Eagles Snapshot: Safety Preview

Throughout the course of the week, we’ll be providing position-by-position previews of the entire Eagles roster. Click here to get to all of them. Today, we cover the safeties.

The roster: Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Jaiquawn Jarrett, David Sims, Colt Anderson.

The Eagles shuffled up their safety situation on cut-down day. They let go of Oshiomogho Atogwe, who couldn’t stay healthy, and acquired Sims from the Browns. The Eagles also placed Anderson on the 53-man roster, instead of the PUP list, which would have forced him to miss the first six weeks of the season.

Player in the spotlight: Jaiquawn Jarrett

Even though the season is just three days away, it’s unclear exactly what Jarrett’s role is going to be in 2012.

As a rookie, he started two games and played significant snaps in two more. Safety was a problem area for the Eagles all season, but at no point did the team look to Jarrett as an answer. He couldn’t get onto the field until the team’s starters were sidelined with injuries in the second half of the season.

At the end of 2011, the expectation was that Jarrett would push Coleman for a starting spot after having a full offseason under his belt, but that hasn’t happened. Instead, he had to fight for a roster spot after a disastrous preseason game against the Steelers in early August. Jarrett took bad angles to the ball and missed multiple tackles in that game; at practice, Tom Nelson started to rotate in with him on the second team.

To his credit, Jarrett bounced back later in the preseason, but he needs to show a lot more to raise his ceiling from backup/special teams player to quality starter. He was also helped by the fact that Nelson suffered a high ankle sprain and Atogwe couldn’t get his hamstring right.

In Week 1, Jarrett will be counted on as the Eagles’ first backup behind Coleman and Allen. Chances are, at some point this season, he’ll get on the field and be given a chance to prove that the Eagles didn’t waste a pick on him in the second round of the 2011 draft.

You should also know that…

* Allen is the most talented of the group and finished 2011 strong. A second-round pick in 2010, he needs to show he can be healthy and productive in 2012.

* Missed tackles are only part of the equation, but Allen had trouble in that area last season. According to Football Outsiders, he missed 10 overall, or 17.9 percent of his tackling attempts.

* Sims has a great story. After high school, he worked a series of odd jobs, including one in waste management. He went to junior college, switched from running back to safety, transferred to Iowa State and has bounced around from the Giants to the Bucs to the Browns to the Eagles. He’s hoping to not only contribute on special teams, but push for playing time on defense also.

* Anderson was second on the team with 12 special-teams tackles last season, and keep in mind that he only played in 12 games after suffering a torn ACL against the Seahawks. He was also the first man down in coverage 18 times. No other Eagle did that more than nine times. Anderson will be inactive in Week 1, but it looks like he’ll be back making plays for Bobby April sooner rather than later.

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

Changes Likely Coming At Safety For Eagles

Any illusions about potential depth at safety was erased when O.J. Atogwe was forced out of Thursday’s preseason finale against the Jets and onto the trainers table.

The same hamstring injury that kept him out of the previous two games tugged at him again. It was the final sign, if the Eagles needed one, that moves are necessary to bolster the position heading into the regular season.

“I’ve got to look at that,” Andy Reid conceded. “That’s one of those spots I’ve got to look at, just make sure we’re set there, and we’ll do that. We’ll go through all the positions but that’s one where there is some stiff competition, and we have to make sure we’re right there.”

In Andy Reid speak, that’s about as close as you’ll get to an admission that there’s an issue.

Rosters need to be trimmed to 53 by 9 p.m. Friday. With teams trying to put together the puzzle, trades are certainly possible. And once all the cuts are made, there will be a greater crop of talent on the market than currently exists. As a reference point, Adam Caplan has the top 5 available free agent safeties as Nick Collins, Melvin Bullitt, Chris Crocker, Charlie Peprah and James Butler. There are not a ton of appealing options at the moment.  Howie Roseman and Reid will have to get creative.

Atogwe has had his share of success over seven seasons with the Rams and Redskins. He has also had his share of injuries of late, which is a large part of the reason he was available this offseason to begin with. Atogwe was asked about his future following the Jets game.

“The criteria that they’ll use to evaluate players is different than what I may speculate,” said Atogwe. “I know I’m able to play this game at the highest level possible. I’ve proven that time and time again and I still believe, by God’s grace, I can still do that. Whether they believe that or trust that or have faith in that, that’s to their discretion and I fully support their decision.”

