Wake-Up Call: Former Eagles Finding Work

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Chip Kelly told reporters earlier this summer that even if he ran the slowest offense in the NFL, his practices would still be up-tempo.

“The only reason we practice fast is because we want to get more plays in. And if we get more plays in, guys will get more reps. The more times they get reps, the better they get as a player,” he explained. “We have 90 guys on our team that we’re trying to improve on a constant basis. So how do we improve them or make decisions or evaluate them if we never get a chance to have them on film?”

No matter your standing, you’re going to get plenty of work if you are a part of this team. That’s an attractive feature of the Kelly operation for reserve players looking for a home or to better their standing in the league.

“If you’re [second or third string], you want to be in our camp because you get more reps than anyone else,” said Kelly. “Because of the reps we get in practice, our guys get a chance to develop a little more. You go to some teams and the threes aren’t getting many reps — they are losing time compared to our guys.”

Interestingly enough, a good number of Eagles released in recent days quickly landed jobs elsewhere. Read more »

Eagles 53-Man Roster Projection

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

If memory serves, I have outdueled the venerable Sheil Kapadia each of the last two years in this exercise. I think we can all agree that the chances of a three-peat are high.

If you want to see his roster projection (and why would you?), click here. If you prefer a more accurate read, continue on.

Teams must trim their rosters to 75 on August 26th, then down to 53 on August 30. Here’s how I see it playing out heading into the team’s second exhibition game:

Read more »

Wake-Up Call: Kruger ‘Hungry’ Entering Year 2

Joe Kruger
The Eagles are adding a 6-6, 290-pound defensive lineman to the mix this season. He has 34 3/8 arms, 10-inch hands, and racked up six sacks, eight tackles for a loss and an interception return for a touchdown his junior season en route to All Pac-12 honors.

Joe Kruger is like a new addition to the Eagles, even though he’s physically been with the team for a year already. Read more »

McManus: Projecting the Eagles’ 53-Man Roster

Chip KellyYes, I defeated Sheil in the 53-man projection contest last year. Yes, it was as easy as it looked.

I’ve been called many things since then — champion, Nostradamus, King 53, the Joe Lunardi of football — but honestly, I’d really prefer it if you just call me Tim.

Kapadia is back for more. He took a shot at the 2013 roster last week. My turn this week. Teams must trim their rosters down to 53 by 6 p.m. on Aug. 31. On Aug. 30, we’ll release our final versions, matching our projections up vs. the Eagles’.

Kapadia has already written his concession speech.

Without further ado, let’s get to the award-winning projections.

Quarterbacks (3): Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley.

Vick looks to have pulled ahead in the quarterback competition. Chip Kelly has preached the importance of having two capable quarterbacks at this level. That is particularly true when your chosen signal-caller has not played a full 16-game season since 2006. No reason to think Foles will be moved if he does not win the job. Kelly may very well need him. Barkley will be learning from the sideline unless Plan A and Plan B fail.

Believe it or not, Dennis Dixon still has some practice squad eligibility remaining. Dixon, a member of Baltimore’s practice squad last season, played the scout team role of Colin Kapernick in preparation for the Ravens’ Super Bowl matchup against the Niners. With RGIII in the division, he could be a useful asset on the practice squad here in Philly.

Running backs (3): LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk.

Could very well be a potent 1-2-3 punch.

The Eagles will be running the ball quite a bit this season (and will be running a ton of plays, period) so I’m sure Kelly is not opposed to keeping a fourth back for depth and insurance purposes. But Felix Jones has not impressed. Same can be said about the rookie Matthew Tucker. The move may be to put Tucker (or another back) on the practice squad and roll with three on the 53-man for now.

Wide receivers (6): DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper, Jason Avant, Damaris Johnson, Greg Salas, Russell Shepard.

The first four are locked in. What Kelly decides to do beyond that four is where it gets interesting.

