Updated: Joselio Hanson Signs With Raiders

Former Eagles nickel corner Joselio Hanson has found a new home.

According to Adam Caplan, Hanson signed a one-year deal with the Raiders after visiting them on Sunday.

Hanson, entering his eighth NFL season, appeared in all 16 games last season for the Eagles, finishing with four passes defensed.   He had been running with the first team as the nickel cornerback all preseason. Ultimately the Eagles showed their faith in rookie Brandon Boykin to fill that role and released Hanson on cutdown day.

The 31-year-old had been in Philadelphia since 2006 after one season in San Francisco. He has 209 career tackles with 49 passes defensed, four interceptions and 3 1/2 sacks.

Why the Eagles Chose Boykin

Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin.The Eagles’ decision to part ways with veteran Joselio Hanson signified one thing above all else: They have confidence in rookie Brandon Boykin.

If the coaches had their doubts about Boykin, they could have held on to Hanson, let him start the season as the nickel cornerback and gradually eased the rookie into that role. Instead, Boykin gets the nod right away.

Last year, according to Football Outsiders, the Eagles played nickel on about 47 percent of their defensive snaps. It’s a position that requires a unique skill set, specifically the athleticism to cover different types of receivers without the benefit of using the sideline.

“It’s a very important part of the defense,” Boykin said recently. “Slot receivers are probably some of the best players on the teams on each offense, so having somebody that can guard and tackle and be quick enough to guard each way is pivotal in the game. And I think more and more, we’re seeing how important they are.”

Boykin will be tested early. Cleveland’s Greg Little had 40 catches for 466 yards in the slot last year, according to Pro Football Focus. The Eagles face the Browns in Week 1. Anquan Boldin is past his prime, but Boykin will have to match up with the veteran in Week 2 when the Ravens visit the Linc. Early Doucet (44 catches, 590 yards from the slot) is on the schedule in Week 3 when the Birds go to Arizona. And the Eagles have Victor Cruz and the Giants in Week 4. Cruz killed the Birds last year and piled up 1,208 yards from the slot in 2011, most in the NFL.

But this is why the Eagles drafted Boykin in the fourth round. Greg Cosell of NFL Films called him one of the two-best inside corners in the draft. Along with being the team’s primary kickoff returner, Boykin will be counted on to bottle up opposing slot receivers and shore up what was a shaky secondary a year ago.

Hanson turned 31 earlier this month, and while he’s proven to be a reliable veteran over the years, he did not have a great season in 2011. Football Outsiders has a metric called success rate, which, for cornerbacks, is defined as the percentage of passes that don’t manage at least 45 percent of needed yards on first down, 60 percent of needed yards on second down, or 100 percent of needed yards on third down. While it’s only one piece of the puzzle, Hanson’s success rate dropped from 63 percent in 2010 to 49 percent in 2011.

That was worse than Asante Samuel (67 percent), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (61 percent) and Nnamdi Asomugha (56 percent).

The Eagles used four of their first five draft picks on defensive players. Three of them – Boykin, Mychal Kendricks and Fletcher Cox - will be counted on right away.

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.

10 Things To Watch: Eagles Vs. Browns

Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin.Here are 10 things I’ll be keeping an eye on tonight when the Eagles take on the Browns. And remember, as always, Tim and I will be hosting a live chat during the game.

Nick Foles – What? You thought I was going to lead with someone else? The rookie is 24-for-38 for 361 yards, four touchdowns and one interception in the first two preseason games. He’ll get the start and go up against the Browns’ first-team defense, although expect Cleveland to keep things pretty vanilla, considering these two teams square off in Week 1. Perhaps the most impressive stat from Foles so far is that he hasn’t been sacked once in 40 dropbacks. That speaks to his decisiveness and comfort level. Andy Reid has had plenty of chances to say that Mike Kafka is going to be his backup quarterback when healthy, and he hasn’t done that. Foles has a legit chance to win the No. 2 job.

The nickel corner battle – Rookie Brandon Boykin mixed in with the first team last week in place of Joselio Hanson. Boykin was not targeted, and Andy Reid said recently that the gap is narrowing between the two. Ideally, the Eagles would like Boykin to win the job. He’s going to make the roster anyway and will be active on gamedays as the Birds’ kickoff returner. Cutting the 31-year-old Hanson would free up a roster spot for someone else. But Boykin’s got to show he’s up for the challenge. The nickel corner will be on the field for nearly 50 percent of the defense’s snaps in the regular season. If the coaches don’t feel like they can trust Boykin in Week 1, Hanson will get the nod.