The 31-year-old only played in parts of two games for the Eagles this preseason, and was able to manage four tackles and one pass defensed. Reid acknowledged that the limited reps makes it more difficult to evaluate what he has in Atogwe.

“In the picture -perfect world you want to play every game, show them exactly what you have. But that’s not what I was led into, those weren’t the cards that I was dealt,” said Atogwe. “I’m not going to cry about what didn’t happen. I’ll be thankful for what did happen and the opportunities I did have and how I handled them.”

With Jaiquawn Jarrett still a major question mark, there is a great deal of unceratinty behind Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen, who has been dealing with a hamstring tweak of his own of late. With Atogwe unable to show his worth because of injury, the Eagles are sure to act.

Eagles Wake-Up Call: After Cuts, More Work For Roseman

Teams have until Friday night at 9 p.m. to trim their rosters down to 53.

For now, coaches and general managers are focused on making sure they keep the right guys. They’re exploring potential trades (as Andy Reid explained yesterday) and probably making practice-squad projections.

But they’re also looking at what’s going on around the league. With 31 other teams forced to let go of 22 guys each, Reid and Howie Roseman will need to have opinions formed on a new pool of about 682 players.

Last year, for example, the Eagles claimed guard Kyle DeVan off waivers exactly one week before he was inserted into the starting lineup against the Rams. Where might the Eagles look to upgrade this year?

Safety is one area. We know Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman are the starters, but if the Eagles can add a player to bolster their depth, expect them to make a move. Neither Jaiquawn Jarrett nor Oshiomogho Atogwe is guaranteed a spot.

The Eagles could address offensive line depth as well, specifically at guard/center. The guess here is that Julian Vandervelde and Steve Vallos make the team initially as backups. But if an upgrade is available, the Eagles will take a look.

And finally, fullback. Stanley Havili has the job for now, but that could change.

We’re more than a week away from the opener, but look for Reid and Roseman to be active in shaping the roster in the next four or five days.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Linked this one above, but Reid says the phones are “very active” this time of year, as teams discuss trades.

Reid also said Nick Foles is the No. 2 quarterback – for now.

T-Mac had the scoop on Vick’s rib padding a couple days ago. Yesterday, Vick talked a little more about what the new protection will provide.

According to one analyst, the Eagles have only one offensive player who ranks among the top 10 at his position.

And here are 10 players currently on the roster bubble.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Is Reid a Hall of Fame-worthy coach? Not yet, writes ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano:

As for Reid, you know I have nothing but respect for the job he’s done with the Eagles and his abilities as a coach and a personnel man. I think his record holds up against that of anyone currently coaching. He’s 136-90 and has nine playoff appearances in 14 years. In the salary cap era, what he’s done in Philly is remarkable. However — and Reid himself knows this — he’s not getting a sniff in that Hall of Fame voting room if he doesn’t end up with a Super Bowl title on his resume. May not be fair, but that’s the way these things work.

SI.com’s Don Banks is having Tom Brady and Drew Bledsoe flashbacks when he watches Foles:

Hate to list Foles as a winner every week, but is anyone else here starting to think Tom Brady and Drew Bledsoe, circa 2001? Sounds implausible, I know, but so did the idea of a sixth-round pick supplanting the franchise in New England not quite 11 years ago. Foles has looked poised and promising in his three chunks of preseason action for Philadelphia, and starter Michael Vick can’t seem to stay healthy enough to see a third drive in any game he plays. And hey, at least Foles was taken in the draft’s third round. So it’s not like he went 199th overall and we’ll be hearing about all the other quarterbacks (“The Foles Six?”) who were taken ahead of him.

NFL.com experts are making their season predictions. Ian Rapoport pegs Vick for MVP, and Akbar Gbajabiamila thinks Reid will be Coach of the Year.

COMING UP

No practice today, but Brian Westbrook, who will retire as an Eagle, will meet with the media. We’ll have that covered, along with much more, including a final 53-man roster projection.

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

Ten Eagles On the Roster Bubble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DB Review: Boykin Or Hanson?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take 3: Projecting the Eagles’ 53-Man Roster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 Things To Watch: Eagles vs. Patriots

Philadelphia Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans.In no particular order, here’s what I’ll be keeping an eye on tonight when the Eagles take on the Patriots in their second preseason game.

