Here’s a roundup of what the national media are saying about the Eagles this week. Read more »
Danny Watkins signed a new deal with the Dolphins and met with the Miami-area media today.
He was asked to respond to comments made by Howie Roseman about how Watkins’ toughness never translated from college to the NFL.
“I got to Philadelphia and it was just a rough go from the get-go,” Watkins said, per the Miami Herald. “I felt like it just got broken down to bones and never got built back. It was more a mental thing. I was very disappointing to myself that it never panned out the way it could. Because I know I can play physical and tough football but it just never … I think it was more a mental aspect than anything.”
Here are Roseman’s initial comments:
“When you watched Danny play, the toughness, the hockey-playing aspect of him never translated to Philadelphia. And that’s one of the things I told him today, was that when you watched him at Baylor and when you watched him at the Senior Bowl and when you met him, he had this innate toughness about him. You felt like you were getting an enforcer. And he never let himself go here on that. And I don’t know why that was. I told him that was part of the thing that I was the most confused by because that was something that everyone at Baylor told you about and you saw in his play on the field. And I think it all goes back to the pressure he put on himself here.”
I would agree with Watkins that his issues were more mental than anything else. Even though he was 26 when he came out of Baylor, he only had two full years of D-1 experience under his belt. Watkins started camp late as a rookie and never seemed to click with Howard Mudd.
When he got on the field, there were way too many missed assignments, specifically in pass protection.
The physical aspect shouldn’t be overlooked either. Watkins turns 29 in November and will be 30 during the 2014 regular season.
He has more hurdles ahead, but will try to bank on a fresh start now in Miami.
The Eagles will probably make some moves in the near future here, whether it be to fill out their practice squad or tweak their 53-man. We’ll have that all covered. In the meantime, some reading for you on this rainy Labor Day:
John Gonzalez writes that the most recent cuts have further wiped away Andy Reid‘s fingerprints.
All those years of pass-first/run-seldom football under Reid have been essentially wiped away. Only 10 players currently on the roster arrived before 2010: Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin (on injured reserve), Jason Avant, Jason Peters, Todd Herremans, Trent Cole, Brent Celek, and Jon Dorenbos. Countless others, close to half the roster, didn’t land in Philadelphia until 2012 or later. Whatever ties the Eagles had to Reid have been all but undone.
“We have 19 rookies or first year players,” Roseman said. “That’s exciting for us. We talk about building a program and taking steps and doing things the right way. I think that’s a group that can grow with us here and hopefully a lot of them are with us for a long time.”
Build a program. Do things the right way. Grow together. Stay together for a long time. Roseman was talking about the future, but he simultaneously managed to bury what was left of the past.
Peter King had a couple Eagles-related thoughts in his Monday Morning Quarterback column. One was on Danny Watkins.
What a disaster the Eagles’ 2011 first-round firefighter, Danny Watkins, turned out to be. Good example of reaching for a guy who never really loved the game. Watkins never played football until he was 22.
The other on recently-released linebacker Adrian Robinson, now with the Broncos.
Linebacker Adrian Robinson joined his third team in 10 days Sunday. He was dealt from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia Aug. 22, then got cut by the Eagles Saturday, and claimed by Denver Sunday. Robinson should either be a special-teams staple, or a weekly decision whether he’s active for Denver.
Jeff McLane thinks some of the roster decisions run counter to a principle that Howie Roseman has been stressing.
Wide receivers Greg Salas and Russell Shepard were cut and Jeff Maehl survived. Tight end Clay Harbor was waived and Emil Igwenagu remained. And outside linebacker Chris McCoy was sent packing and inside linebacker Casey Matthews stuck around.
“When Chip talked about the versatility at the back of the roster we didn’t want to duplicate a lot of skills,” Roseman said on Saturday. “So that’s what made some of the choices at the back of the roster. Maybe some guys that played well in the preseason, but maybe they were duplicating the skills of some of the guys that we had. It didn’t make sense to keep them or try to find guys that did some different things.”
In theory, and possibly in practice, Roseman’s explanation makes sense. You want versatile players on your roster that can handle multiple tasks, especially if they’re one of 46 players that dress on Sundays. Kelly has stressed this attribute since arriving. It’s certainly been a concern for the coach, who had countless players at his disposal at Oregon. But it seems to run contrary to the philosophy Roseman has touted for two years — take and keep the best players.”
