Making Sense Of the Eagles’ Inactives

Vinny CurryThe following Eagles are inactive for tonight’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs: QB Matt Barkley, CB Roc Carmichael, CB Jordan Poyer, OT Matt Tobin, OT Dennis Kelly, DL Damion Square and tight end Emil Igwenagu.

Most noteworthy is the player whose name is not listed above: Vinny Curry.

The 2012 second-round pick didn’t dress in either of the Eagles’ first two games, but he’ll give it a go tonight. Chip Kelly and company had maintained that Curry’s standing had more to do with the opponent than anything else. Perhaps expecting a pass-happy attack from the Chiefs, they decided to activate Curry.

The other factor is that Square played poorly last week against the Chargers.

Curry will presumably rotate in with Clifton Geathers and Bennie Logan on the second-team defensive line.

Meanwhile, in the secondary, Poyer, a seventh-round pick, is inactive for the first time. Taking his place is Prater, whom the team added after the preseason. He’ll be the Eagles’ fourth corner behind Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher and Brandon Boykin. Safety Patrick Chung has also played some slot corner in three-safety looks.

For the third straight game, the Eagles go with two QBs in Michael Vick and Nick Foles. They have two backups active on the offensive line: Allen Barbre at guard/tackle and Julian Vandervelde at center.

Jeff Maehl is once again the team’s fifth wide receiver.And on the other sideline, starting cornerback Brandon Flowers is active. He had been listed as questionable with a knee injury.

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Making Sense Of the Eagles’ Inactives

Vinny CurryThe following Eagles are inactive for tonight’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs: QB Matt Barkley, CB Roc Carmichael, CB Jordan Poyer, OT Matt Tobin, OT Dennis Kelly, DL Damion Square and tight end Emil Igwenagu.

Most noteworthy is the player whose name is not listed above: Vinny Curry.

The 2012 second-round pick didn’t dress in either of the Eagles’ first two games, but he’ll give it a go tonight. Chip Kelly and company had maintained that Curry’s standing had more to do with the opponent than anything else. Perhaps expecting a pass-happy attack from the Chiefs, they decided to activate Curry.

The other factor is that Square played poorly last week against the Chargers.

Curry will presumably rotate in with Clifton Geathers and Bennie Logan on the second-team defensive line.

Meanwhile, in the secondary, Poyer, a seventh-round pick, is inactive for the first time. Taking his place is Prater, whom the team added after the preseason. He’ll be the Eagles’ fourth corner behind Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher and Brandon Boykin. Safety Patrick Chung has also played some slot corner in three-safety looks.

For the third straight game, the Eagles go with two QBs in Michael Vick and Nick Foles. They have two backups active on the offensive line: Allen Barbre at guard/tackle and Julian Vandervelde at center.

Jeff Maehl is once again the team’s fifth wide receiver.And on the other sideline, starting cornerback Brandon Flowers is active. He had been listed as questionable with a knee injury.

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Game Review: Eagles Defense Vs. Chargers Offense

Fletcher CoxIf you missed the game review on the Eagles’ offense, click here.

Here’s what we saw from the ‘D’ after having re-watched Sunday’s contest.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

* The Eagles used three-down fronts and four-down fronts. They blitzed, and they dropped eight into coverage. Nothing worked. Philip Rivers carved them up, completing 36 of 47 passes for 419 yards and three touchdowns.

* In last year’s scheme, Fletcher Cox looked like he had a Pro Bowl ceiling. So far in this year’s scheme, he’s been pretty quiet, although Cox did have some moments in the second half. He stopped Danny Woodhead for no gain in the third. He got some pressure on Rivers on third down in the fourth and hit Rivers on the final drive. But through two games in the Eagles’ two-gap 3-4, Cox has not been a difference-maker.

* There were stretches on Sunday where the Eagles just got pushed around up front. Isaac Sopoaga has been a non-factor. He was double-teamed to the ground on Woodhead’s 4-yard run in the second. His backup, Damion Square, was no better. Square got double-teamed to the ground on Ryan Mathews’ 6-yard run in the second and again on the very next play. He was blocked easily on Ronnie Brown’s 8-yard run in the third.

* Cedric Thornton had a couple good moments. He dropped Brown after a 3-yard run in the third and tackled Mathews after a 1-yard run in the fourth. Didn’t see anything from him as a pass-rusher though.

* Rookie Bennie Logan had a strong preseason, but has been quiet so far. He was caught upfield on a delayed handoff in the second that gained 6 yards. Logan made a nice play against the run in the fourth, tackling Woodhead after a 4-yard pickup. He played 27 snaps and didn’t do much as a pass-rusher.