1. DeMeco Ryans – By most accounts, he’s not quite there yet. The leadership stuff has not been overblown. Ryans seems to be adored by coaches and respected by teammates. But the question is: How effective of a player is he at this point in his career? Despite failing to notch a tackle in the first game, Ryans was frequently around the football. Expecting him to go to the Pro Bowl is probably asking for a bit much, but the Birds need Ryans to be a quality, three-down player. He’ll look to continue to increase his comfort level tonight.

2. Nick Foles – The rookie needed just six completions to capture the imagination of fans in the first preseason game. With Mike Kafka sidelined because of a fractured left hand, Foles will be the first man up after Michael Vick is finished. A couple weeks ago, I would have said that Kafka was definitely the backup, and Foles would be watching and learning in his first season. Now? I’m not so sure. What happens if the rookie carves up the Patriots and then impresses again against the Browns on Friday? There seems to be at least a chance that he could steal the backup spot away.

3. Danny Watkins – I wrote about him in detail yesterday. While much of the focus is on the left tackle situation, the Eagles need Watkins to make a leap in his second season as the starter at right guard. Teammates and coaches seem to think things are clicking for Watkins after he had the benefit of a full offseason. He was only on the field for six plays in the first game, but will get a chance to show how he’s progressed in extended action tonight.

4. King Dunlap/Demetress Bell – Will the game of musical chairs at left tackle continue next week? Or will Dunlap hold onto the job? Bell has been running with the second team, and Dunlap will get the start vs. New England. Both players are in the spotlight, and one of them will often be charged with blocking the other teams’ best pass-rushers once the regular season starts. As long as Vick is in the game tonight, plugging a tight end or running back on that left side might not be a bad idea.

5. Looking for a fullback – The Eagles have a few options at fullback: Stanley Havili, Emil Igwenagu or a player to be named later (meaning the Birds sign a player who is currently on another team’s roster, but eventually gets cut). It’d be nice to see the current guys get some reps as lead blockers and receivers – two of the most important parts of playing the position in this offense.

And while it’s unlikely, just maybe we’ll see Chris Polk get a shot there. Marty Mornhinweg admitted last week that the team has at least discussed the idea of the rookie playing fullback.

6. Mychal Kendricks – The rookie linebacker will likely get matched up against tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez (unless, of course, they don’t play). The Eagles were very good at covering opposing tight ends last year, and Kendricks looks like the favorite to play alongside Ryans in the nickel package. In the first game, despite a couple miscues, Kendricks showed flashes of being the athletic, play-making linebacker the Eagles have been searching for. Coaches, and fans, will want to see more of that tonight.

7. Nnamdi Asomugha – I’m not sure how much we’re going to see of the veteran cornerback, who suffered a lip laceration and sore neck last week. He said Saturday that it’s important for him to play tonight, but I got the sense that he’s going to be smart about this. If Asomugha feels any discomfort early on (or even in pre-game warmups), look for the Birds to play it safe and hold him out.

8. Jaiquawn Jarrett – He’s fighting desperately for a roster spot. Jarrett was one of the worst (if not, the worst) players on the field in the Eagles’ first preseason game. Poor angles, blown assignments, missed tackles. You name it, and we saw it from the second-year safety. He doesn’t need to be perfect, but he needs to show the coaches something for them to stick with him once September rolls around.

9. Michael Vick – It would be ideal for him to get through the game without any type of injury scare – that’s first and foremost. From a performance standpoint, Vick can’t really prove anything one way or another until the regular season starts. But the first-team offense would like to do a little better than last week’s back-to-back three-and-outs. Vick has admitted that he didn’t really understand the quarterback position until last year, and by all accounts, he’s been 100 percent invested this offseason. Reid, Mornhinweg and the fans would like to start to see some of the results from that hard work.

10. The punting battle – Granted, not the most exciting thing to watch, but the Eagles want the punting game to be a weapon that helps the defense this season. Neither Mat McBriar nor Chas Henry did much to distinguish themselves in the first game.

“I need more,” Andy Reid said last week. “I have to see more. I didn’t see anything that just jumped out to me.”

And don’t forget to watch how McBriar looks as a holder for Alex Henery, something he’ll be responsible for if he ends up winning the job.