The left tackle competition – King Dunlap gets the start once again, and if I had to bet right now on who will be on the field in Week 1, he’s my pick. Dunlap looked pretty good in pass protection last week, but he’s not even close to being in Jason Peters’ league as a run blocker. I’d like to see the Eagles try to run to Dunlap’s side a little more tonight to see how he does. Meanwhile, Demetress Bell struggled in the second half of last week’s game and looks generally uncomfortable. If he turns in a good performance tonight, perhaps he’ll start in the final preseason game with a chance to win the spot back. But for now, it’s Dunlap’s job to lose.

DeMeco Ryans – The veteran linebacker doesn’t like answering questions about his Achilles. Seemingly every day this summer, he’s been asked about the injury he suffered in 2010. And every day, he lets reporters know that he’s fine and 100 percent healthy. It’s clear that Ryans has a lot of pride and something to prove after the Houston Texans dumped him this offseason. The veteran looked good last week, diagnosing run plays and getting to the ballcarrier. His coverage skills have produced mixed results. We won’t really know what Ryans is capable of until the regular season, but considering he may sit in the final preseason game, it’d be nice to see him continue to progress tonight.

Dennis Kelly – The Eagles surprised many draftniks in April when they selected Kelly in the fifth round (153rd overall). But the 6-8, 320-pounder out of Purdue will get the start at right tackle as Todd Herremans will miss the game because of a death in the family. In game action so far, Kelly has played both right tackle and right guard. He’s been up and down, but clearly, Howard Mudd likes what he sees. As I mentioned yesterday, line depth is a concern for this team. Depending on how Bell progresses, Kelly could be counted on in a backup role this season.

Mychal Kendricks – He was impressive against New England. Part of being a rookie means building on that experience tonight and not making the same mistakes twice. Kendricks has played fast and shown the ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage. He also diagnosed and disrupted screen plays successfully, but coverage is the key with him. He got beat for a touchdown against the Patriots, and it looked like he got mixed up in zone on another pass play in the middle of the field. He’s slated to be a three-down linebacker, but every snap is important – even in the preseason.

Phillip Hunt – He’s been a beast with three sacks and a pair of forced fumbles through two preseason games. Hunt has lined up primarily at left defensive end, but has also seen time at right defensive end, and was even inside on one snap last week. Hunt’s got a roster spot locked up, but he could earn a bigger role if he continues to impress and shows he can hold up against the run.

Brandon Graham – He got off to a good start against the Steelers and was ok against New England. The Eagles are going to have decisions to make at defensive end when they cut the roster to 53 and when they decide who’s going to be active on gameday. Assuming Jason Babin’s healthy, he and Trent Cole will run with the first team, but after that, there’s some indecision. Given how Hunt’s played, it’s safe to assume he’ll be in the mix. That leaves Graham, rookie Vinny Curry and Darryl Tapp (who might not survive cuts) fighting for playing time. And don’t forget, Cullen Jenkins has been playing a lot of defensive end too. Graham has had a good summer and will make the team, but he’s still got a lot to prove.

Stanley Havili – He put himself in the driver’s seat for the starting fullback job with a nice game against the Patriots, showing the ability to carry the ball with a 14-yard run and acting as a lead blocker on LeSean McCoy’s touchdown run. Perhaps most importantly, Havili made a great play on the punt coverage team. When teams get down to 53, there will be fullbacks available. Havili needs to convince Reid and Howie Roseman to stick with him instead of going after a player not currently on the roster.

Damaris Johnson – He had a great camp and an impressive preseason opener against the Steelers. But last week, Johnson fumbled his first punt return, before picking the ball up, gaining 6 yards and running out of bounds. If Johnson is going to be the primary punt returner, Bobby April and the coaches need to know they can trust him to hang onto the football. He’s a safe bet to make the roster at this point, but needs to avoid miscues on special teams.

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.

Gap Narrowing Between Hanson, Boykin

Eagles cornerback Brandon BoykinWith 18 days left until the Eagles open their season in Cleveland against the Browns, competition for the first-team nickel corner job appears to be heating up.

Rookie Brandon Boykin replaced Joselio Hanson in the second quarter of Monday night’s preseason game against the Patriots. Hanson got the start and rotated back in after halftime.

In terms of performance, Hanson gave up a couple completions to Julian Edelman, and Boykin was not targeted.

Asked if he’d hesitate to play a rookie in the nickel spot, Andy Reid today said no.

“I think you play the best guy is what you do,” he said. “You make it as simple as you possibly can in your evaluation, say whoever’s playing the best will play at that position. That’s a close competition there.  Those guys are going after it. I thought both of them actually did some good things in the game, so we’ll just leave that as an open competition.”

Monday was the first time all summer Boykin has mixed in with the ones. Earlier at training camp, Reid and some other Eagles players talked about how well Hanson knew the defense and how hard it would be to unseat him. So, what’s changed?

“The obvious is that Boykin’s learning and getting better everyday, so that gap’s narrowed,” Reid said.

