Offseason Primer: Eagles Wide Receivers

In the next couple of weeks, we’ll take a position-by-position, player-by-player look at the Eagles’ roster. Today, we start with wide receivers.

YEAR IN REVIEW

DeSean Jackson – It’s amazing to me how polarizing Jackson has become among the fan base. We can’t write about the Eagles’ speedy receiver in this space without preparing for a heated debate in the comments section.

Here are the numbers from 2012: 45 catches, 700 yards, two touchdowns. On the surface, those are unimpressive. But we need to dig a little deeper. Jackson’s production is based on getting behind the defense and keying the vertical passing game. That becomes difficult when you have an offensive line that can’t pass-protect and quarterbacks who struggle to get the ball downfield.

If you want visual proof, check out the All-22 breakdowns from the season.

If you want numbers, here they are. Nick Foles ranked 24th in deep-ball accuracy, per Pro Football Focus. Just 35.7 percent of his passes that traveled 20+ yards were on-target. Michael Vick was even worse, ranking 26th at 35 percent.

Still, in nine games with Vick at QB, Jackson averaged 76.2 yards per game. That translates to a 1,219-yard season over 16 games. Shaky hands had been an issue for him in the past, but Jackson didn’t drop a single catchable ball in 2012, according to STATS.com.

He missed the final five games after suffering a rib injury. But it’s worth noting that Jackson missed just three games in his first four seasons due to injury.

The shortcomings have been well-documented. Jackson is never going to be a serious red-zone threat. And he’s not going to be someone who makes tough, contested catches over the middle. But he has elite speed and is only 26-years-old. Jackson sounds legitimately excited to play for Chip Kelly and is without question a key part of this offense going forward.

Jeremy Maclin – His 2012 numbers were right around his career averages: 69 catches for 857 yards and seven touchdowns. With Jackson on the field, Maclin averaged 50.4 yards per game. Without him, Maclin averaged 70.6. Fans sometime rip on him for constantly begging referees for flags, but it’s worth noting that his tactics often worked. Maclin led the NFL, drawing 134 yards worth of pass interference penalties, according to Football Outsiders. And while he sometimes gets the injury-prone label, Maclin has missed five games in four seasons – not an egregious amount.

Maclin does several things well. He had 12 catches of 20+ yards last season to lead the team, and also had eight red-zone grabs (three touchdowns). Over the last three seasons, Maclin’s found the end zone 22 times. However, he doesn’t have one specific skill that stands out as being special, and is probably not the ideal complement to Jackson. Maclin’s strength is not making tough, contested catches over the middle of the field.

Scheduled to be a free agent after the 2013 season, Maclin is only 24-years-old. The Eagles have three options in the coming months: extend him, trade him or let him play the deal out.

Jason Avant – At this point, you know what you’re getting with Avant. A tough, veteran slot receiver with great hands. Only Wes Welker (88), Randall Cobb (63) and Victor Cruz (58) had more catches in the slot than Avant (51) last season, per PFF. He’ll make “wow” plays on occasion and is reliable, even though he doesn’t have the speed or size to be a consistent playmaker. With Jackson and Maclin on the outside, the Eagles need someone to do the dirty work in between the numbers. And Avant’s been that guy.

Riley Cooper – After Jackson went down, he got a chance for increased playing time. Cooper played at least 70 percent of the snaps in each of the Eagles’ final seven games, but averaged just 29.4 yards per contest. On the season, he averaged just 10.8 yards catch, although as I mentioned above, the Eagles’ vertical passing game never got going because of shaky offensive line and quarterback play. Going forward, Cooper is probably best suited for the No. 4 WR/special-teams role. If the personnel on the roster remains the same, he could be used in special red-zone packages as well.

Damaris Johnson – He had 19 catches for 256 yards on 30 targets. Johnson showed flashes of being able to make defenders miss, averaging 5.5 yards after the catch (tops on the team). He also improved in the second half of the season as the team’s primary punt returner. Johnson will be competing for a roster spot, but could be a guy Kelly likes.