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

Kapadia’s Take: Projecting the 53-Man Roster

The battle continues.

Yesterday, T-Mac provided us with a good laugh with his latest 53-man roster projection.

Now it’s my turn. I’ve got some changes from last week. Here goes nothing.

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

It took exactly six preseason snaps for Vick to have his first injury scare. While he suffered just a thumb contusion, Vick said he initially thought he broke his thumb when he banged it against Jason Kelce’s helmet against the Steelers.

Here’s a stat for you: 24.1 percent of Vick’s pass attempts last year traveled more than 15 yards downfield. That was the sixth-highest percentage in the league among quarterbacks.

As I’ve written before, the Eagles’ passing game relies on big plays downfield. That’s why I have serious concerns about Kafka being able to come in and execute without Marty Mornhinweg and Andy Reid having to make significant adjustments to the offense. With Kafka sidelined, Foles will get a chance to make his mark. And while Trent Edwards hasn’t shown much in practice, maybe we shouldn’t count him out completely just yet.

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

I still think Brown has the edge over Chris Polk, but there’s no way the Eagles can put Brown in a pass-blocking situation in a regular-season game right now. He has a long way to go in that department, and it’s just too risky. Keeping Brown is a long-term decision. He may not even touch the ball as a rookie, but can contribute on special teams, pick up the offense and look to do more down the road.

I feel pretty confident that the Eagles are going to keep a fullback. And right now, Havili has the edge over Emil Igwenagu. It’d be nice to see the Birds get each guy involved a little more Monday night so that we can see what they’re capable of in game situations. I asked Clay Harbor earlier this week if he anticipates playing more fullback in 2012, and he said flat-out no, noting that the team has really been impressed with Havili.

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

As Tim noted, my Damaris Johnson love has probably spiraled out of control. But why slow the train down now? I think he’s a lock to make the team, and if the season started today, he’d be their fourth wide receiver on gamedays.

Not much to say about Jackson, Maclin or Avant. On Twitter, a few of you have asked me why they’re keeping Cooper. It’s pretty simple. He averaged 80 yards receiving in three starts last year and was an effective special-teams player. That’s pretty much what you want out of a backup wide receiver Assuming he’s ready to go in the first week or two of the season, following surgery on his collarbone, Cooper’s making the 53-man roster.

McNutt is a bit of a wild card. He had his moments during camp, but doesn’t look like someone who’s ready to contribute as a rookie. There’s a chance the Eagles could go with five wide receivers or one of the unheralded guys bumps McNutt off the roster, but I think he takes one of the final spots and is a weekly inactive.

As for Chad Hall, I’m not sure what he gives this team that Johnson does not. He’s off.

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

I may be the only person in town who thinks Harbor can be an effective player for this offense.

His snaps increased from 28.6 percent as a rookie to 33.6 percent last year. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about how rookies had a difficult time last year because of the shortened offseason. But that applies to players going from Year 1 to Year 2 also. Especially someone like Harbor who was learning how to block on the fly.

He was up and down in that aspect, but has shown the ability to be a good blocker. As a receiver, he had a high catch rate (68.4 percent), catching 13 of the 19 balls thrown his way. And while everyone was up in arms about Harbor’s drops during the spring, he had just one drop last season, according to Pro Football Focus.

I think he’s going to be on the field as much as, if not more, than last season. And the Eagles would be wise to replace Jackson with Harbor in the red zone, where he can help as a blocker and a receiver.

As for Brett Brackett and Chase Ford, I don’t see the Eagles keeping a third tight end.

Offensive linemen (9): Demetress Bell, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Danny Watkins, Todd Herremans, King Dunlap, Julian Vandervelde, Dennis Kelly, Dallas Reynolds.

Last week, I wrote that the starters were pretty much “set in stone.”

Whoops.

Dunlap has replaced Bell at left tackle – for now. I still think the Eagles want Bell to win the job, but they’re not going to put him out there if he looks shaky. Is there a chance Herremans could move over to that side? I’m not ready to rule anything out at this point.

The first preseason game further enforced the notion that the Eagles have giant question marks with O-Line depth. I had been operating under the assumption that Vandervelde would be the first man up should the Eagles suffer an injury at guard or center. It was only one preseason game, but he looks like he’s got a long way to go.

