, along with those who have graded out in that area. They then take a look at teams who have an excess of talent at certain positions to try and gauge who may become available. That adds up to some 500-600 players that they are evaluating during the preseason to potentially claim somebody’s roster spot.

“By the time it got to [Friday], we had a targeted list of about 150 guys that we thought might get cut and we had good grades on,” said Roseman.

“We sit in our draft room. We have a board, by position. We grade the guys. We’re able to pick guys off, make playtime tapes of them, watch them and discuss them.”

One of the players they scouted who shook out was former Texans offensive lineman Nathan Menkin. He was put on waivers and the Eagles snatched him up. To make room, they had to part with cornerback Trevard Lindley, who had just survived the cutdown to 53 the day before.

“You can’t think about it,” said Lindley right before the Jets game. “Just go out there every game and play your hardest. Hopefully some team likes you and if they don’t, just hope another team will pick you up.”

Roseman makes it a point to try and call every player that is released, though he conceded with the flurry of activity leading up to Friday at 9 p.m., he needed some assistance from other members of the personnel department.

“They’re human,” said Roseman. “They had a dream, an ambition to play on this football team, to play in the National Football League. We just want to be as honest as possible. We want to tell them their strengths and weaknesses, we want to tell them how we can help them.”

As of Sunday morning, Dixon has yet to be picked up by another team. Same for Lindley. Reynolds finally avoided that phone call and is currently listed as the Eagles backup center and guard. Hughes also made the team and is a reserve behind Nnamdi Asomugha at right corner.

An odd part of the lead-up to the cutdowns was that Jeffrey Lurie was throwing  a barbecue at his house that Friday afternoon from 12-4. Attendance was mandatory for Eagles players. The thing is, there was a host of guys that had no idea if they would still be Eagles players at that time.

“Hopefully they have all their decisions made by 12 o’clock,” said Hughes Thursday night. “ But if they don’t, hey, I guess you get some good food out of it. And then if they call you, you can thank them for the opportunity, and the hamburger.”

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Ten Eagles On the Roster Bubble

Philadelphia Eagles running back Chris Polk.The Eagles have until 9 p.m. Friday to cut their roster down to 53.

That means 22 players currently on the squad will be told not to show up next week.

Keeping that in mind, here are 10 players who are sitting squarely on the roster bubble.

Chris Polk – He’s had an OK preseason, carrying 13 times for 51 yards (3.9 YPC) and catching five balls for 42 yards. Polk has shown his versatility and is probably the Eagles’ best back in pass protection, but there might not be a spot for him. At this point, LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis and Bryce Brown are clearly ahead of him. Polk’s best chance at a roster spot is if the Eagles decide to keep a fourth running back.

Chad Hall – Amazingly, he’s still eligible for the practice squad. Hall was active for seven games last year and eight in 2010. He can do a lot of different things – run the ball, catch the ball, return kicks, return punts – but the question is whether he does any of them at a high enough level to warrant a roster spot. Hall has 14 catches for 135 yards and 12 carries for 42 yards in his career. It seems that undrafted free agent Damaris Johnson has a similar skill set, and the rookie is definitely going to make the team, which could make Hall expendable. Then again, with Riley Cooper likely to miss time early in the season, the Eagles could look to keep six receivers, and no one’s snatched that final spot just yet.

Marvin McNutt – Speaking of which… McNutt also has a chance for that last wide receiver spot. Taken in the sixth round of April’s draft, he has not shown much in the preseason, with just one catch for 13 yards. Based on what we’ve seen so far, McNutt is not going to contribute as a rookie. But if the Eagles like his potential, they could hang onto McNutt. The practice squad is also an option for him.

Darryl Tapp – The veteran is not going quietly. He’s had a strong preseason, beating Browns left tackle Joe Thomas for a sack and forced fumble on Friday night. Keep in mind that Tapp is only 27-years-old. He’s in the final year of his contract and is scheduled to make $2.575M. Perhaps another team would offer up a late-round pick for his services. If not, the Eagles could go heavy on the defensive line and hang onto Tapp.

Antonio Dixon – His chances of making the team increased when Andy Reid announced earlier this week that Mike Patterson might miss the entire season. Back in 2010, Dixon was one of the Eagles’ best defensive players, consistently making plays in the run game. But the Eagles hired Jim Washburn last offseason, and Dixon hasn’t been much of a factor since. He played four games in 2011 before suffering a season-ending triceps injury. The writing may have been on the wall this offseason when the Eagles re-signed Derek Landri, re-structured Cullen Jenkins’ contract and drafted Fletcher Cox in the first round. Those three players are clearly ahead of Dixon, and Cedric Thornton probably is also. If the Eagles keep five defensive tackles, he’s on. If not, he’s probably off.

Keenan Clayton – For much of the summer, we’ve been writing about how he’s battling with Akeem Jordan for a roster spot. Well, for now, Jordan is a starter, taking over the WILL spot from Brian Rolle. The Eagles like Clayton’s cover skills, as they kept him on the field as the lone linebacker in dime packages at the end of last season. Juan Castillo hinted yesterday that the Eagles could use their linebackers in specialized roles again this season. I don’t see Clayton knocking another linebacker, like Rolle or Casey Matthews, off the roster. Rolle appears fit for a backup spot, and the guess here is the coaches think Matthews has more upside than Clayton. If they keep seven linebackers, Clayton hangs on. If not, he’s likely out.