* Clifton Geathers played 14 snaps and didn’t do much. He was blocked on Woodhead’s 8-yard run in the fourth.

* I charted the number of pass-rushers Billy Davis used throughout the game:

Number Of Rushers
Number Of Plays
Completions
Attempts
Yards
353533
4191417175
5151113119
61271181
711111

As you can see, nothing really worked. When the Eagles rushed three or four, Rivers was 17-for-22 for 208 yards (77.3 completion percentage, 9.5 YPA) with one scramble and one pass interference penalty.

When they blitzed with five or more, Rivers was 19-for-25 for 211 yards (76 percent, 8.4 YPA) with two defensive penalties and one sack.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

* Connor Barwin played pretty well, with a few exceptions. He caught rookie right tackle D.J. Fluker off-balance, bull-rushed him and picked up the Eagles’ only sack in the first. He had a good edge rush on third down in the second and hit Rivers as he completed a pass to Woodhead. Against the run, Barwin did a poor job of setting the edge on a 10-yard Mathews run in the first. He did a much better job the rest of the game and dropped Mathews for a 2-yard loss in the first. In coverage, Barwin got beat by Woodhead on a 3rd-and-4 completion on the final drive. Had he forced an incompletion there, it would have been a 54-yard field goal attempt.

* Trent Cole was one of the Eagles’ more active defenders. He rushed off the right edge in the second and hit Rivers. He pressured Rivers in the second, but Cary Williams was called for pass interference. Great hustle in the third, pressuring Rivers and then assisting on a tackle after the QB dumped the ball off to Brown. In the fourth, Cole hit Rivers from behind and forced an incompletion. Against the run, Cole stopped Mathews after a 4-yard gain. He tripped Mathews up after a 3-yard run in the second and drew a holding penalty on the next play. Down in the red zone, Cole forced a fumble for the second straight week. On 41 passing downs, Cole only dropped in coverage twice, per Pro Football Focus. He lined up at right outside linebacker, right defensive end and a couple other spots.

* Casey Matthews came in and played four snaps at outside linebacker behind Barwin.

* Update: As a sign of just how small Brandon Graham’s role is in this defense, I’ll admit I didn’t have a single note on him from this game. Graham played 16 snaps and was a non-factor. Per PFF, on 11 passing downs, he dropped twice and rushed nine times. Given that Cole and Barwin are two of the defenders playing well, I’m not sure Graham is going to see a bump any time soon.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

* DeMeco Ryans was active, finishing with nine tackles (six solo). Great effort on a second-quarter play. Ryans blitzed, didn’t get home and then pursued Woodhead, tackling him after a 2-yard reception. He got juked badly on Eddie Royal’s 15-yard touchdown in the fourth, running right past the wide receiver. The Eagles sent Ryans on inside blitzes all game long (19 times, per PFF), and he never got home. That was an issue throughout.

* Mychal Kendricks had a day to forget. Tight end Antonio Gates took the second-year player to school. Kendricks got beaten by Gates and missed a tackle on a 21-yard catch and run in the first. Same story on a 14-yard gain in the second. On a big 3rd-and-4 in the third, Gates beat Kendricks for a 7-yard gain. And Gates caught a 6-yarder on 3rd-and-3 against Kendricks in the fourth. Kendricks is the Eagles’ best cover linebacker, but he had issues all game long. Against the run, he was up and down. Kendricks got blocked on Mathews’ 7-yard run in the first. It looked like he tripped on Mathews’ 20-yard run in the first. And he got blocked on an 8-yard Woodhead run in the fourth.

There were some good moments. He got off his block and tackled Woodhead after a 2-yard run in the first. He stopped Mathews after a 3-yard run in the third and dropped him after a 1-yard run. Overall, though, Kendricks struggled.

CORNERBACKS

* Cary Williams also had a day to forget. Three pass interferences – an 18-yarder, a 9-yarder and another that was declined because it was an 18-yard completion anyway. That last one came on 3rd-and-6 in the third. Have to check the All-22, but I believe the 24-yard TD to Royal was on Williams. The Eagles appeared to be in quarters coverage, and because Rivers held on to the ball so long, Williams cheated over to a receiver towards the middle of the field.

* Brandon Boykin wasn’t perfect, but he competed throughout. The second-year corner was targeted all game long and gave up at least four completions. In the second, Royal beat him on a wheel route for 21 yards on 3rd-and-7. And in the fourth, Boykin gave up a 16-yard completion on 3rd-and-7. He broke up a pass down the right sideline in the second and broke up a third-down pass in the third. Boykin also made a great hustle play, chasing Gates down and forcing a fumble in the red zone in the first half.