Not too confident on the Reynolds pick either. Mike Gibson or Steve Vallos could potentially steal a spot. This is an area where the Eagles could add someone who gets cut in the coming weeks from another team.

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

I’m sticking to my guns here. I realize 11 is a big number, but everything the Eagles do defensively starts with the line. Typically, eight guys play on gameday, although that number could be nine this season if they use someone like Hunt as a situational pass-rusher.

I gave strong consideration to leaving Dixon off. Since last season, he really hasn’t seemed like a good fit for Jim Washburn’s style of play. But cutting him leaves the Eagles thin at defensive tackle. What happens if Cox, Jenkins, Landri or Thornton goes down? They would need to find someone to play significant snaps right away. Of course, a lot depends on Mike Patterson, whose status is up in the air.

I’ve still got six defensive ends making it. In a recent post, I explained why Phillip Hunt isn’t going anywhere. He’s young, under team control for three more seasons and seems to be coming into his own as a pass rusher.

Darryl Tapp is the player to watch. I still think the Eagles value him as a well-rounded defensive end who can effectively spell Cole. There’s a chance the Eagles look to trade Tapp, but for now, he stays on. The other X-Factor is Curry. He could be good enough to play right defensive end with the second group behind Cole. If Curry impresses the next couple of games, Tapp could be left off.

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

No changes here from last week. Keenan Clayton doesn’t make the cut. While his strength is coverage, Clayton isn’t so good in that aspect that it will earn him a spot. And he really doesn’t give anything at all against the run.

DeMeco Ryans has been the lone linebacker on the field in the Eagles’ dime package, but Kendricks could get a shot there at some point.

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

Change from last week: Hanson’s in, and Brandon Hughes is out.

Since the Eagles drafted Boykin, I’ve been expecting him to take the nickel corner job from Hanson, but it hasn’t happened yet. And until it does, I’ve decided to keep the veteran on the team. The Eagles’ secondary looked confused on many occasions in 2011. Perhaps that explains why they’re reluctant to go with a rookie in the slot, where he’d be expected to play roughly 50 percent of the snaps.

As for Hughes, the only real scenario where you’d need him would be if both Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie were to get injured. Marsh will be the first backup if one of them goes down, and Boykin could also get a shot on the outside. In other words, Hughes is expendable.

Cliff Harris still has a shot. He got off to a strong start, but then suffered an ankle injury. If he impresses the next couple weeks, the Eagles could easily keep him and cut a defensive lineman or even a linebacker.

Still don’t have much of an opinion on Kevin Thomas, the corner the Eagles acquired from the Colts. Someone to keep an eye on Monday night.

Safeties (4): Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Oshiomogho Atogwe, Tom Nelson.

I’ve got Jaiquawn Jarrett missing the cut. Let’s review the facts:

* Jarrett couldn’t get onto the field as a rookie. The Eagles even thought Jarrad Page was a better option than him.

* Despite lackluster play from the safety position in 2011, Jarrett showed no signs of competing for a starting spot with Kurt Coleman this offseason.

* The Eagles showed interest in veteran safety Yeremiah Bell and then ended up signing Atogwe after OTAs.

* Jarrett had a chance to make his mark in the first preseason game and turned in a dud.

* Nelson mixed in with Jarrett on the second team earlier this week at practice.

Now that all of that is out of the way, let me say that Jarrett still has a chance to make the roster. I’m sure the coaches want nothing more than to see him bounce back. He’ll be given every opportunity to stick around, considering he was a second-round pick in 2011. But at some point, you just admit the guy can’t play and move on.

My problem with Jarrett is that he looks bad doing the things that are supposed to be his strength. On Thursday night, he took bad angles to the ball and missed tackles. We know that pass coverage is not his strength. And he didn’t stand out on special teams last year. Those are all bad signs.

As for Nelson, consider him more of a place-holder. If Colt Anderson is ready to go, he could take that spot. Or perhaps more likely, the Eagles could sign a safety after teams trim their rosters down. I will say this though: Even though he was active for only four games last season, Nelson had five special-teams tackles and ranked ahead of Jarrett (active for 12 games) in special-teams points that are kept by the team.

In terms of depth, it looks like Atogwe will be the first man in should Allen or Coleman go down. It seems clear that the Eagles probably should have done more with their personnel here in the offseason.