Brandon Hughes – He was active for 13 games last year and played 91 snaps on defense (per PFF), most of which came as a starter against the Patriots. The Eagles have decisions to make at the backup cornerback spots. Second-year player Curtis Marsh is a lock, and we know rookie Brandon Boykin will make the team. But beyond that, it gets interesting. We know Joselio Hanson can only play inside. And if Boykin beats Hanson out for the first-team nickel spot, Hanson probably doesn’t make the team. That would increase Hughes’ chances. Two things working in Hughes’ favor: He can play outside, and among defensive backs, he was the Eagles’ most productive special teams player in 2011.

Jaiquawn Jarrett – His status was one of the team’s biggest mysteries when camp started in Lehigh in late July. And in many ways, it remains that way as we approach final cuts. Jarrett had his moments at camp. There were glimpses of the player the Eagles described when they drafted him in the second round of the 2011 draft. But in a starting role against the Steelers in the first preseason game, he suffered miscue after miscue. The truth is, even if Jarrett lasts through the initial cut-down deadline, he shouldn’t get too comfortable. The Eagles could add a safety or two after other teams get down to 53.

Oshiomogho Atogwe – He’s been around all summer, but it’s difficult to get a feel on how Atogwe fits in. He battled hamstring, knee and toe injuries last season and is 31-years-old. Atogwe has missed the last two preseason games because of hamstring trouble. At practice, he’s running with the second team. With the Eagles lacking safety depth, Atogwe could make the team by default. But if he can’t get healthy, the Eagles could just let him go.

Julian Vandervelde – Offensive line depth is a concern. Vandervelde, a fifth-round pick in 2011, probably has the inside track on a spot, but he’s no lock. If the Eagles only keep one interior lineman active on gamedays, that player needs to be able to play guard and center. Vandervelde has been learning center on the fly this summer, but in the last preseason game, he botched one snap, resulting in a fumble, and let another go early, before Trent Edwards was ready for it. With Mike Gibson on IR, Vandervelde is competing with Steve Vallos and Dallas Reynolds for now. But the Eagles could add offensive line help from elsewhere once teams make cuts.

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

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Trade an Option For Birds

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy ReidAndy Reid used the word stingy.

He was asked whether the Eagles could keep six defensive ends, and the head coach wanted to make clear that he’s not too fond of letting capable pass-rushers walk for nothing.

“There’s a chance,” Reid said. “I’m stingy when it comes to defensive linemen, so we’ve got to work the numbers and just see how all that pans out. There will be some tough decisions all the way around there.”

There are 11 defensive linemen who can make legit cases for roster spots right now. In my mind, eight of them are pretty much locks: Jason Babin, Trent Cole, Cullen Jenkins, Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham, Phillip Hunt and Derek Landri.

I’d probably put Cedric Thornton in that category too, but some of you may disagree.

The two I’ve left off are Antonio Dixon and Darryl Tapp. With Reid saying Sunday that Mike Patterson might not play at all this season, Dixon’s chances of making the roster probably increased just a bit. The veteran defensive tackle doesn’t offer much as a pass-rusher, but can be a run-stuffer inside.

Tapp, meanwhile, has had a very good preseason and beat five-time Pro Bowler Joe Thomas for a sack and forced fumble Friday night in Cleveland.

So Reid and Howie Roseman are left with three options:

1. Keep all 11 defensive linemen. It’s a big number, but not totally insane.
2. Cut Dixon, Tapp or Thornton. The most likely of the group would probably be Dixon.
3. Trade a defensive lineman.

The most likely trade chip would probably be Tapp. He’s a quality veteran who can help a team immediately. Tapp is due $2.575M this season and is a free agent after 2012. Perhaps he can get you a player (the Eagles could use offensive line depth or safety help) or a third-day draft pick.

“You get calls, yes you do,” Reid said, when asked if teams were contacting the Eagles about their defensive linemen. “You talk, not just about that position. Personnel directors, GMs, they are constantly on the phone, talking trades or talking about players, so yeah, that does take place.”

A bit vague, but you get the point. Teams are deciding on roster cuts this time of year, and they would all like to get something in return when a quality player just doesn’t fit into their plans. There’s one more week in the preseason, and rosters need to be trimmed to 53 by Friday at 9 p.m.

A couple years ago (2010), the Eagles made four trades between Aug. 30 and Sept. 4. They sent fullback Charles Scott to the Cardinals. They acquired offensive lineman Reggie Wells from Arizona. They dealt Stacy Andrews to Seattle. And they sent Tracy White to the Patriots.

Nothing major, but four deals that helped them shape their roster. We’ll find out in the next 10 days if they go a similar route this season.

WHAT YOU MISSED

The Eagles have a new starting WILL linebacker. Akeem Jordan takes over for Brian Rolle – for now. Here’s a take on what that means and what could be in store going forward.