* Brandon Hughes played 22 snaps and suffered a hamstring injury. I actually only noticed him get targeted once – a 31-yarder to Malcom Floyd down the sideline in the second.

* Eagles safeties continued to struggle. Patrick Chung was called for a huge defensive holding penalty on 3rd-and-4 in the third. The Chargers would have had to punt, but instead, their drive was extended and they took 8:55 off the clock before kicking a field goal. On that same drive, Chung got matched up with Royal and gave up a 12-yard completion on 3rd-and-6. He tried to strip the ball instead of making the tackle and gave up extra yardage. Chung had a couple good plays against the run, including a stop in the third after a 2-yard Mathews run.

* Yet another day to forget for Nate Allen. Where to begin? The Chargers crossed their receivers, and he lost Royal on an 11-yard touchdown in the first half. Allen was blocked/tackled by King Dunlap on the 15-yard screen TD to Royal in the fourth. He got stiff-armed and was called for a face-mask penalty on a Mathews run in the first. He was slow to react on a 19-yard completion to Floyd in the first. Woodhead beat him for a 5-yard completion on 3rd-and-3 in the first. Gates got him for a 15-yard completion on the final drive. And Allen missed a tackle on Gates on a 21-yard catch and run on the very next play. At this point, it’s a matter of when, not if, Allen is yanked from the starting lineup.

* The problem is the coaches don’t feel Earl Wolff is ready. He too was late coming up on a 17-yard completion to Floyd in the second. Gates caught a ball down the seam in front of him for 16 yards. Wolff got matched up with Gates and allowed a 24-yard catch.

But when reviewing the game, I noticed Wolff had some good moments. He assisted in run support, helping to take Mathews down for a 2-yard loss in the first. He dropped Mathews after a 4-yard run in the third. He cleaned up on Royal after Chung missed a tackle in the fourth. And he broke up a pass intended for Gates in the end zone in the fourth. From the outside looking in, the move would seem to be to throw Wolff out there and let him take his lumps. But obviously, the coaches see him every day. He played 49 snaps.

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Game Review: Eagles Defense Vs. Redskins Offense

Mychal Kendricks 1If you missed the offense, click here. Below is the position-by-position review of the Eagles’ defensive performance against the Redskins, after having re-watched the game.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

* The starting defensive line from left to right was Cedric Thornton, Isaac Sopoaga and Fletcher Cox. Cox moved around a bit in nickel, sometimes playing left defensive end. A big hole opened up between him and Trent Cole in the first as Alfred Morris picked up 15. But Cox gave great effort on the play and eventually chased him down. He didn’t do much as a pass-rusher until late. Cox got free on a big blitz in the fourth and crushed Robert Griffin III. He later sacked Griffin when the Eagles used just a three-man rush.

* Thornton had a good second half too. He hustled from the back side, dropping Morris for a 2-yard loss and later charged through a double-team on the play where DeMeco Ryans sacked Griffin. Thornton also used his length, batting down a pass at the line of scrimmage. He missed a tackle on a 3rd-and-1 in the fourth, but otherwise played well.

* Tough to grade Sopoaga without the All-22 (not released yet). But he drew a holding penalty on a run play in the third and chased Griffin to the sideline on an incompletion later in the quarter.

* The backups from left to right were Clifton Geathers, Damion Square and Bennie Logan. Geathers got good pressure on two occasions, once fighting a double team and forcing Griffin to scramble. Logan blew up a stretch play in the third as Mychal Kendricks finished the tackle after a 1-yard run. Logan also played some nose tackle and drew a holding penalty in the third.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

* In case you were wondering, Trent Cole was still a beast upon re-watch. The Eagles’ right outside linebacker owned the first half. He flew in from the back side and forced a Morris fumble early on. He jumped on Morris in the end zone to notch a safety. He dropped Morris for no gain on a zone-read play. He came flying in at Griffin and hit him as a pass-rusher. He slipped past the fullback and dropped Morris for no gain. And he tackled Griffin after a scramble on third down, forcing a punt. That was all in the first half.

* Cole dropped 23.8 percent of the time on pass plays, per Pro Football Focus. His best option in coverage might be to drill the opposing receiver. That’s what he did on one play in the third, forcing the receiver to the ground within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. Cole hit Griffin on a play-action pass in the third and closed in on the play where Cox got a sack. Cole gets this week’s award for “player who most exceeded expectations.”

* Connor Barwin also played really well. The Eagles’ primary goal was to limit the Redskins’ ground game early on. Barwin forced Morris out of bounds for a 3-yard loss in the first. He stood up over the center and rushed the QB on the Brandon Boykin interception. He hustled to bring down Pierre Garcon after a 5-yard gain on a screen. And Barwin pressured Griffin on at least four occasions. Really strong debut.