LOOKING AHEAD

Like with everything else, the key question this offseason is: What does Kelly want? And how will he best utilize his personnel?

For example, roles will change. Kelly’s gone on record as saying his wide receivers won’t play if they don’t block. As we’ve pointed out here in the past, Eagles wide receivers did a terrible job of blocking in the run game last season. That will have to change.

It’s almost a guarantee that Jackson will be used differently. What’s the plan when teams play their safeties deep against the Eagles? Kelly’s past indicates he’ll run the ball. And Jackson should see plenty of looks on WR screens. He could see touches out of the backfield as well.

The Maclin situation is an intriguing one. The guess here is that the Eagles let him play out his contract – at least to start 2013. But a trade or even an extension are possible.

I’d be surprised if the Eagles made a splash at wide receiver in free agency, although there are some intriguing names at the top of the list, like Mike Wallace, Dwayne Bowe, Greg Jennings and Wes Welker. Wallace does a lot of the same things Jackson does, although a receiver like Bowe would give the Eagles some size. In the end, those players are going to demand high price tags, and I think the Eagles have too many holes to address elsewhere. Rotoworld has a comprehensive list of all the wide receiver free agents.

If the Eagles don’t think Maclin figures into their long-term plans, they could address wide receiver in the draft. They could also consider upgrading from Avant in the slot, especially if Kelly wants someone with more speed. Some have asked about Maclin as a potential option in the slot. Per PFF, he actually played 31.6 percent of his snaps in the slot last season. But again, making contested catches in traffic is not his strong suit.

Overall, I wouldn’t expect dramatic changes to this group of wide receivers, although there’s always the chance that Kelly and Howie Roseman surprise us.

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Eagles’ Youth Provides Ray Of Hope

Philadelphia Eagles running back Bryce BrownIf you are looking to take something positive out of this season (or at least for a way to ease your despair), focus on the Eagles’ youth.

An improbable 16 players have made their NFL debuts this season and nine have made their first NFL starts. Whether earning their position outright or forced into action by injury, eight rookies — Brandon Boykin, Bryce Brown, Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry, Nick Foles,  Damaris Johnson, Dennis Kelly and Mychal Ke ndricks — have all played meaningful snaps. A few others (Chris Polk, Marvin McNutt, Ryan Rau) have had at least a taste of the action.

Here is a look at what some of them are in the process of accomplishing:

– Foles’ 1,356 passing yards ranks as the second-highest ever by an Eagles rookie (John Reaves, 1,508 in 1972). He set team rookie passing records against Tampa with 32 completions and 381 yards and already holds the record for most completions in a season (129).

– Cox is tied for the team lead in sacks with 5.5. Only Corey Simon (9.5) and Derrick Burgess (6) have recorded more sacks as rookies. He has 4.5 sacks over his last six games.

– Johnson set a new franchise record with a 98-yard punt return for a touchdown against Dallas, besting Vai Sikahema‘s 87-yarder against the Giants in 1992.

– Brown’s 347 yards in his first two starts was the second most rushing yards in consecutive games in team history, behind only Steve Van Buren‘s mark of 379 yards back in 1949. He needs 110 yards over the final two games to break LeSean McCoy‘s record for most rushing yards as a rookie. He will also hold the rookie touchdown mark with two more scores.

– Kendricks is fourth on the team in tackles (68). His nine passes defensed are more than Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen combined, and trails only Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for the team lead.

Throw in the recent surge by Brandon Graham, and there is reason to believe that the Eagles might just have a few building blocks on this roster.

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Eagles Snap Counts: Washburn’s Final Rotation

Here’s a look at Eagles snap counts from Sunday night’s loss to the Cowboys. We’ll go position-by-position.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
Bryce Brown5689%
Stanley Havili58%
Dion Lewis58%

There’s no easing Bryce Brown in at running back. Andy Reid is taking advantage of those fresh legs as the rookie played 89 percent of the team’s offensive snaps. Of course, Brown’s costly fumble came in the fourth quarter, and Reid said focusing on ball security becomes more difficult when a player is tired.

