DB Review: Boykin Or Hanson?

Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin.Here’s a review of how the Eagles defensive backs performed against the Browns after having re-watched Friday night’s game. Click here for the linebacker review, here for the defensive line and here for the review of the offense.

Nnamdi Asomugha – He was all over Josh Gordon, but the wide receiver made a 28-yard catch on a nice throw from Brandon Weeden on the first play from scrimmage. Asomugha also gave up a 6-yard completion to Mohamed Massaquoi in the red zone. Weeden went after him on a deep ball later in the quarter, but Asomugha had good coverage. Don’t expect quarterbacks to target him a lot this season, but one key to improvement will be Asomugha making plays on balls that are thrown his way.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – He jumped in front of Massaquoi, but couldn’t get a hand on the ball, giving up a 12-yard completion. Like the rest of the starters in the back seven, Rodgers-Cromartie came out after two series. He’s had a good summer and will try to carry momentum over to the regular season as he enters the final year of his contract.

Curtis Marsh – He played left cornerback with the second team. Nice one-on-one tackle, stopping Greg Little after a 3-yard gain. Gordon got free for a 10-yard reception between Marsh and Jaiquawn Jarrett in the second. He’s in place to be the first backup should Asomugha or Rodgers-Cromartie go down. And Marsh will see the field in the Eagles’ special nickel package where Asomugha moves inside.

Joselio Hanson – Played with the first-team in nickel and didn’t get targeted. Trying to hold off the rookie (below).

Brandon Boykin – He came in with the second team and played well. You can see Boykin’s athleticism throughout the course of a game. He broke up a pass intended for Little on third down in the first. And Boykin broke up a third-down pass intended for Massaquoi near the sideline. He had good coverage, but gave up a 19-yard completion to Jordan Norwood in the second. Weeden had a lot of time on the play.

Brandon Hughes – He stepped in for Asomugha, playing right cornerback with the second team. Hughes got beat by Gordon for a 12-yard slant on 3rd-and-10 with Cleveland backed up inside its own 5. Not sure there’s going to be room for Hughes on the final roster, but he’s got a shot.

Trevard Lindley – The 2010 fourth-round pick saw extended action. His hit forced an incompletion in the flat in the second. Lindley was challenged on a deep ball; it looked like he got beat initially, but rookie Travis Benjamin couldn’t make the catch. Joshua Cribbs beat Lindley on a 13-yard completion in the third.

Kevin Thomas – He came in and played right cornerback in the third. Thomas was cut yesterday. The Eagles acquired him during training camp in a trade with the Colts in exchange for linebackers Moise Fokou and Greg Lloyd.

Cliff Harris – He was cut this morning. Harris had an interception on Friday off a deflected pass. He impressed early in camp, but suffered an ankle injury. As Jimmy Kempski over at Blogging the Beast pointed out, Harris was No. 15 on Mel Kiper’s Big Board just 15 months ago. But apparently, the Eagles didn’t see enough potential in the undrafted free agent to hold on to him.

Nate Allen – Started, but played limited snaps. Has had a good camp and finished last season strong. The Eagles will need him to take the leap in his third season.

Kurt Coleman – Made a couple nice plays against the run. He and Mychal Kendricks combined to bring Montario Hardesty down after a 6-yard gain in the first. Coleman played up in the box and stopped Hardesty after a 1-yard gain. He has not been challenged by the other safeties on the roster and will start in Week 1 alongside Allen.

Jaiquawn Jarrett – With Tom Nelson cut yesterday, Jarrett looks like he’ll make the roster, although the Eagles could add safety help once other teams trim down to 53. Jarrett had good coverage on Little, helping to force an incompletion in the first. Later though, Cleveland’s Rod Windsor got behind him and in front of Thomas for a 24-yard completion. Jarrett and Boykin brought Brandon Jackson down after a 9-yard run.

Phillip Thomas – All summer, it’s looked like pretty much any safety on the roster would have a chance to survive cuts. Thomas is a longshot, but played well Friday, filling in with the second team alongside Jarrett. He broke up a pass intended for the tight end in the first and had another pass breakup in the end zone in the second. Good job of helping Hughes on the slant and go in the second; Thomas nearly had an interception on the play. Thomas made a good tackle on Norwood after a 4-yard completion in the second. And he came on a blitz, forcing Seneca Wallace out of the pocket in the fourth. On the 3-yard touchdown, Thomas tripped and fell in coverage against tight end Evan Moore.

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

Eagles Cut CB Cliff Harris

Philadelphia Eagles rookie cornerback Cliff HarrisCliff Harris was a hit early. Now he’s off the team.

The Eagles announced that they waived the rookie corner Sunday morning. The roster now stands at 79.