* Brandon Graham played 19 snaps. On 14 passing plays, he never dropped back. Looked a lot more like a nickel pass-rusher than a 3-4 outside linebacker to me. We’ll wee if that continues. Graham set the edge on a Morris run that was dropped for a 2-yard loss and pressured Griffin on two occasions.

* Casey Matthews mixed in for three snaps, and it looked like he was actually playing outside linebacker.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

* Mychal Kendricks was everywhere. All signs point to a big second-year leap out of him. He flew to the ball and knocked Morris out of bounds for a 3-yard loss early on. Kendricks did a great job to avoid blockers and tackle Morris on a first-quarter screen. His versatility was on full display. Kendricks blitzed seven times, per PFF. He rushed unblocked in the second and crushed Griffin, forcing him into an intentional grounding. And Kendricks leveled Griffin again in the third. On the Cary Williams interception, Kendricks dropped back as a safety. Outstanding performance overall.

* DeMeco Ryans was solid too. He blitzed and knocked over the left guard on a play-action pass in the third and sacked Griffin later in the quarter.

* Jake Knott mixed in a little as well. It looked like Kendricks might have had an equipment issue at one point.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

* It’s difficult to gauge their play based on TV tape. But I didn’t see either Williams or Bradley Fletcher give up a completion in man coverage. There were a few times when they were dropping in zone and allowed receptions in front of them. But that seemed to be the design of the defense. Definitely did not see that performance coming from the starting corners.

* Williams came flying in on a corner blitz and sacked Griffin in the second. He made a fantastic interception near the sideline in the third and broke up a deep fourth-down pass late. Great performance from Employee 26.

* Fletcher was really good too. He made two good plays on the ball, forcing incompletions and once had a little luck on his side as the receiver dropped the ball. Fletcher suffered a concussion, and his status for this weekend is up in the air.

* Brandon Boykin got picked on quite a bit. No one’s confirming, but he may been a little banged-up. Boykin blitzed five times, the most of any defensive back. He played the slot, but then moved outside when Williams and Fletcher got dinged-up in the second half. Boykin would likely play the outside if Fletcher can’t go this week.

* Rookie Jordan Poyer played 17 snaps in the slot and got picked on. It looked like the 10-yard Leonard Hankerson TD was on him, and Poyer also allowed a 5-yard completion on 3rd-and-2. He had trouble getting off his block on a screen to Pierre Garcon that picked up 17.

* Safety is impossible to assess off TV tape, but the Eagles did not give up a completion that traveled more than 20 yards from the line of scrimmage until the Redskins’ final drive. The game-plan once they got the lead seemed to be to blitz and keep all receptions in front of them.

* Overall, Billy Davis dialed up a lot of blitzes. Per Stats, Inc., the Eagles blitzed Griffin 29 times on 56 dropbacks, or 51.8 percent of the time. On those plays, he was 13-for-26 (50 percent) for 121 yards (4.7 YPA). Griffin was sacked twice and took off once.

* Patrick Chung seemed to hold up fine until that fourth-quarter touchdown. “Needs to have better ball skills than that,” said Jon Gruden on the play. Earl Wolff played seven snaps, but mostly, it’s going to be Chung and Nate Allen early on.

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Ten Takeaways From Howie Roseman

Vinny CurryYesterday, we took a look at what Howie Roseman had to say about Danny Watkins. But the Eagles’ GM touched on a variety of other topics during a session with reporters at the NovaCare Complex.

Here are 10 items that stood out.

1. The Eagles only have three outside linebackers on the roster: Connor Barwin, Trent Cole and Brandon Graham. Barwin is the only true 3-4 OLB among that group. Chip Kelly and Roseman parted ways with Chris McCoy, Everette Brown and Travis Long. When asked for his thoughts on the Eagles’ depth at that spot, Roseman provided an interesting response.

“We look at a guy like Vinny Curry, and you talk about a guy who can rush the passer,” Roseman said. “If he stood up, he can set the edge. He can do some of the things that the outside linebacker does.”

Curry bulked up in the offseason and has been practicing all summer at defensive end.

“And then when you talk about a Casey Matthews possibly if you got in a bind in a game, he could play outside,” Roseman said. “When Chip talked about the versatility of the back of the roster, we didn’t want to duplicate a lot of skills. So that’s what made some of the choices at the back of the roster, maybe some guys who played well in the preseason but maybe they were duplicating the skills that some of the guys we had. Did it make sense to keep them or try to find guys that did some different things?”

The guess here is that the Eagles will be looking for outside linebacker help from other teams.