Even with LeSean McCoy out, Dion Lewis only played five snaps. And the Eagles ran mostly out of single-back sets as Stanley Havili also played five snaps.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
Jeremy Maclin6197%
Riley Cooper6298%
Jason Avant5181%
Damaris Johnson58%
Brent Celek5587%
Clay Harbor1524%

Riley Cooper got the start and played all but one snap. He made a great play on a 15-yard touchdown and also caught a slant for 16 yards early on.

Clay Harbor played 15 snaps and was a non-factor. Damaris Johnson played just five snaps on offense, but had the 98-yard punt return for a touchdown.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
Trent Cole4468%
Cullen Jenkins3757%
Mike Patterson3655%
Brandon Graham3148%
Cedric Thornton2945%
Derek Landri2843%
Darryl Tapp2437%
Fletcher Cox2031%
Vinny Curry1929%
Phillip Hunt812%

When Jim Washburn was hired, we heard all about the rotation he liked to utilize. Four men in, four men out throughout the game to keep fresh bodies going after the quarterback. With the Eagles often going with nine or 10 defensive linemen on gamedays, the rotation grew. Even though Brandon Graham got the start, he played just 48 percent of the team’s snaps. Graham produced with 1.5 sacks and four quarterback hits. Vinny Curry played 19 snaps. That number should increase down the stretch.

With Washburn out, it’ll be interesting to see if the Eagles continue to rotate linemen or just play their best guys more. Players like Graham, Fletcher Cox and Curry could surely benefit from more playing time in the final four games.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
DeMeco Ryans6498%
Mychal Kendricks6397%
Akeem Jordan2945%
Casey Matthews812%

Nothing really noteworthy at linebacker. Casey Matthews saw some snaps when DeMeco Ryans went down briefly and was also on the field in goal-line and short-yardage situations.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
Nnamdi Asomugha6092%
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie5686%
Brandon Boykin2742%
Curtis Marsh46%
Nate Allen6498%
Kurt Coleman5585%

This group continues to be a complete disaster. As I mentioned last week, we’re looking at a complete overhaul in 2013. Reid was asked if the backups deserve a shot at this point, but the truth is, the Eagles don’t have a lot of talented young players at either cornerback or safety. Curtis Marsh could maybe see some added snaps, but beyond that? Who’s he going to play? David Sims?

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Eagles Snap Counts: DL Rotation Without Babin

Here’s a look at snap counts for the Eagles during their Week 12 loss to the Panthers. We’ll go position-by-position.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
Bryce Brown4182%
Stanley Havili1224%
Dion Lewis816%

Even though he hadn’t had 15+ carries since high school, Bryce Brown carried the load in his first career start. He played the same number of snaps LeSean McCoy normally plays and had 23 touches, including 19 carries, for an Eagles rookie record 178 yards. There were of course the two costly fumbles in the second half, but Brown was one of the few players fans could get excited about.

Dion Lewis had five carries for 24 yards, but played just eight snaps. Stanley Havili had one catch and played 12 snaps.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
Jeremy Maclin4998%
Damaris Johnson4080%
Riley Cooper3672%
DeSean Jackson1224%
Brent Celek4386%
Clay Harbor918%

DeSean Jackson left the game in the first quarter, and Jason Avant was inactive because of a hamstring injury. That left the Eagles with just three healthy receivers (newcomer Greg Salas didn’t dress). Behind Jeremy Maclin, Damaris Johnson saw the most action with 40 snaps. Johnson and Riley Cooper combined for just three catches and 20 yards.

I guess we’re seeing what this coaching staff thinks of Clay Harbor. Even though the Eagles only had three healthy receivers, Harbor played just nine snaps and was not targeted.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
Trent Cole4669%
Mike Patterson4466%
Jason Babin4060%
Cullen Jenkins3958%
Brandon Graham3045%
Cedric Thornton2639%
Derek Landri2334%
Vinny Curry2131%
Fletcher Cox57%
Darryl Tapp11%

With Jason Babin out, Brandon Graham figures to take over with the first team at left defensive end. Vinny Curry dressed for the first time all season and had five tackles on 21 snaps yesterday. He played right defensive end, but could also get a shot on the left side with Graham. Darryl Tapp was the odd man out yesterday, and Phillip Hunt was inactive. Tapp won’t be here next year. Graham and Curry figure to see a bump in playing time. And Hunt could get back in the mix too.