On Saturday, they cut wide receiver Elvis Akpla, safety Wade Bonner, defensive end Xavier Brown, wide receiver Brian Hernandez (injured), wide receiver McKay Jacobson, wide receiver Tiger Jones, offensive lineman Alfred McCullough, safety Tom Nelson, cornerback Kevin Thomas and offensive lineman Thomas Welch.

They need to trim the roster to 53 by August 31.

Harris impressed with his athleticism early and stood out when competing against his fellow rookies before the pads went on. He suffered an ankle injury on August 6, though, and fell behind the pack once the hitting began to heat up.

Harris had two passes defensed and an interception this preseason.

The former All-American at Oregon had his share of off-field trouble on the collegiate level and he went undrafted. His ability was noticeable right away. He was not projected by most to make the 53-man roster as the weeks went on, but was thought of as a good candidate for the practice squad.

Update: Reid later explained why the Eagles had to wait until Saturday to cut Harris.

“We couldn’t get a hold of him yesterday,” he said. “We got a hold of him today and so there wasn’t anything [wrong]. It gives him an opportunity to catch on with somebody else.”

Reid also said the move had nothing to do with any off-the-field issues.

“That wasn’t the issue here,” he said. “It was a numbers thing and he was one of the tough ones that we had to let go. There are going to be more down the road.”

Take 3: Projecting the Eagles’ 53-Man Roster

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Darryl TappEight days from now, the Eagles will have to trim their roster to 53 players.

The official date and time is Friday, Aug. 31 at 9 p.m.

That means this is the final trial run for me and McManus. Next week, we’ll have to submit our final projections. Here’s what I’ve got as of Thursday morning. T-Mac will reveal his projections on Friday.

And to switch things up. I’ve provided my confidence level for each group. Nothing scientific here – just a 1-10 ranking, with 1 signifying I am completely guessing here and 10 meaning Mark it down. These are locks.

Quarterbacks (3): Michael Vick, Mike Kafka, Nick Foles.
Confidence level: 9

This one is pretty much set in stone. While quarterback is a question mark – with Vick suffering injuries in each of the Eagles’ first two preseason games – these will be the three guys on the 53-man roster. If Trent Edwards was going to be given a real shot, I think it would have happened by now.

The question is: Can Foles beat out Kafka for the backup job? As I wrote yesterday, it seems quite possible. But as Paul Domowitch of the Daily News pointed out today, the Eagles could keep all three quarterbacks active on gamedays and not designate a backup. I can just see it now: Andy Reid answering a hypothetical question about who would potentially go in for an injured Vick with, “Well, we’ll just see there.”

I took a look, and last year, the Eagles had three quarterbacks active in eight of 16 games. Some of that had to do with injuries to Vick and Vince Young though.

Running backs (4): LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown, Stanley Havili.
Confidence level: 9

Havili made a move in the last preseason game with a nice 14-yard run, a decent lead block on McCoy’s touchdown and an outstanding special-teams tackle. The Eagles could still add a fullback once teams cut down their rosters, but Havili has the edge for now.

Brown flashed big-time vs. the Patriots with a 27-yard run up the middle. He’s shown upside, and the Eagles won’t be willing to let other teams have a shot at him. Brown can play special teams as a rookie, hone his skills and work to be a contributor down the road.

Lewis is still the favorite to spell McCoy or fill in if he gets injured. He knows the offense and has looked capable in blitz pick-up during the preseason.

I’m not seeing a spot for Polk. Brown has a clear edge over him as a runner at this point. The Eagles have some roster flexibility, and if they really like Polk, they could probably find a way to keep him. He could land on IR or the practice squad (only if another team doesn’t sign him).

Wide receivers (6): DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Damaris Johnson, Marvin McNutt.
Confidence level: 6

The first four names above are locks. After that, there’s some indecision.

I still am confident that Johnson makes it, but he’s dropped passes in each of the first two preseason games and fumbled a punt against New England. The Eagles need him to be reliable on special teams.

McNutt is a bit of a wild card. He’s shown nothing as a receiver in the first two preseason games, and it doesn’t look like he’d be able to contribute if the Eagles needed him offensively.

Then again, that sixth wide receiver is likely to be inactive on gamedays. If the Eagles saw enough potential in McNutt to draft him in April, the guess here is that they’ll hold on to him for now.

As for Chad Hall, friend of the blog Sam Lynch pointed out over at Iggles Blitz that he’s still practice-squad eligible. If Cooper isn’t ready to go in Week 1 (recovering from surgery for a fractured collarbone), perhaps Hall would get the nod over McNutt. But I don’t think he gives you enough as a fourth wide receiver to justify that spot.

Tight ends (2): Brent Celek, Clay Harbor.
Confidence level: 10

I don’t see it going any other way. The Eagles have no need for a third tight end, and neither Brett Brackett nor Chase Ford has stood out this summer.