2. I mentioned Cole above. Roseman might have offered a hint about how the veteran will be used in the regular season.

“A lot of times, what you see in preseason is working on not only the things they do well, but also the weaknesses to get a sense of what guys can really do,” he said. “As you know, things change during the regular season.”

According to Pro Football Focus, Cole was on the field for 41 passing downs in the preseason, and he dropped back into coverage 39 percent of the time. Given that he didn’t exactly look comfortable doing so, perhaps Roseman is suggesting Cole will be more of a pass-rusher in the regular season. We’ll find out shortly.

3. As for the roster overall, expect the team to be active in the next few days.

“We’ll continue to look for ways to upgrade this team,” Roseman said. “So, as we sit here, it’s a constant evaluation. It’s a constant evaluation of the back of the roster. If we have opportunities to continue to add some young players that we think will help our team, if we get that opportunity, we’re gonna look at it.

“We’re prepared. We have a draft board set up. We’ve spent an inordinate amount of time on guys that we thought would be on the bubble. And so we’ve just gotta see who’s really out there.”

4. One area to keep an eye on is cornerback. The Eagles went heavy with six: Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Curtis Marsh, Brandon Hughes and Jordan Poyer.

“You want to put your coach in position to win games here in the early part of the year,” Roseman said. “You’ve got a couple guys who are coming back from some injuries and haven’t played in a little bit. And then you talked about Poyer. And Poyer was affected by not having the offseason. You saw that he kept coming on, not only in games, but in practice. He’s instinctive, he’s tough, he’s physical, he’s got size to him. So we just felt like he was a guy we wanted to grow with and have here. Obviously, you look at the numbers there and you see six corners and there’s some uncertainty just because you’ve got to have availability at that spot.”

Marsh and Hughes both suffered hand injuries in the preseason, but Roseman said they’re “not long-term injuries at all.” He indicated that the team expects both guys back “shortly.”

5. The Eagles have nine players on the roster left from the 2010 and 2011 drafts: Curtis Marsh, Casey Matthews, Alex Henery, Julian Vandervelde, Jason Kelce, Brandon Graham, Nate Allen, Riley Cooper and Kurt Coleman.

The projected starters from that group are Kelce, possibly Allen and Cooper, who is only filling in because Jeremy Maclin went down.

Asked if those two drafts set the franchise back, Roseman said: “I think that’s probably a fair question. When you have drafts that don’t work out, you’ve gotta find those players somewhere else. Like I said when we started this, the big part taking from that is that we are forced to look and figure out the ways to do things and the way we have done things over a long period of time, and then where our team was and evolve from that. And I think that’s the positive to be taken out of it.”

6. The Eagles provided a bit of a surprise at wide receiver, cutting Russell Shepard and Greg Salas, while keeping Jeff Maehl.

“Tough decisions at the wide receiver spot,” Roseman said. “When we traded for Jeff, we knew that he was a guy who could play inside or out. He was a safety in high school when Coach recruited him. And so you knew that he would bring something to special teams as well.

“And then when you talk about the roster, I think it’s an evolving process too. How it looks today, to tell you that it’s gonna look like that in Week 10, we’re gonna be constantly on the lookout. We’re trying to build this team, and we’re trying to get players that we think can be here for a long time. We’re open to things that we think could make us better.”

Translation: Maehl might not be here in a few days. The Eagles could add a back-of-the-roster wide receiver from another team.

7. While there was plenty of talk about the 2010 and 2011 drafts, Roseman did suggest that he thinks the Eagles found some good core players in 2012, specifically on the defensive side of the ball.

“When you talk about Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks, I don’t see any reason why those guys shouldn’t be big-time players in this league,” he said. “Between what’s in their body, physically, you’re talking about guys who have the traits to do it. And then they work really hard. And then there’s nothing I’ve seen out here or on the field during games that says they shouldn’t take this step from first- or second-year guys to really be core members of our defense for a long time.”

8. The Eagles have three undrafted free agents from this class on the roster: offensive lineman Matt Tobin, defensive lineman Damion Square and linebacker Jake Knott.

Roseman said it was evident as soon as the pads went on that Square was a violent technician who had a good chance to stick.

He also praised Tobin’s versatility.

“He’s probably a four-position backup if you put him on gameday active,” Roseman said. “And I’m not so sure that he couldn’t play center too.”

He added that Knott would have definitely been drafted if not for the shoulder problems.

“You go through the draft-day decisions and Jake was a guy that we were really considering taking in all three of those seventh-round picks,” Roseman said. “We feel very fortunate to get him. His character and football intelligence, he’s a good player.”