Mike Patterson is one of the few good stories on this team. Not only is he back on the field, but with Cox going down with an injury, Patterson played starter’s snaps and had a sack.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
DeMeco Ryans67100%
Mychal Kendricks6597%
Akeem Jordan2842%
Casey Matthews11%

Nothing really to say about the linebackers. The Eagles were in their base defense with Akeem Jordan on 42 percent of the snaps.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
Nnamdi Asomugha6699%
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie6699%
Brandon Boykin3451%
Curtis Marsh23%
Nate Allen67100%
Kurt Coleman6699%

Issues continue in the secondary as Kurt Coleman and Brandon Boykin appeared to be responsible for the two early touchdowns. At some point, perhaps the unknowns like Curtis Marsh and David Sims will get an opportunity.

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Making Sense Of the Eagles’ Inactives

The following Eagles are inactive for tonight’s matchup against the Carolina Panthers: Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, Chris Polk, Jason Avant, Greg Salas, Nate Menkin and Phillip Hunt.

Nick Foles will make his second career start as Vick continues to recover from a concussion he suffered against the Cowboys two weeks ago.

McCoy is recovering from a concussion he suffered in the final two minutes of the Redskins game last week. Bryce Brown, a seventh-round pick, will get his first start of the season. He is averaging 4.4 yards per carry on the season. Dion Lewis and Stanley Havili should see some action too. Chris Polk is out with a toe injury.

Avant is out for the second straight game with a hamstring injury. That means more time for Riley Cooper and Damaris Johnson. The Eagles signed Salas and released Mardy Gilyard this week, but Salas is inactive.

On the defensive line, Vinny Curry is active for the first time all season. But the Eagles still have five defensive ends (Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Brandon Graham, Darryl Tapp, Curry) active. So we’ll see how much of the field the second-round pick actually sees.

The offensive line will be Dennis Kelly (RT), Jake Scott (RG), Dallas Reynolds (center), Evan Mathis (left guard) and King Dunlap (left tackle). Danny Watkins is active, but he’s not starting for the second consecutive game. Scott was at home watching a couple weeks ago. He had three penalties in his first start, but otherwise played well.

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RB, WR, TE Review: Maclin’s Future With the Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jeremy MaclinHere’s a review of how the Eagles running backs, wide receivers and tight ends performed against the Redskins on Sunday:

LeSean McCoy – He suffered the concussion late in the game. Prior to that, McCoy carried 15 times for 45 yards. But he had his most effective game in a long time as a receiver with six catches for 67 yards. The Eagles had a perfect call as he took a screen 20 yards in the first. Two plays later, they ran a fake wide-receiver screen and then came back to McCoy for 25 yards. He has to do a better job of taking care of the football. McCoy now has four fumbles on the season. He had three total in 2010 and 2011 combined. Ups and downs as a blocker. Good blitz pickup on Nick Foles’ first interception. And again on Foles’ 21-yard completion to Damaris Johnson in the second. Poor job picking up linebacker Keenan Robinson on Foles’ second interception. McCoy blocked Ryan Kerrigan to the ground in pass protection in the fourth. But there were issues. The Redskins showed blitz on 3rd-and-9 in the red zone, but only rushed four. That left McCoy on Kerrigan one-on-one, and he gave up a sack/forced fumble. He could not hold his block on third down in the fourth as Foles was forced to scramble and throw the ball away. It looked like McCoy was in position to help Dallas Reynolds after Barry Cofield went right around him, but he didn’t get there, and Foles took a huge hit.

Bryce Brown – If McCoy’s out, he figures to be the primary back. Brown ran five times for 35 yards against the Redskins. He had a nice 13-yard run to the right side in the second and later broke a couple tackles for an 18-yard run (but Jeremy Maclin was called for holding). In his last three games, Brown has carried 12 times for 85 yards (7.1 YPC). He’s getting better as the season’s going on, which makes sense, considering how little he’d played in the past couple of years.