And finally, Tommy Lawlor takes a look at new Eagles corner Shaun Prater:
Prater isn’t some great player, but he can be an ideal #4 CB. He started for 3 years at Iowa. All Hawkeyes CBs are legally required to tackle well and play hard. Prater played on the outside in college. The Bengals drafted him last year and played him both in the slot and outside. He goes about 5-10, 190. That’s not ideal size for Bill Davis, but is big enough. And Prater does play bigger than he is.
If one of the starters goes down, the Eagles could move Boykin outside and then play Prater in the slot. Or he could just go outside.
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The Eagles trimmed their roster down to 53 today. Here’s a position-by-position look at where things stand after having heard from GM Howie Roseman.
Quarterbacks (3): Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley.
Nothing to see here. Dennis Dixon and GJ Kinne were cut. Dixon has a chance of landing on the practice squad.
Vick will start, Foles will back him up, and Barkley will look to learn the offense as a rookie.
Running backs (3): LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk.
In the end, Chip Kelly decided he only needed three running backs on the 53-man roster. Undrafted free agent Matthew Tucker was let go. He could land a spot on the practice squad. There’s also a chance that the Eagles find a running back they like from another team and add him in the next few days.
McCoy will get the bulk of the carries, Brown should see plenty of action too, and Polk will likely be heard from at some point as well.
Wide receivers (5): DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper, Jason Avant, Damaris Johnson, Jeff Maehl.
This position was a bit of a surprise. The Eagles got rid of rookie free agent Russell Shepard and Greg Salas. Throughout camp, the thought here was that at least one of the two would make it, but they both ended up getting released in favor of Maehl.
However, Roseman made it sound like wide receiver is a fluid position for the Eagles. It would not be surprising if they added someone in the coming days and let Maehl go. Maehl was originally acquired from the Texans earlier this month and played for Kelly at Oregon. He had eight catches in the preseason finale against the Jets and drew praise from Kelly for his special-teams ability.
Jackson and Cooper will start on the outside. Avant will play the slot. And Johnson will mix in. Johnson also figures to be the lead return man, although Kelly said recently that using Jackson back there is still an option.
Tight ends (4): Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, James Casey, Emil Igwenagu.
Another surprise here was Igwenagu. He made the team as the fourth tight end over Clay Harbor. Roseman said the Eagles were looking for someone who didn’t duplicate the skill set of other guys on the roster. Igwenagu is more in the fullback/tight end role of Casey. Harbor is more in the tight end/receiver mode of Celek and Ertz. According to the GM, that was part of the reason for the decision.
Casey suffered a hamstring injury vs. the Jets, but Roseman said he should be ready for Week 1 and confirmed that had nothing to do with the decision to keep Igwenagu.
Hate to sound like a broken record, but this is another area where the Eagles could potentially replace Igwenagu with a player from another roster.
Offensive line (9): Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, Lane Johnson, Allen Barbre, Dennis Kelly, Julian Vandervelde, Matt Tobin.
The starters are in place. From left to right, it’s Peters, Mathis, Kelce, Herremans, and Johnson.
Barbre is the first backup guard and also the first backup tackle until Kelly is healthy. Vandervelde is the backup center.
Roseman acknowledged that Michael Bamiro is probably a bit of a project and was put in a tough spot, having missed all of the spring. We wrote about Danny Watkins at length in an earlier post. And Tobin got the nod because of his positional versatility. Roseman said he was confident that Tobin could fill in at four of the five spots on the offensive line.
Hours after the Eagles decided to release 2011 first-round pick Danny Watkins, Roseman sat at the head of a conference room table at the NovaCare Complex and was asked to set the record straight on what his role was in selecting the offensive lineman.
“As you’ve seen here, a lot of the leadership positions and the responsibilities have changed in our organization,” Roseman said. “So when you have changes that are so drastic in an organization, there’s also going to be drastic changes on the field and the way you do things. We’ve obviously changed a lot of people in our personnel department. We’ve changed the way that we look at things because we have new people in place. I think that’s gonna be different just because the nature of personalities and people trying to do their own things and whether that’s me and our personnel staff or Chip [Kelly] and his coaching staff or Don [Smolenski] as the president of the team, it’s gonna be different.”
The message was clear: No trip down memory lane, but we’re not going to make the same mistakes again.
As Tim pointed out last week, Andy Reid gave Roseman credit for the Watkins pick shortly after the draft.