9. The Eagles went with Emil Igwenagu over Clay Harbor for the final tight end spot. The reason?

“We were looking for different skill sets in the back of the roster,” Roseman said. “So some of the conversations we had about the fourth outside linebacker applies at this moment to the tight end spot. And we didn’t feel like there was another guy on the roster who was as good as a point of attack blocker. He’s a physical guy. We also felt like those other three guys were good receiving threats.”

10. Roseman made a good point about why it’s tough to trade near the cut-down deadline.

“The problem is it’s very rare to find someone to offer you a player and to not think that player’s gonna get cut,” he said. “When you’re in March and April, you know that there’s a long time so people are gonna hang on to them and maybe they’re telling the truth: ‘Hey, I’ll hang on to him if I don’t get what I’m looking for.’ But this time of the year, everyone’s basically calling each other’s bluff.”

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Ten Eagles On the Roster Bubble

Danny WatkinsBy 6 p.m. Saturday, the Eagles have to cut 22 players and get their roster down to 53. Many of the bubble guys will get a chance to make one final impression Thursday night, as Chip Kelly acknowledged there’s still “a lot up in the air.”

New offensive scheme, new defensive scheme, new coaching staff and new personnel. Kelly’s moves this weekend will tell us a lot about his roster-building philosophy. Keeping that in mind, here are 10 players whose future with the franchise hangs in the balance as we approach cut-down day.

1. Danny Watkins, OG – The 2011 first-round pick got a fresh start with new offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, but it doesn’t seem like he’s made a strong impression. Watkins is currently a backup guard and has been passed on the depth chart by veteran Allen Barbre. Kelly wants versatility in his backups, but so far, Watkins has only played guard. As T-Mac reported yesterday, Watkins is due $1.1M in guaranteed money. But with Barbre looking like a keeper and the team needing a backup center, Watkins, who turns 29 in November, could still be out of a spot.

2. Michael Bamiro, OT – The Eagles had to compete with other teams to sign Bamiro earlier this summer. Some reports suggested he would have been a mid-round pick had he entered the draft. The question the Birds have to weigh is whether or not they’d be safe stashing Bamiro on the practice squad. The Eagles have some tackle depth. Barbre can play out there, and Todd Herremans could slide over in a pinch. The team also expects Dennis Kelly to return from back surgery at some point. Bamiro might be a nice option for the bottom of the roster. He would likely be a weekly inactive, but has plenty of upside for down the road.

3. Julian Vandervelde, G/C – It’s been a bumpy journey for the 2011 fifth-round pick. He spent his rookie season on the active roster, was cut last summer, spent a couple days with the Tampa Bay Bucs and then returned to the Eagles. He entered the league as a guard, but has been learning the center position the past two years. If the preseason is any indication, he has a good shot of sticking around as Jason Kelce’s backup. The Eagles’ other options for that spot are Dallas Reynolds and Matt Tennant.

4. Greg Salas, WR - The Eagles didn’t make any moves to add receivers after Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn went down with season-ending ACL injuries. Salas had an excellent camp and flashed during the first two preseason games. He could be competing with Russell Shepard for the fifth receiver spot. Or the Eagles could decide to keep them both.

5. Russell Shepard, WR – He showed some good YAC ability during last week’s game, catching two balls for 38 yards. With Shepard, there is once again the practice squad question. There’s no doubt that the Eagles like his talent, but he went undrafted and could probably use some seasoning before he’s ready to contribute. Special teams is a factor here too. Shepard looks like a willing contributor and made a nice tackle in coverage against Carolina.

6. Clay Harbor, TE/WR - Kelly has been trying to find a spot for the fourth-year tight end. He’s been getting reps at wide receiver and has played there each of the last two preseason games. The truth is, when then Eagles spread it out in Kelly’s offense, there’s often not much of a difference between a wide receiver and a tight end. Kelly prides himself on being prepared for every situation. Harbor’s versatility could be enough to make him stick.

7. Chris McCoy, OLB – The CFL product started off the preseason well, but was not good last week against the Jaguars. The Eagles are somewhat thin at the position. Kelly said ideally, the team would keep four outside linebackers. They’ve got Connor Barwin, Trent Cole and Brandon Graham as virtual locks. This one will likely come down to who else is available. McCoy could be an initial keeper, but if the Eagles see an outside linebacker they like cut from another team, he could be released.

8. Casey Matthews, ILB – Kelly said he’d like to keep four inside linebackers also. The starters are in place with DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks. Matthews, Jake Knott and Emmanuel Acho are competing for spots. Knott is probably the favorite among that group. What we wrote about McCoy could apply here too. The Eagles could add an inside linebacker from another team’s cut list. But Matthews’ special-teams production (14 tackles last year) could help him earn a spot.