Stanley Havili – A 9-yard catch and run in the first. That was it.

DeSean Jackson – The Eagles had no success getting him the football. Jackson had two catches for 5 yards, and those both came on wide receiver screens. It looked like he might have had a chance at a big play down the right sideline, but Foles’ pass floated out of bounds. Foles looked for him deep against a blitz in the fourth, but Jackson was covered. He did a horrible job as a blocker on one play, not even attempting to block Brandon Meriweather on McCoy’s run that was stopped after a 1-yard gain in the second.

Jeremy Maclin – Zero catches on two targets. We’ll need to wait for the All-22 to see if he was open and just not getting the ball. Decent block on the WR screen to Riley Cooper that picked up 15 in the first. He was called for holding on Brown’s 18-yard run in the second. And Maclin took a big hit on an ill-advised Foles throw in the fourth.

But with Maclin, the bigger picture is intriguing. He’s only signed through the 2013 season and then is scheduled to become a free agent. The new coach is going to determine the Eagles’ identity on offense. Maybe he’ll decide to go to more two tight end looks. Maybe he’ll want to run the ball more. Maybe he’ll decide the Eagles need a bigger, physical receiver to complement Jackson. Or maybe he’ll see a lot of untapped potential in Maclin. We just don’t know. The Eagles could let Maclin play out his contract and decide what to do with him after 2013. They could sign him to an extension this offseason. Or they could at least see what kind of interest there might be in Maclin for a possible trade. Unless the Eagles extend him this offseason, it makes sense for them to consider using an early draft pick on a wide receiver in April.

Riley Cooper – He finished with five catches for 61 yards. Cooper picked up 15 yards on a WR screen on third down in the first. He also had a 23-yard catch and run in the first, but dropped a 10-yard out in the fourth. Good effort as a blocker on the 20-yard screen to McCoy in the second.

Damaris Johnson – His lone catch was a 21-yarder on 3rd-and-17 in the second. Terrible job as a blocker, allowing DeAngelo Hall to go right past him and drop McCoy for a 5-yard loss in the fourth. Johnson had a 16-yard punt return, one of his best of the year.

Brent Celek – Drops continue to be an issue. Celek had the ball bounce off his hands on the interception in the first. And he had another drop on 3rd-and-5 in the second. On the season, Celek’s got seven drops, tied for fourth-most in the league, per STATS, Inc. He did a good job as a blocker on the 8-yard screen to Jackson. But Celek did a poor job on linebacker Rob Jackson on a McCoy run that was stopped after a 2-yard gain.

Clay Harbor – He didn’t exactly seize the opportunity either. Harbor had two drops and one catch for -1 yards. It’s tough to know what his responsibility was, but Harbor was the only player who had a chance of blocking Hall on the bootleg to open the game, and he was late getting to the cornerback. He gave good effort as a blocker on Brown’s 5-yard run in the first. And Harbor delivered a good block on Kerrigan on Brown’s 13-yard run in the first. Foles targeted him on a bootleg in the second, and it looked like Harbor was open. Either he tripped, or Foles just misfired.

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Injury Updates: Allen, Jenkins And Patterson

Nate Allen did not practice again on Saturday because of a hamstring strain and is officially listed as questionable for Monday night’s matchup against the New Orleans Saints. Andy Reid said Allen will travel with the team and be a game-time decision.

If he can’t go, David Sims will get the start. The Eagles acquired Sims from the Browns before the season. He’s never played a defensive snap in the NFL and could be faced with trying to deal with Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense in his first action.

Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins is listed as questionable with a knee injury, but he practiced, and Reid didn’t seem concerned about him possibly being held out.

Mike Patterson, meanwhile, very well could see his first action of the season. Patterson has been practicing with the team all week, and the Eagles have until Sunday at 4 p.m. to make a roster move, although Reid said they would likely make that decision today. If Patterson plays, he’ll likely be eased back in to the defensive line rotation.