Harbor, on the other hand, had a great camp, caught all six balls thrown his way Monday night and got in the end zone twice. He could see a bump in playing time in the regular season.

Offensive linemen (9): King Dunlap, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Danny Watkins, Todd Herremans, Demetress Bell, Julian Vandervelde, Dennis Kelly, Steve Vallos.
Confidence level: 4

Pretty much every day at training camp, Bo Wulf of PhiladelphiaEagles.com would come up to me and make some type of Steve Vallos reference. “Look at that snap!” or “Great block by Vallos!” he’d say. Why? Because Wulf and Vallos share a bond as Wake Forest Demon Deacons, and apparently Bo has a lot of school pride.

Dallas Reynolds is still listed as the second-team center, but Vallos played there on Monday night and has started eight NFL games in his career. Right now, he gets the nod.

Given everything else that’s happened this preseason, the issue of offensive line depth has been largely ignored. I’m convinced the Eagles are going to make some moves here after teams cut their rosters to 53. We’ll get a look at Kelly Friday night, but if Bell isn’t good enough to start, chances are he’s not going to be reliable as a backup either.

Depth at guard and center is a major concern, especially considering that Kelce is taking on more responsibility this year with line calls. Reynolds and Mike Gibson are still in the mix, but my guess is those spots get filled with guys not currently on the roster.

By the way, if I had to wager right now on who the left tackle would be Week 1, my money’s on Dunlap.

Defensive linemen (11): Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Fletcher Cox, Derek Landri, Brandon Graham, Darryl Tapp, Phillip Hunt, Vinny Curry, Cedric Thornton, Antonio Dixon.
Confidence level: 6

I strongly considered bumping Tapp and Dixon this week. Hunt is really coming on, and with Jenkins seeing snaps outside, Tapp is probably expendable. Dixon, meanwhile, just looks like a bad fit for Jim Washburn’s style and is showing very little as a pass rusher.

The problem? I didn’t really see anyone else on the roster worth keeping over either one of those guys. If the Eagles can get some kind of conditional pick in a trade for either Tapp or Dixon, I think they pull the trigger. If not, beef up the defensive line and cover yourself in case of injury. What are the odds all the defensive linemen in the rotation stay healthy from until Week 3 or 4? Not high.

Mike Patterson on PUP looks likely at this point. Reuben Frank of CSN Philly is reporting that Patterson’s already been ruled out for Week 1.

As for the rotation, the way things are currently constructed, Curry and either Dixon or Thornton would likely be inactive on gameday to start the season.

Linebackers (6): DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Brian Rolle, Jamar Chaney, Casey Matthews, Akeem Jordan.
Confidence level: 7

Good sign for the Eagles linebackers: The way Kendricks is playing, it seems likely that he and Ryans will stay on the field in nickel situations to start the season. That should lead to less shuffling of personnel and less confusion, specifically when opposing offenses go no-huddle.

As we’ve discussed, Jordan and Keenan Clayton are battling for the final spot. Jordan gets the nod because of special teams. If the Eagles really like Clayton (and there’s not a lot of evidence to suggest they do), he could make the team as a seventh linebacker, and they could keep one fewer defensive lineman.

Cornerbacks (5): Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Curtis Marsh, Brandon Boykin, Joselio Hanson.
Confidence level: 5

This is a tough one. Boykin is pushing Hanson for that nickel job. But can he do enough in the next eight days to snatch it away? Important game for him coming up on Friday.

If Boykin wins the job, I see no need to keep Hanson, considering he’s not a factor on the outside.

Brandon Hughes has a shot to sneak on if the Eagles want experience on the outside. As for Cliff Harris, not sure if he’s healthy. Don’t think he played at all vs. the Patriots. Unless the Eagles want to give him the 53rd spot and concede that he won’t play as a rookie, but could contribute down the line, I think he’ll be cut.

Safeties (4): Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Oshiomogho Atogwe, Jaiquawn Jarrett.
Confidence level: 5

This is another area where the Eagles very well could add a player off another team’s roster before the season starts.

I kept Jarrett off last week, but now Tom Nelson has a high ankle sprain, so the former second-round pick gets back on by default. Atogwe, meanwhile, didn’t play in Monday’s preseason game because of a hamstring injury. I have no clue at this point how effective he’d be if he had to go into a game. But again, not seeing other options here right now. Colt Anderson is not practicing yet and is still recovering from a torn ACL.

At the end of last season, I thought Coleman would have to hold off competition to remain a starter, but that hasn’t been the case. He and Allen, who played well vs. the Patriots, are clearly the first-team safeties.

Specialists (3): Alex Henery, Mat McBriar, Jon Dorenbos.
Confidence level: 8

Both McBriar and Chas Henry punted better Monday night. Still think it’s McBriar’s job to lose though.