“Howie had this guy, right from the get-go, at the top,” Reid said at the time. “This was a guy that he really wanted and liked.”
But when owner Jeffrey Lurie addressed reporters earlier this year, he absolved Roseman of blame for the 2011 draft.
“I keep voluminous notes on talent evaluation on not just who we draft, but who is valued in each draft by each person that is in the organization that’s working here,” Lurie said in January. “I came to the conclusion that the person that was providing by far the best talent evaluation in the building was Howie Roseman. I decided to streamline the whole decision-making process for the 2012 draft and offseason and that’s the first draft and offseason I hold Howie completely accountable for. The mistakes that were made in the 2011 draft have little or nothing to do with Howie’s evaluations and I think it was important for me to own up to the mistakes that were made and understand where they were coming from, and it was awfully clear.”
Lurie had the scorecard. He sent Reid and Joe Banner packing. And he decided to keep Roseman as he ushered in a new era with Kelly.
As for Watkins, we pointed out earlier that many scouts, analysts and personnel people thought he was a good prospect coming out of school. The issue for the Eagles was more about deciding to take a 26-year-old guard in the first round than mis-evaluating a prospect.
Asked what he remembers about his personal evaluation of Watkins, Roseman said: “When you watched Danny play, the toughness, the hockey-playing aspect of him never translated to Philadelphia. And that’s one of the things I told him today, was that when you watched him at Baylor and when you watched him at the Senior Bowl and when you met him, he had this innate toughness about him. You felt like you were getting an enforcer. And he never let himself go here on that. And I don’t know why that was. I told him that was part of the thing that I was the most confused by because that was something that everyone at Baylor told you about and you saw in his play on the field. And I think it all goes back to the pressure he put on himself here.
“Part of his personality, and you talk about him being a firefighter, is that he feels like he has to help save people, and he put a lot of pressure on himself and he couldn’t just go out and play. I think getting away from Danny Watkins the first-round pick and just being Danny Watkins will really help him.”
As for the need to take age into account during the draft, Roseman made it sound like the Eagles learned multiple lessons from the Watkins pick and looking back, probably should have seen some of the warning signs.
“There have been some guys in the last couple of drafts who have been over-age, and we’ve spent a lot of time just looking at that,” he said. “And I think I’d answer it this way: When you’re successful in anything, especially in football, a lot of times coaches are selfish, they want to win games. So they’re going to put you out there really early. You’re gonna play at a really young age. And you’re gonna play a lot at a young age. So when you look around the NFL at the successful players, there’s not a lot of guys that are one-year starters and are seniors or playing at a later age. And it makes sense because if you’re really that talented, people find you.”
The Eagles’ expectations when they selected Watkins were for him to step in and play right away at a high level. But that didn’t happen. He did not play well in 12 starts as a rookie. Going into his second season, he didn’t take well to the coaching of Howard Mudd and struggled again through six starts. He suffered through what Reid called a “chronic” ankle injury and then was benched for journeyman Jake Scott.
Now, Watkins, who turns 29 in November, is left to figure out what’s next for him. The Eagles, meanwhile, will move forward with hopes of not repeating similar mistakes in the future.
“You’re disappointed,” Roseman said. “You’re disappointed when any of your players don’t work out obviously. And when they’re first-round picks, it’s more of a disappointment. I think if there’s a positive to it, in the last couple of years, we were able to really evaluate ourselves and make some substantial changes in how we do things. Going forward, I think that’s really gonna benefit us. And I think it’s benefited us already.”
There’s no doubt that the selection of Danny Watkins with the 23rd pick in the 2011 draft raised some immediate questions.
But those questions had less to do with Watkins’ ability than the pure logic of drafting a 26-year-old guard in the first round.
After two unimpressive seasons with the Eagles, the franchise is letting Watkins go and essentially admitting its mistake. We’ll hear from Howie Roseman later today, but I thought it’d be interesting to take a look back at what people said about Watkins back when the Eagles selected him.
Again, scouts, analysts and personnel people seemed to be pretty high on Watkins’ natural ability when he came out of Baylor.
From Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
A self-described “glorified goon” when he was growing up playing hockey in Kelowna, British Columbia. Turned to fire-fighting at 16 and went to Butte (Calif.) Junior College. After being asked to walk on for football, he started two years at LT and then two more at LT for Bears. “He’s not as good an athlete as Sitton but he’s like him,” one scout said. “He’s a tough son of a (expletive) now.” Spent Senior Bowl at guard and, given his height, figures to play there. At least one team is eyeing him for center. “Big, powerful guy,” said [Colts vice chairman] Bill Polian. “I’m sure he’s a starter.” One drawback is his age. He will turn 27 on Nov. 6. “You can talk yourself into not taking him because he is older,” [Bucs GM Mark] Dominik said. “At the same time, he doesn’t have as much normal wear and tear at that age.” More than smart enough. “In terms of pure guard talent, goll-ee, he’s awfully exciting,” another scout said. “Very good natural anchor.”
From Rick Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News:
Watkins is the safest pick in the entire draft – the one player you can confidently say will be in the Pro Bowl in 2012. He’s the best guard on the board, and some NFL teams were looking at him as both a center and tackle.
From Mike Mayock of NFL Network, via the Daily News:
“I put the tape on and he jumped out at me,” Mayock said. “He’s heavy-handed [meaning Watkins 'punches' well], he finishes, and he’s nasty; he reminds me a lot of the [John] Moffitt kid from Wisconsin. I look at the two of them and I think they’re both interior starters. I think they’re centers or guards, and they’re starters in the league. ”
From ESPN.com’s Mel Kiper Jr.:
The selection of Watkins surprised some people, as he may have been available even into the early second round, but they may believe he has the capability to stay at tackle. I think he’s a guard.
From CBSSports.com’s Rob Rang:
The Eagles’ selection of a 26-year-old guard with the No. 23 overall pick will be criticized by some, though certainly not by me. Danny Watkins stepped in immediately for former No. 2 overall pick Jason Smith (Rams) at left tackle in 2009 for Baylor, demonstrating great toughness and competitive fire despite it being only his third season of playing the game. What was most impressive, however, was how quickly he acclimated inside at guard at the Senior Bowl despite having never played the position. He’ll provide toughness inside for Philadelphia.
From SI.com’s Peter King:
The good — Danny Watkins is a day-one starter, mature and experienced, and can play either guard and, in a pinch, tackle, where he played last year at Baylor. The bad — He’ll be a 27-year-old rookie this fall.
From ESPN.com’s Todd McShay, via McNabbOrKolb.com:
I think Danny Watkins fits in immediately as a starter and you look at his make-up: he’s a tough, physical, nasty offensive guard that’s going to upgrade this team in the run game and also help in terms of pass protection.
Teams must trim their rosters down to 53 by 6 p.m. Saturday. Time to submit our final projections for the Eagles.
Sheil will post his take in a bit. Here’s mine:
Quarterbacks (3): Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley.
Chip Kelly feels like he has at least two NFL-caliber quarterbacks on the roster, and possibly three. Maybe so, but “NFL-caliber” doesn’t get you much in this league. You need above average play from your signal-callers if you really want to go somewhere. Vick will get the first crack at running Kelly’s offense. Foles is just an injury away from getting his chance.
A reminder that Dennis Dixon still has some practice squad eligibility remaining. He can be of some value there.
Running backs (3): LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk.
Kelly recently said that he would put this grouping up against any trio in the league. The upside is definitely there. The two main questions are: Can Brown hold onto the ball? And can Polk stay healthy? If the answer to both questions is yes, then Kelly might be right. I’m guessing Matthew Tucker finds his way onto the practice squad.
Wide receivers (6): DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper, Jason Avant, Damaris Johnson, Greg Salas, Russell Shepard.
Six seems like a lot to me. But the bottom of the roster is just thin, and this is what I keep coming back to.
If it comes down to Salas and Shepard, it really depends what you’re after. If you want a more polished player who could provide a little more production this season, Salas is your man. If you want to hold onto a prospect that could bloom down the road, then you give the spot to Shepard.
I haven’t seen enough out of Jeff Maehl or Ifeanyi Momah to give them serious consideration.
Tight ends (4): Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, James Casey, Clay Harbor.
I just don’t see Kelly keeping less than four tight ends. He has already shown a four tight-end look this preseason. They are a big part of his offense. Harbor might not be a great tight end or receiver, but the fact that he can be presented as both is likely attractive to Kelly.
Offensive linemen (9): Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, Lane Johnson, Allen Barbre, Danny Watkins, Dennis Kelly, Julian Vandervelde.