Mardy Gilyard and Danny Watkins have both already been ruled out. Damaris Johnson is expected to resume punt-returning duties, and rookie Dennis Kelly will make his second straight start at right guard. Aside from a couple issues, Kelly held his own last week against the Falcons.

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Making Sense Of the Eagles’ Inactives

Philadelphia Eagles right guard Danny Watkins.The following Eagles are inactive for today’s 1 p.m. game against the Falcons: Trent Edwards, Damaris Johnson, Dion Lewis, Jamar Chaney, Danny Watkins, Nate Menkin and Vinny Curry.

The inactives are the same as a couple weeks ago against the Lions, except for Watkins (Steve Vallos didn’t dress in that game).

Starting in Watkins’ place is 6-8 rookie Dennis Kelly. Watkins missed practice on Thursday and Friday with an ankle injury that Andy Reid described as “chronic.”

“Danny has kind of a chronic ankle and he has had it for years,” Reid said after Friday’s practice. “He disturbed it in the last game and he thought it would be fine, and it didn’t work out. He came back Monday and practiced, Wednesday he practiced and he just didn’t feel right. So back him up and let the thing settle down.”

The backups on the offensive line are also worth mentioning. Demetress Bell, who started the previous four games, is your swing tackle. King Dunlap gets the start at LT. And Matt Tennant, whom the team just signed last week, is the backup guard/center.

Elsewhere offensively, Lewis continues to be an inactive. He’s only dressed for one game this season. Johnson is inactive for the second straight game. Riley Cooper will be the team’s fourth wide receiver. Mardy Gilyard and DeSean Jackson will handle punt-return duties.

On the defensive side of the ball, Phillip Hunt was questionable, but he’ll play. There was a chance that rookie second-round pick Vinny Curry would dress for the first time this season, but that won’t happen.

Be sure to join me and Tim for a live chat during the game at 1 p.m.

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Eagles Rookie Progress Report

Today seems like a good day to check in on the progress of the Eagles’ rookie class. Here’s a player-by-player rundown:

Fletcher Cox – At this point in the season, he looks like the team’s best defensive tackle. Cox is a handful for opposing offenses against the run, and he leads all Eagles linemen with 23 tackles (15 solo). As a pass-rusher, he’s been far less consistent, but Cox has still shown flashes (14 hurries overall) – specifically against the Giants (five hurries) and Ravens (four hurries). Cox’s lone sack came in the opener. The same production was not there against the Steelers, and Cox got thrown out of the Lions game for throwing a punch on a special-teams play. No one was expecting him to be perfect from Day 1, but Cox appears to have a Pro Bowl ceiling. He isn’t a starter, but Cox plays more snaps than Derek Landri every week. The key in the final 10 will be consistency as an interior pass-rusher, something the Eagles have not had in the past few games.

Mychal Kendricks – He’s had a few miscues here and there, but overall, Kendricks has lived up to expectations and provided an upgrade at the SAM linebacker spot. He rarely comes off the field (93.2 percent of the snaps, per Pro Football Focus) and has 32 tackles (24 solo) on the season. The Eagles are eighth in the league at covering opposing tight ends, per Football Outsiders. And they are seventh against opposing running backs, after finishing 29th last year. The upgrade at linebacker has a lot to do with that. Going forward, Kendricks can continue to hone his coverage skills, specifically as a zone defender. Against the run, he’s had some issues getting off blocks in the last couple games. But overall, Kendricks looks like a player who should only get better, especially if he keeps hanging around DeMeco Ryans.

Vinny Curry - The second-round pick had a pretty good preseason but has not been active for a single game yet. We knew the defensive line was the deepest part of the team entering the season, but considering Jim Washburn’s group has underperformed, Curry could see some snaps in the coming weeks.