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

Neither McBriar nor Chas Henery was impressive in the first preseason game. But I still think it’s McBriar’s job to lose.

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

Eagles Training Camp Winners And Losers

Philadelphia Eagles running back Dion Lewis.Now that training camp has moved from Lehigh to South Philly, it’s time to look back on which Eagles helped themselves and hurt themselves in the last three weeks.

WINNERS

Damaris Johnson - When training camp started, it appeared that Johnson’s best (and perhaps only) chance to make the roster would be a special-teams role. The undrafted free agent out of Tulsa, who set an NCAA record with 7,796 all-purpose yards, remains the favorite to take over punt-return duties from DeSean Jackson.

But the surprise at Lehigh has been Johnson’s ability as a receiver. In college, he caught 188 balls for 2,746 yards and 17 touchdowns, averaging nearly 63 catches per season and 14.6 yards per reception. With Riley Cooper sidelined and Jeremy Maclin dealing with a hamstring injury, Johnson’s had a chance to run with the first team, and he’s made the most of it. While not the biggest guy (5-8, 175), he seems to have picked up the offense well, especially considering he’s a rookie. In the preseason game against the Steelers, Johnson put a tremendous double-move on Keenan Lewis, leaving the cornerback on the ground and running free for a 70-yard touchdown from Nick Foles.

There are still three weeks to go, but Johnson is slated to be the primary punt returner and will add depth at wide receiver. Not bad for a guy who went undrafted in April.

Dion Lewis – The truth is his struggles as a kickoff returner probably affected his reputation as a runner during Lewis’ rookie season. But the second-year back consistently looked like a playmaker at camp, specifically in the passing game. As I mentioned yesterday, the Eagles were not particularly effective in the screen game last year, but perhaps that’s an area where Lewis can help.

Until Week 17, Lewis played just 19 total snaps last season, too small of a number to judge whether he can be effective. In the first preseason game, he looked good in blitz pickup, something that is essential to get on the field in the Eagles’ offense. The team didn’t go out and sign a veteran running back this offseason, and they waited until the seventh round to draft one (Bryce Brown). They clearly have a level of trust in Lewis and believe he can back up LeSean McCoy and spell him for a handful of snaps each game.

Mychal Kendricks – Some are getting a bit too nit-picky with the rookie linebacker. Does he remind anyone of Ray Lewis? Of course not. But based on the last three weeks, Kendricks will provide a much-needed upgrade at the SAM spot. He made a couple early errors in the first preseason game against the Steelers, but also flashed his speed and finished with four solo tackles, including two behind the line of scrimmage.

The Eagles have played their usual game of musical chairs with the linebackers in the nickel package. DeMeco Ryans has been one of them since the spring. Brian Rolle started out there at the beginning of camp. Then it was Jamar Chaney. However, with Chaney fighting through a hamstring injury, Kendricks has been given a shot. And the guess here is that he won’t be giving it up. Juan Castillo having the flexibility to keep Ryans and Kendricks on the field for all three downs will help the Eagles reduce some of the confusion and miscommunication we saw with this defense in 2011.

LOSERS

Jaiquawn Jarrett – The criticism is not all about his play against the Steelers. Remember, Jarrett couldn’t get on the field as a rookie. And he didn’t contribute on special teams. In the spring, while coaches were using the lockout-shortened offseason as a reason for why the team struggled in 2011, no one expressed confidence that Jarrett would really push Kurt Coleman for the starting job in 2012.

Meanwhile, the Birds added veteran Oshiomogho Atogwe, and Coleman and Nate Allen have remained the first-team safeties.

Jarrett, meanwhile, flashed his talents during one training camp practice, forcing a couple fumbles and delivering the big hits he made his name on in college at Temple. But when given the chance to make his  mark in the first preseason game, he looked like the worst player on the field, taking bad angles and missing tackles.

It’s not over yet for Jarrett, and he might benefit from the Eagles not really having a lot of other options for safety depth. But he needs to get things together quickly.

Demetress Bell – As I wrote this morning, left tackle has quickly emerged as one of this team’s biggest concerns. When Jason Peters went down in the offseason, the Eagles looked wise in being pro-active and signing Bell, widely considered the best available left tackle on the market.