Speaking of starting jobs, King Dunlap has beaten out Demetress Bell for the left tackle gig.

Cornerback Cliff Harris was cut Sunday morning.

And I mentioned this above, but Mike Patterson might not play at all this season, Reid said.

If you missed any of the reviews from the Browns game, here are linebackers, defensive linemen, defensive backs and the offense.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

This might be it for Terrell Owens (I know, we’ve said that before). The veteran wide receiver was cut by the Seahawks.

The Bills apparently weren’t thrilled with Vince Young as they acquired Tarvaris Jackson from the Seahawks. That could very well mean the end of Young’s short stint in Buffalo.

And finally, Michael Vick said at Flight Night that he’s not worried about his ribs or being labeled injury-prone. Here were his comments, per Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com:

“I’m not really concerned,” he said. “I felt like I had a great training camp. I felt like I was into a rhythm. I felt like I would have played a lot of the preseason if I had been out there. I could’ve been productive.

“At the same time, I had the rib. You’ve got to be able to go out there when you’re needed and be at your best. I think I’ll be ready Sept. 9.”

COMING UP

Marty Mornhinweg and Juan Castillo will chat with reporters before the Eagles’ afternoon practice. And the Birds will have to get their roster down to 75 (currently at 79) by 4 p.m.

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

DL Review: Tapp Makes His Case

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Darryl TappHere’s a review of how the Eagles defensive line performed against the Browns after having re-watched Friday night’s game. Click here for the linebacker review and here for the review of the offense.

Cullen Jenkins – Once again, he started at left defensive end. The reason for that is to make the Eagles better against the run on early downs, but Jenkins hasn’t given them much as a pass rusher from that spot in the preseason. On obvious passing downs, he moved inside to right defensive tackle.

Fletcher Cox – Played left defensive tackle with the first team, but had a quiet night. Can’t say I was focused in on him, but Cox was not credited with a tackle.

Derek Landri – He certainly made the most of his limited snaps. Landri got in the backfield and tripped Montario Hardesty up for a 4-yard loss. Good hustle to bring Hardesty down after a 2-yard gain later in first. Good penetration on another run play inside the 5, drawing a holding penalty. And of course, there was the sack and forced fumble in the red zone on the first possession. The guard let him go because Cleveland was running a screen, but Landri was still able to get to Brandon Weeden.

Trent Cole – He put the finishing touches on Hardesty for a 4-yard loss in the first and recovered the Weeden fumble after the Landri sack. You know exactly what you’re getting from Cole on every snap – whether it’s at training camp, the preseason or the playoffs.

Phillip Hunt – If we’re handing out an award for best defensive lineman in the preseason, I think Hunt probably gets it. Good pressure on Weeden from left defensive end, before the QB stepped up and completed a pass to Mohamed Massaquoi in the first. Hunt came unblocked from RDE and hit Weeden, forcing an incompletion in the red zone in the second. Impressive job by him and Brandon Graham, sandwiching Colt McCoy for a sack in the second. Oh, and did you notice who made the tackle at the 14 on kickoff coverage late in the first quarter? It was Hunt.

Darryl Tapp – Browns left tackle Joe Thomas has made five Pro Bowls and been named first-team All-Pro three times. Tapp beat him cleanly, sacking Weeden and stripping the football in the first. He also recovered a Hardesty fumble in the first. I still have a difficult time seeing the Eagles just cut him. The guess here is a trade, or they keep him and go heavy on the defensive line.

Brandon Graham – On the first two series’, Graham was not part of the defensive line rotation with the starters. But when he got in the game, he played well. He was unblocked, but still did a good job to not bite on play-action, pressuring Weeden in the first. Graham went right past tackle Mitchell Schwartz to sack Weeden on 3rd-and-1. He got pretty good pressure off the edge in the red zone, forcing Weeden to step up. He was unblocked on third down in the second and forced Weeden to roll to his right and throw incomplete. Graham got good pressure on a 2nd-and-6 completion in the second. And he and Hunt combined for the sack I mentioned above. So far, good signs all around for Graham this preseason.

Antonio Dixon – Still don’t see much from him as a pass rusher. It looked like Dixon clogged the initial hole on the play where Hardesty cut back and fumbled. Dixon was called for an offsides penalty on third down in the first. That happened quite a bit at Lehigh. He’s on the bubble.

Cedric Thornton – Thornton was in on the hit with Ryan Rau where Hardesty fumbled in the first. He was called for unnecessary roughness on one play, but drew a holding penalty on the next. There was a big hole between Thornton and Dixon on Hardesty’s 6-yard run in the second. He stopped Brandon Jackson for no gain in the second with the Browns backed up inside their own 5. He’s making the team.

Vinny Curry – The rookie came in at right defensive end in the second and was in on four tackles. He brought Jackson down after a 4-yard gain in the second. He and Rau stopped Adonis Thomas for no gain in the third. And Curry stopped Thomas for no gain on another play. He was caught way upfield on a 9-yard run right at him and also called for an offsides penalty. Barring an injury to one of the guys ahead of him, it looks like Curry will probably be one of the gameday inactives once the season starts.

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

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