9. Clifton Geathers/Damion Square, DL – I cheated a bit here and included these two together. And really, they could both end up making it. The plan for the Eagles on gamedays seems to be to rotate six players on the defensive line. Right now, the five most likely are: Fletcher Cox, Isaac Sopoaga, Cedric Thornton, Bennie Logan and Vinny Curry. The sixth could be either Geathers or Square, with the other as a potential inactive. Square drew praise early in the preseason, but did not play well last week. Geathers had his best performance against Jacksonville. Both have played nose tackle, along with defensive end.

10. Kurt Coleman, S – The fourth-year player’s chances of making the roster increased when the Eagles released Kenny Phillips. But he’s still no lock to make it. Coleman hasn’t rotated in with the starters much, and the decision on whether to keep him or not will likely depend on if Kelly is comfortable keeping five safeties. Patrick Chung, Nate Allen and rookie Earl Wolff seem like locks. Colt Anderson has an excellent shot of sticking because of his special-teams ability. That means Coleman could be the odd man out.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Rookie Status Report

Zach ErtzToday, we check in on the rookies. Here’s a player-by-player breakdown of what we’ve seen from each guy, along with projections going forward.

Lane Johnson – The whole “raw” label hasn’t shown up much in the first two preseason games. Based on early returns, Johnson has a chance to be a beast in the run game right away. There have been some issues in pass protection, but Johnson has held up fine in that aspect too. He’s athletic, hustles and will start at right tackle from Day One. An encouraging camp and preseason for the No. 4 overall pick.

Zach Ertz – Four catches for 46 yards on five targets through two preseason games. Ertz has played 42 snaps per PFF; he’s gone out into pass routes on 62 percent of those. The second-round pick will have to prove himself as a blocker, but he’s a polished route-runner who will have a role in the passing game right away. Look for Ertz to be a nice option in the red zone. He’ll play big snaps from the get-go.

Bennie Logan – He’s been a pleasant surprise. Logan always figured to have a place in the defensive line rotation, but so far he looks like one of the Eagles’ best players up front. Opposing offensive linemen have had a tough time controlling Logan in the run game, and he’s been effective as a pass-rusher too. The third-round pick will be coached to make use of those 34-inch arms and get in the passing lanes. Chip Kelly has said he’ll probably play six defensive linemen in the regular season. If Logan keeps showing up on tape, he’ll play plenty of snaps right away.

Matt Barkley – Expectations varied when the Eagles drafted him, but Barkley’s pretty much performed at the level of a fourth-round pick. In other words, he’s been up and down. Kelly likes how Barkley gets rid of the ball quickly, but the rookie QB has set his receivers up for dangerous hits on too many occasions. He’s never really been a part of the QB competition this summer and will likely spend Year 1 on the sidelines.

Earl Wolff – A bit of a mystery. The safety from N.C. State has gotten some reps with the first team in practice, but he didn’t get into Thursday night’s game until the second half. Patrick Chung has one of the safety spots locked down, but the other one is up for grabs. Nate Allen has started both preseason games. Wolff has a chance to make his move, but the guess here is he’ll start the season as a backup.

Joe Kruger – He’s only 21-years-old and unlikely to contribute in his first season. The question with Kruger is: Will he make the 53-man roster? If the Eagles really like his potential and think he might get snatched up by another team, they could keep him and make him a regular inactive. But stashing him on the practice squad is a real possibility.

David King – If the practice and preseason rotations are any indication, he’s going to have a tough time making the roster. The seventh-round pick hasn’t flashed much and has been passed by undrafted free agent Damion Square on the depth chart.

Jordan Poyer – Some thought the Eagles got a steal with Poyer in the seventh round, but the Oregon State product has had a quiet summer. The Eagles are thin at cornerback, so Poyer’s got a chance to sneak on the roster. But he hasn’t done much to stand out so far.

***

Among the undrafted guys, Square and linebacker Jake Knott seem like good bets to make the roster. Square figures to add depth on the defensive line, and Knott should be one of the backups behind DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks.

Other names to watch are Michael Bamiro, Russell Shepard and Matthew Tucker. Bamiro is a developmental tackle prospect. He seemed to draw some interest from other teams back in July, so the Eagles might not want to risk losing him by going the practice squad route.

Shepard started off great, but has been quiet in the preseason games and could be headed for the practice squad. Tucker could claim a spot just because Felix Jones has been unimpressive. But the Eagles could choose to add a running back from another team instead.

WHAT YOU MISSED

A detailed “tape” review of how the Eagles used the zone read/bubble screen packaged play on multiple occasions vs. Carolina.