I have Watkins making it, but I’m not sold. Barbre has replaced him as the primary backup at guard, looks like. I would not be at all surprised if they decided to hand his roster spot to Michael Bamiro or Matt Tennant or Dallas Reynolds. Or anyone, really. Kelly likes versatile players, and Watkins has only played guard this preseason.
But I’ll take a stab and say the Eagles give him one last crack at it. His $1.1 million base salary is guaranteed anyway, so why not?
Defensive linemen (7): Fletcher Cox, Isaac Sopoaga, Cedric Thornton, Bennie Logan, Damion Square, Vinny Curry, Clifton Geathers.
It appears the Eagles have some decent depth here. Kelly would like to keep six defensive linemen active on game day. Count Cox, Sopoaga, Thornton, Logan and Curry in that group, and add either Square or Geathers depending on performance or preference.
Tough to see David King making the cut. Joe Kruger seems like a good practice squad candidate.
Outside linebackers (4): Trent Cole, Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Chris McCoy.
Barwin is the only player in this group with NFL regular-season experience at outside linebacker. That can’t make Billy Davis very comfortable. The Eagles will keep an eye on the open market to see if they can bolster the position. They recently traded for Adrian Robinson, but I don’t think he’s the answer.
Inside linebackers (4): DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Jake Knott, Emmanuel Acho.
How dare I disrespect the Acho by keeping him off my initial projected roster. He was all over the place against the Jets.OK, it was a meaningless game against backups, but he was better than the guys he is competing against. And he led the team or was tied for the lead in tackles in three of the four preseason games.
Casey Matthews has the whole Oregon connection thing going for him. He’s right on the bubble for me, but I’m leaving him off.
Cornerbacks (5): Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Brandon Hughes, Jordan Poyer.
This unit is razor-thin following the hand injuries to Hughes and Curtis Marsh. With the starters resting, Kurt Coleman even saw some time at corner against New York. The Eagles recently worked out Robert Steeples and will continue to be on the hunt for help. It’s a good bet that this group looks different by the start of the season.
Poyer has not shown a whole lot but will make the team based on potential and need.
Safeties (5): Patrick Chung, Nate Allen, Earl Wolff, Colt Anderson, Kurt Coleman.
Chung was the only safety to get the night off against the Jets. Allen and Wolff both started. It looks like the competition for the other starting safety spot is coming down to the wire.
Chances are, the tandem that starts this season will not be together for all 16. There will probably be some mixing and matching. Might as well have some options, even if they aren’t great ones.
Specialists (3): Alex Henery, Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos.
Henery has settled in after a slow start to camp.
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The preseason is a wrap, all of the evidence is in and now the coaches must decide who to keep and who to let go. The roster must be down to 53 players by 6 p.m. Saturday. Will Danny Watkins make the cut?
By the sounds of it, there are no guarantees that he is on this team at the end of the weekend.
“Danny is competing like the rest of those guys up front. There is always some really good out of Danny, but there is also some mistakes out of Danny,” said Chip Kelly when asked how the lineman has progressed this summer. “It’s going to be a battle. When you feel good about your five but then where are we going to be and how many are we going to carry I think is what it’s going to come down to.”
With the projected starters getting the night off, Watkins got the nod at right guard Thursday against the Jets. Kelly did not sound pleased with the unit’s performance overall, saying that the Eagles were ”very shoddy in protection early.” Nick Foles ended up on his back quite a bit.
“I don’t think we protected him very well. A lot of times it was a four-man rush, it was in his face and he didn’t have a chance to set his feet,” said Kelly. “We had some protection issues with the second o-line.”
There is probably plenty of blame to go around across that front.
The coaches will evaluate the tape and then make their final decisions. As Kelly mentioned, it becomes a numbers game. Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans and Lane Johnson are your starters. Allen Barbre appears to be a primary backup both at guard and tackle. Dennis Kelly, assuming he can come back sooner than later from a back injury, would likely occupy another spot. Then there is a grouping of linemen that includes Watkins, Julian Vandervelde, Matt Tennant, Matt Tobin, Michael Bamiro, Dallas Reynolds and Matt Kopa that the Eagles must choose from. How many do they keep? And who?
Kelly has made clear that he values versatile players. Where several of these backup linemen have played at multiple spots this preseason, Watkins has worked exclusively at guard. You wonder if that hurts his chances.