Brandon Boykin – Because the Eagles have Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the outside, opposing quarterbacks have targeted Boykin quite a bit when he’s in the game. He’s had some rookie growing pains, but overall, has played well. As others have pointed out, he needs to improve his feel for where to be when the Eagles are in zone (analysis here by Tim). Boykin had been playing exclusively inside until last week when he saw some snaps outside as the Lions moved Calvin Johnson to the slot. We’ll see how much he can improve in the final 10 games working with Todd Bowles. Overall, Boykin has played 55.7 percent of the team’s snaps.

Nick Foles – He had a great preseason, but has not seen the field yet through six games. Of course, last week Andy Reid refused initially to commit to Michael Vick as the team’s starting quarterback. Foles is a great unknown, but if Vick continues to turn the ball over at the current rate, the rookie could get a chance in the coming weeks.

Dennis Kelly – The coaching staff seems to like him, but Kelly has only played three snaps this season. He’s been active for five games. In the preseason, he played both tackle and guard. Considering the offensive line’s struggles through six games, don’t be shocked if Kelly gets a shot to start at some point.

Bryce Brown – The coaches clearly like his potential as they rewarded Brown with the No. 2 running back spot at the beginning of the season. He’s played 13.7 percent of the team’s offensive snaps, but has not made much of an impact. Brown has 51 yards on 19 carries (2.7 YPC) and one catch for 8 yards. He’s also probably the team’s worst pass-blocker. The Eagles will have to decide what they want to do with Dion Lewis. Considering Brown only played in three college games after 2009, the guess is we might be a year away from knowing what kind of player he’s going to be. For now, he’s still listed as the team’s No. 2 back.

Chris Polk – The Eagles kept him on the roster after training camp, but Polk hasn’t done much so far. He has not been on the field for any offensive snaps, and as Sam Lynch pointed out recently, he has not been a productive special-teams player either. Polk has been active for five of six games. I’m not sure both he and Lewis will stay on the roster the entire season.

Damaris Johnson - Through five games, he served as the team’s fourth wide receiver and No. 1 punt returner. Johnson was fine as a receiver (8 catches for 124 yards), but has given up that role to Riley Cooper, who was active last week for the first time. Cooper provides size at wide-out, something the Eagles don’t have elsewhere on the roster. Johnson’s role as a punt returner is up in the air. He fielded a steady dose of fair catches and failed to produce a return longer than 13 yards. Last week, Mardy Gilyard took over return duties with an assist from DeSean Jackson.

Nate Menkin – The Eagles signed him off waivers from the Houston Texans, but Menkin has not been active for a game yet. It appears he’s more of a developmental project at guard/tackle, and it’s unlikely he gets on the field this season.

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Making Sense Of the Eagles’ Inactives

The following Eagles are inactive for today’s 1 p.m. game against the Lions: Trent Edwards, Damaris Johnson, Dion Lewis, Jamar Chaney, Steve Vallos, Nate Menkin and Vinny Curry.

Johnson’s out, and Riley Cooper will be active for the first time all season. Cooper suffered a fractured collarbone during training camp. He’ll be the team’s fourth wide receiver and contribute on special teams.

The other notable part about Johnson sitting is that it opens up the punt returner spot. It seems likely that DeSean Jackson would be back there, something that Bobby April talked about earlier this weekMardy Gilard could get a shot too. Johnson had fielded nine fair catches and failed to notch a return longer than 13 yards in the first five games.

At running back, Lewis is inactive after dressing for the first time all year against the Steelers. Taking his place on the gameday roster will be Chris Polk, who was active for the first four games before sitting against Pittsburgh.

On the offensive line, Vallos is once again inactive, meaning Evan Mathis is your backup center should Dallas Reynolds go down. Dennis Kelly and King Dunlap are the team’s backup linemen. Both are tackles, but each has played guard in the past.

On the defensive side of the ball, Chaney is inactive for the first time in two seasons. Chaney started the last two games for Akeem Jordan, but Jordan returns today at the WILL spot. Jason Williams, whom the team signed during the week to play special teams, is active.

No other surprises on the defensive side of the ball. Curry, a second-round pick, has yet to dress this season.

As for the Lions, they’ll get safety Louis Delmas back for the first time all season. Defensive end Cliff Avril, who was listed as questionable, will also dress.

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