O-Line wisdom has been passed down from Tra Thomas to Todd Herremans and now to Lane Johnson, writes T-Mac.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Paul Domowitch of the Daily News talked to wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell about the team’s option routes:

“You always have some West Coast plays in your concepts, and we have all those,” wide-receivers coach Bob Bicknell said. “But there’s also more chances for guys to kind of read coverage, read how they’re getting covered and make plays off of the leverage of the defender or whether they’re playing man or zone. “I think that’s what’s a little bit different in this offense. We have option routes where guys have an ability to understand what we’re trying to get, where other people are, and where they have a chance to win and get open.”

Derek Sarley of IgglesBlog suggests preseason defenses haven’t shown much yet against Kelly:

Right now, Chip’s offense is being greatly helped by the passivity of the defenses he’s facing. For months, we read stories about how every defensive staff in the league was studying ways to beat spread option looks, and yet so far we haven’t seen anything all that innovative beyond some rotations by the Patriots to mess up the reads with different edge defenders.It’s going to take some time before the league fully understands everything Kelly’s trying to do, but I’ll be shocked if our week one opponent — a team that has more than a passing familiarity with these same offensive concepts — isn’t ready with a big bag of tricks we aren’t seeing yet.

COMING UP

We’ll be back at NovaCare, talking to Kelly and several players today.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Twitter Mailbag: Is Fletcher Cox Being Used Properly?

0V3J8978Every Thursday we select a few of your Twitter questions and provide the long-form answers they deserve. For a chance to have your question published on Birds 24/7, send it to @Tim_McManus.

From @aerelorn: Thoughts on Fletcher Cox being asked to 2-gap? Is putting your best D player in a position to *not* succeed the right answer?

The answer to the second part of your question is obviously no. You have to cater to your players’ strengths, and both Chip Kelly and Billy Davis have vowed to do just that since the moment they got here.

That said, I found this exchange between Kelly and a reporter interesting.

Is Fletcher Cox a better two-gap guy or one-gap guy?

“I don’t think you could put one or the other because they have to do both.  It’s not like you can take them out because you are going to switch defenses every play.  When we two gap we put this guy in. When we one gap, you put that guy in.  No, you’re giving up too much,” said Kelly.

 “I know as an offensive coach, I would love to know when that guy’s in the game, it’s two‑gap defense; when that guy’s in the game, it’s one‑gap defense.  They’ve got to be able to play at both.”

When it’s a guy like [Cox], do you cater your defense more?

“To one guy?  No, we don’t cater our defense to one guy, because there are ten other guys you have to worry about.  There are a lot of different things when you go through everything.  We’re going to try to play to the overall team strength.  What are we best at.”

I agree that playing to the strength of the 11 is more important than playing to the strength of one. I also believe that this team will only suffer if Cox — arguably the best player on this defense — is rendered less effective because of the system.  A couple things to keep in mind: 1) While Cox struggled on Friday, it was only one game. It’s totally possible that a man of his talent adapts and thrives in this scheme before long. And 2) the Eagles have said that they are working towards becoming a two-gap 3-4 defense, but will stop short along the way if it makes sense. You can argue that beyond Cox, Vinny Curry, Cedric Thornton, etc. would be best suited playing one-gap. I bet we see more one-gap than two-gap in the first year.

[If you're saying to yourself, "What the hell are they talking about?" read Greg Cosell's piece. He does an excellent job breaking down gap concepts.]

From iMark_Sarnoski: once the starting QB is selected do you think either Vick or Foles will be on the move? Will they keep both in case of injury?

I feel pretty confident that they will keep both. Kelly has repeatedly said that you better have two capable quarterbacks in the NFL, and I think that’s particularly true when one of those QBs is Michael Vick, who has trouble staying healthy for the full 16. I believe that’s part of what this quarterback competition is about — getting both Vick and Nick Foles ready to start, because there is a good chance both will have to at some point this year.

It’s possible that Vick could be moved if he loses the job and becomes disgruntled, but I don’t see that happening.

From @Ngu_Year: who has had a better camp, Damion Square or Cedric Thornton?

Damion Square has stood out more, but it’s tough to compare because Thornton has run much more with the first team.

The good news for the Eagles is that they look to have some good, young talent along the defensive front. Whether you’re talking about Square, Bennie Logan or Curry, they should all have a chance to make an impact.

 “We’re going to continue to look at those guys just like we look at them every day in practice, and make a determination on who is the best.  But a lot of times with the d‑line, because of how this game is played, we’re going to be playing all six if we keep six on the active roster,” said Kelly.

 “I think in that position particularly you’ll see that more in the NFL.  People are starting to rotate defensive linemen and keep them fresh just because it’s such a tough position to play.  I know that’s kind of our thought process going in.  So I think you’ll see all of those guys again kind of rolling through.”

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