There is a financial number to consider: Watkins’ $1.1 million base salary for the season is guaranteed. Would that be enough to influence the team’s decision?
The answers will present themselves shortly.
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Five of the 11 draftees — Jaiquawn Jarrett, Dion Lewis, Brian Rolle, Greg Lloyd and Stanley Havili — are no longer with the team. Jarrett will be on the field Thursday as a member of the Jets, as the Temple product tries to breathe life back into his career.
Two of the six remaining members — fourth-round pick Alex Henery and sixth-rounder Jason Kelce — are safe. The rest, not as much. Casey Matthews and Julian Vandervelde are on the fringe. Third-round pick Curtis Marsh is in murky waters after breaking his hand.
And then there is Danny Watkins. The former No. 23 overall selection is trying to claim a reserve role. Maybe he’ll make the 53-man, maybe he won’t. It’s really not about whether Watkins survives the final cut. The story is that his status is in question to begin with.
On the day the Eagles drafted the then 26-year old, Andy Reid called Watkins ”as good of a football player as there was in the draft.” Said that he received glowing reviews from just about everyone in the building, including Howie Roseman.
“Howie had this guy, right from the get-go, at the top. This was a guy that he really wanted and liked,” said Reid. [This, by the way, seems to run counter to Jeffrey Lurie's claim that "The mistakes that were made in the 2011 draft have little or nothing to do with Howie’s evaluations."]
“And so, when I looked at him I said, ‘This guy is as fine of a football player on the offensive line that you have in this draft.’ And then Howard [Mudd] came back and he said the same thing…He’s one of those guys that you can’t help but like when you look at him. He knows how to play the game. It’s not going to take a Rhodes Scholar.”
Two seasons later, Watkins is on the bubble. He is the symbol of a draft gone largely wrong.
In an attempt to make Eagles fans weep, Bill Barnwell of Grantland just penned a piece that contends that the 2011 draft class is shaping up to be the best defensive group in modern NFL history. The Eagles have zero projected starters on defense from that crop. [They went Jarrett, Marsh, Matthews in Rounds 2-4.]
The good news is that the 2012 class has the early looks of a winner. Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Vinny Curry, Nick Foles, Brandon Boykin, Bryce Brown and Dennis Kelly could all have roles on this team. Some of them starring roles, even. It’s way too early to judge the ’13 group, but that, too, has potential. There are some building blocks.
You can argue that 10 players from the past two drafts (Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, Bennie Logan, Earl Wolff, Cox, Kendricks, Curry, Foles, Boykin, Brown) have a legitimate chance of contributing in a meaningful way this season. Throw in Kelly for 11 if you want. Either way, it’s a healthy representation.
The ’11 class, meanwhile, is just trying to survive.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Sheil identifies 10 players that are on the roster bubble.
Chip Kelly may be hands off to some degree when it comes to defense, but it is still being built in his vision.
Last call to be an intern for Birds 24/7.
Matt Barkley doesn’t want his rookie season to “slip away.”
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
DeMeco Ryans is high on Kendricks. From Reuben Frank:
“He’s communicating more, he’s understanding the game better, he’s seeing things a lot better. I’m just proud of the way he’s grown from Year 1 to now. I can just see that maturity in him, and the knowledge in his game is just picking up.
“I’m really proud of the steps that he’s made. The kid has unbelievable talent, and I just want to see him reach his full potential. The sky’s the limit for him because he has ability that a lot of people don’t have. He’s just gifted. Just God-given talent, and I want to see him able to maximize it.”
Phil Sheridan predicts that the Eagles go 8-8.
Picking a .500 record seems like a cop-out, but there is precious little to go on as Chip Kelly takes over for Andy Reid in Philadelphia. Will Kelly’s go-go offensive approach work in the NFL? Can Michael Vick thrive again after two years marred by injuries and turnovers? Is the read option a growing trend or have defensive coordinators solved it? Can the Eagles’ defense regain respectability even as coordinator Bill Davis shifts from a 4-3 to a 3-4 with mismatched personnel?
That’s way too many big questions to consider the Eagles a likely playoff team. They are, after all, coming off a 4-12 season. But Kelly’s system, facilitated by LT Jason Peters and a healthy offensive line, should be able to put points on the board. One thing is for sure: The Eagles’ offensive players are very excited about their potential.
Game day. We’ll both be in New York. Kapadia will see some snaps at quarterback for the Jets in the fourth quarter.
By 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.