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

Castillo: CB Cliff Harris Still Learning

Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Juan CastilloOne of the Eagles’ undrafted free agents who has a chance to make the team is cornerback Cliff Harris.

But since an NCAA rule prohibited Harris (Oregon) from participating in spring practices, he’s still playing catch-up.

“Cliff is a competitor,” defensive coordinator Juan Castillo said today. “He is still learning our system. The hard thing is that when you miss those OTAs, it’s hard, so he is just trying to get a complete understanding [of the defense]. In the classroom, he understands the scheme, but when it is going fast, I think that is the part in time he will get better and better at.”

Here are some other notes from Castillo’s media session today:

On Mychal Kendricks’ progress: “Mychal has been coming along well. Talk about relentless and tough. He’s a linebacker, and you wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley. He is that type of guy, and he is a professional. He studies, and it is important to him. The way he carries himself off of the field too. We are excited about him.”

On Brandon Boykin vs. Joselio Hanson: “I think both of them are having good camps. They are both competing and they are both smart, athletic and good people.”

On what Boykin needs to improve: “Consistency. As a whole for all of us, the key is consistency and to start like that in the beginning of the season.”

On what secondary coach Todd Bowles brings the defense: “Todd has experience and has played in the league and has coached in the league for eight to ten years. He brings that experience to the guys. On the defense, we have three guys who have played in the league. [Linebackers coach] Mike Caldwell has played for [multiple years] and [secondary/safeties coach] Michael Zordich has played for [multiple years], so that is good experience.”

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

Quick Notes From Reid Presser

Andy Reid addressed all the buzz around the tight end position.

“We’re keeping all our options open,” said Reid. “It has nothing to do with Clay [Harbor] or [Brent] Celek coming off [the injury], there were a couple tight ends out there that we liked and thought we’d take a look at, and that’s where that went.” Asked if they have anybody else coming in, Reid responded, “No, we don’t.”

– Reid said that there were no injuries to report after three days of rookie activity up at Lehigh.That is a great start, though things will get a little more treacherous on the field once the hitting begins on Saturday.

Michael Vick got the morning session off, as is custom for the starter on this day.

– Reid revealed that newly-signed punter Mat McBriar is at 90 percent health. He had a cyst on a nerve below his left knee that created “drop-foot,” or nerve damage. He wears a brace on that leg. The vet still impressed enough to earn a shot to knock off Chas Henry.

– Rookie corner Cliff Harris has been the darling of camp so far, showing a degree of ability that put him ahead of most of the first-year players he worked alongside this week. “He did some good things,” said Reid. “Yesterday he learned a couple lessons down int he red zone. We ran the same route against him today and he broke it up, so that’s a good sign when they can learn from their mistakes.”

Eagles practice observations

Here are some practice observations from the first two days of training camp with rookies and selected veterans.

* Let’s start with who’s been here. The “selected veterans” refer to Michael Vick, Mike Kafka, Trent Edwards and Keenan Clayton. That’s pretty much it. The rest of the players are scheduled to arrive Wednesday. If you’re looking to attend a practice, Friday would probably be a good day with full-squad workouts.

* These practices, like the ones at the Novacare Complex in the spring, benefit the athletes. That’s why Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie got so much pub in May and June. He didn’t have to hit anyone and could instead show off his athleticism.

One guy who’s stuck out the last two days is rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks. Kendricks tested out extremely well in just about every category at the combine, but he had an impressive college resume too, earning Pac-12 Player of the Year honors last season. We’ll have to wait and reserve judgement to see how he holds up against the run, but he looks to have good cover skills. Yesterday, he made a nice play on the ball while matched up against tight end Chase Ford. And he was step-for-step with fullback Stanley Havili down the sideline, forcing an incompletion out of bounds.

Earlier today, I wrote about Kendricks’ height, but in the afternoon, he leaped at the line of scrimmage and batted down a Mike Kafka screen pass. Obviously still a long way to go, but Kendricks looks good so far.

* I mentioned Clayton above as one of the only veterans here. Smart move by him. The third-year player will be fighting for a roster spot. Many of the defensive coaches talked today about the need to defend some of the league’s prolific passing attacks. Clayton’s best shot at making the roster will be by proving he has the best cover skills of any of the team’s linebackers.

* I’ve fielded a lot of questions on Twitter about the undrafted free agents. Cornerback Cliff Harris has had several good moments. He intercepted a couple passes yesterday and nearly had a third today, breaking up a deep attempt intended for Damaris Johnson. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s able to make some noise in the next few weeks and compete for a backup cornerback position.

* Speaking of Johnson, he had a drop yesterday, but made a nice catch from Vick today over the middle. If he makes the team, it’ll be as a return man, but I’m sure the 5-8, 175-pound wide receiver is looking to do whatever he can to catch someone’s eye and get a shot in the league, even if it’s not with the Eagles.

You can follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.