Salas has been the next best receiver in camp but might not have the same upside as Shepard, who has shown a strong work ethic, good hands and little flashes that keep him in the conversation. Not sure he lasts on the practice squad. Clay Harbor has been working some at receiver. If he sticks, is there room for he, Shepard and Salas? Maybe not, but for now I’m projecting that they all make the cut.

Ifeanyi Momah isn’t ready for the show.

Tight ends (4): Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, James Casey, Clay Harbor.

Kelly has already shown a four-tight end set. We’re almost at the point where we have to ask: Is four even enough for this guy?

We have seen the value of having tight ends split out wide to serve as lead blockers for the oft-used bubble screens. This alone gives Harbor a role. Kelly likes tight ends, he’ll use tight ends, and, the guess here is he keeps at least four of them.

Derek Carrier and  Will Shaw are the other two tight ends on the roster at the moment. Neither have really stood out.

Offensive linemen (9): Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, Lane Johnson, Allen Barbre, Danny Watkins, Dennis Kelly, Julian Vandervelde.

Barbre has made the most of his opportunity in camp, and has moved into a position where he could be a primary backup both at tackle and guard. Kelly (back surgery) is hopeful he can return to the practice field around the start of the regular season. We’ll see.

Vandervelde could back up Kelce at center.

Watkins has been sidelined with a concussion since August 12. I wouldn’t be shocked if he doesn’t make the team. If the Eagles go in a different direction, Matt Tennant is an option. Rookie tackle Michael Bamiro (6-8, 340)  is an interesting prospect, but he’s raw. Maybe you can stash him on the practice squad.

Defensive linemen (7): Fletcher Cox, Isaac Sopoaga, Cedric Thornton, Bennie Logan, Damion Square, Vinny Curry, Clifton Geathers.

Square, an undrafted rookie out of Alabama, crashed the party and is in position to make the team. At who’s expense? We’ll say seventh-round pick Joe Kruger. The 21-year-old Kruger is a developmental pick. It’s possible he makes the 53 if the Eagles believe he’ll be plucked off the practice squad. The guess here is they take the chance. Fellow seventh-rounder David King has blended in during camp.

Kruger could make it over Geathers as well, but in terms of pure performance, Geathers gets the nod.

Logan has been impressive so far. Looks like he’ll have a role right out of the gates.

Outside linebackers (4): Trent Cole, Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Chris McCoy.

Big challenges ahead for Cole and Graham as they transition to a new role. If they fail, there isn’t much in the way of a backup plan.

McCoy has enjoyed a solid summer and should make the squad.

Inside linebackers (4): DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Jake Knott, Jamar Chaney.

Knott, an undrafted rookie out of Iowa St., has earned himself a job this summer.

The final spot probably comes down to Casey Matthews and Chaney. Flip a coin. I’m going with Chaney, mostly to be different than Sheil.

Cornerbacks (5): Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Brandon Hughes, Jordan Poyer.

Not the strongest crop of corners in the world.

Curtis Marsh is currently sidelined with a broken hand, but could make the team. We’ll give the nod to Hughes, who started in place of the injured Cary Williams against the Patriots.

Poyer has been very quiet this summer, but will make the team based on potential.

Safeties (5): Patrick Chung, Nate Allen, Earl Wolff, Colt Anderson, Kurt Coleman.

On paper, the group looks better with Kenny Phillips‘ name mixed in. But as we know, the game is not played on paper. Phillips has not done much to distinguish himself since arriving in Philly. Though he missed Thursday’s game with a quad injury, the knees are the real concern. Maybe he has been holding back in the name of keeping himself healthy for the regular season. Now is the time to prove himself if he wants to stick with the Eagles.

Specialists (3): Alex Henery, Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos.

Nobody is really talking about this, but Henery has not been very accurate during camp. He is missing rather frequently on the NovaCare practice fields. His one attempt in the first two preseason games was no good. Not sounding the alarm, but worth keeping an eye on.

Dorenbos is back from a concussion. Long live James Winchester.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Rookie Status Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

WHAT YOU MISSED

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

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

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

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

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

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

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

COMING UP

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

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