But after three weeks at Lehigh, Bell has been bumped on the first team in favor of King Dunlap. That whole story Andy Reid is selling about how this was a scheduled switch? Not buying it. The Eagles didn’t sign Dunlap until March 30, coincidentally the same day we found out about Jason Peters’ Achilles injury. At the time, the Eagles had no options to play left tackle, and Dunlap provided an insurance plan. He’s worked hard to carve out a spot as a backup (remember, Dunlap also played guard for a game last year), but is not someone the Eagles want to count on as a starter for 16 games.

The job is Bell’s for the taking. The question is: Will he be able to do enough in the next three weeks to show Howard Mudd he can be trusted? Remember, Mudd started Danny Watkins in camp last year, didn’t think he was ready and then replaced him with journeyman Kyle DeVan to start the season. Against the Steelers, Bell was asked to block his man one-on-one in pass protection twice. He got beat both times. And on one play, Michael Vick had to step up in the pocket to escape pressure, eventually banging his thumb against Jason Kelce’s helmet.

If Bell doesn’t improve in the coming weeks, he’ll start the season on the bench.

Mike Kafka – He was a giant question mark entering camp, and Kafka did little to alleviate concerns in the first preseason game, going 5-for-9 for 31 yards and an interception.

Granted, it was limited action, but he averaged just 3.4 yards per attempt. The question with Kafka is arm strength. The Eagles’ offense is based on getting the ball to its playmakers (DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin) downfield. If Kafka can’t make all the throws, Marty Mornhinweg and Andy Reid will have to change the offense dramatically when he enters the game.

Now that Kafka has a fractured left hand, it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to participate in any of the three remaining preseason games. And while the Nick Foles love has gotten out of hand (considering it’s based on six completed passes), the rookie will now get a chance to make his mark with the second team in Kafka’s absence.

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

Eagles Release New Depth Chart

The Eagles released a new depth chart today, in advance of Monday’s preseason game against the Patriots. Here are some notes:

OFFENSE

* As expected, King Dunlap is the first-team left tackle. Look for him to start there in place of Demetress Bell, who is on the second team.

* Stanley Havili is the first-team fullback, with Emil Igwenagu backing him up.

* The running backs, in order behind LeSean McCoy, are Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown and Chris Polk. McCoy and Lewis are locks to make the team. Brown and Polk are fighting for spots, although at least one of them will be on the 53-man roster.

* The best example of Don’t put too much stock into the depth chart is the wide receiver position. Riley Cooper and Jason Avant are listed behind Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson, respectively. Marvin McNutt, Chad Hall and Elvis Akpla are with the third team. And Damaris Johnson is a fourth-stringer. Johnson, however, has been running with the ones when Maclin’s been injured. With Cooper hurt, he’s really the No. 4 wide receiver right now.

* Along with Bell, your second-team offensive line is Julian Vandervelde (LG), Dallas Reynolds (C), Mike Gibson (RG) and Dennis Kelly (RT).

* At tight end, in order behind Brent Celek, it’s Clay Harbor, Brett Brackett and Chase Ford.

* Behind Michael Vick, in order, are Mike Kafka, Nick Foles and Trent Edwards. Kafka, of course, is recovering from a fractured left hand, and Foles is expected to run with the twos Monday night.

DEFENSE

* Derek Landri is still listed at first-team defensive tackle, alongside Cullen Jenkins. I have a hunch we might see Fletcher Cox take that spot in the next week or two. Andy Reid said today he did not have much of an update on Mike Patterson’s status. Patterson has missed all of training camp and is recovering from offseason brain surgery.

* Jaiquawn Jarrett is still listed as the second-team safety, alongside Oshiomogho Atogwe, although Tom Nelson mixed in with Jarrett earlier this week.

* Phillip Hunt is listed behind Brandon Graham on the third team, even though Hunt has been practicing as a starter in place of Jason Babin at left defensive end.

* Nothing new at linebacker, although we’ll see if Mychal Kendricks continues to line up alongside DeMeco Ryans in nickel. That may depend on whether Jamar Chaney plays.

* Cliff Harris and Kevin Thomas, who was acquired in the Colts trade, are listed with the fourth team at cornerback.

SPECIALISTS

* Mat McBriar is the first-team punter and holder.

* Johnson is the No. 1 punt returner, and Brandon Boykin is the No. 1 kick returner.

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

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