According to the Football Outsiders Almanac, the Eagles played nickel about 47 percent of the time last season.

“It’s a very important part of the defense,” Boykin said. “Slot receivers are probably some of the best players on the teams on each offense, so having somebody that can guard and tackle and be quick enough to guard each way is pivotal in the game. And I think more and more, we’re seeing how important they are.”

Hanson turned 31 earlier this month, and the Eagles cut him last summer, before eventually signing him again. The veteran did not have an especially strong 2011 if you look at charting numbers.

Boykin, who is also the team’s No. 1 kickoff returner, played inside in college at Georgia. As of this morning, he hasn’t been told about any shake-ups in terms of the depth chart, but chances are, he’ll rotate in with the ones again on Friday.

“I’m not really sure yet. We haven’t even went over it yet,” he said. “With this short week, we’ve got like a day or two of practice and we’re hitting the field, so I think everybody will probably be mixing in.”

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

DB Review: Asomugha Showcases Tackling Skills

Philadelphia Eagles CB Nnamdi Asomugha.Here’s a player-by-player breakdown of how the Eagles defensive backs performed Monday night, after having re-watched the game. Check out the linebacker review here, the defensive line review here and look for write-ups of the rest of the positional groups on Wednesday.

Nnamdi Asomugha – The veteran cornerback deserves some credit here. Last Monday, he was involved in a mid-air collision with Nate Allen, suffering a lip laceration, sore neck and whiplash-type symptoms. He tried to practice on Thursday, but was having trouble with a spasm in his back and had to head inside early. He participated Friday, but could barely talk afterwards as his lip continued to recover. Asomugha probably just as easily could have been cautious and sat out this game, but he thought it was important to be on the field.

And he played well. Asomugha had his share of tackling issues last season, but he was excellent in that aspect Monday night. He lined up inside on one play and tackled Shane Vereen after a 2-yard gain. He made a textbook tackle on Vereen, stopping him after a 1-yard gain on a screen. And he made a nice read and tackle on a wide receiver screen to Jeremy Ebert, dropping him for a 3-yard loss in the second. I believe Asomugha was only targeted once, and it was an incompletion to Deion Branch.

The only downside was a costly holding penalty on a 3rd-and-7 play that negated a Trent Cole sack. But overall, Asomugha played well, and he stayed on the field well into the third quarter with the rest of the starters.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – It was mostly good for DRC before he left the game in the second quarter because of a shoulder injury. Rodgers-Cromartie made a great break on the ball and nearly came up with an interception while covering Donte’ Stallworth in the first. On an almost identical play later, he came up with the pick, but Fletcher Cox was whistled for roughing the passer. Rodgers-Cromartie also broke up a pass intended for Danny Woodhead in the red zone. The only negative I saw was when he got beat by Branch over the middle for a 20-yard gain on 3rd-and-5.

Joselio Hanson – It looks like the competition between him and Brandon Boykin is still on. Hanson started the game as the nickel corner, but rotated in and out with the rookie the rest of the game. He lost track of Julian Edelman on a quick screen that picked up 16 yards on 3rd-and-8. And he had trouble sticking with Edelman on an 8-yard crossing route in the first. Hanson had good coverage on Ebert, breaking up a pass (albeit with this back) over the middle in the first. He sat out the second and returned in the third.

Curtis Marsh – With Rodgers-Cromartie leaving early, Marsh saw some time at left cornerback. He also played in dime when Rodgers-Cromartie was still in the game. Marsh got targeted fairly often. He broke up a Brian Hoyer pass intended for Stallworth. Along with Nate Allen, he had good coverage on Stallworth on a deep pattern in the second. Marsh was targeted on third down in the third, but had great coverage on Stallworth and forced an incompletion. It looked like he had pretty good coverage on Stallworth down the right sideline on a deep ball that was incomplete in the third. The one time he got beat was on a 20-yard completion to Stallworth on 3rd-and-9 late in the first half. Marsh also did a good job on special teams, downing a Chas Henry punt at the 6 in the fourth.

Brandon Boykin – I believe this was the first time all summer Boykin got a chance to run with the starters. He’ll now have a couple weeks to wrestle the first-team nickel job away from Hanson. Boykin entered the game in the second and came back in late in the third. It didn’t look like he was targeted. It’ll be interesting to see if Boykin mixes in with the first team at practice Wednesday.

Brandon Hughes – He entered the game on defense mid-way through the third quarter, playing right cornerback. Hughes had good coverage on Branch, but Ryan Mallett still made a nice throw for a 14-yard completion in the third. Hughes broke up a deep ball to Stallworth down the left sideline in the third. And on Mat McBriar’s first punt, he was the first man down in coverage, but missed the tackle. Looks like Hughes is facing an uphill battle for a roster spot, unless someone ahead of him gets injured.

Trevard Lindley – He came in to play left cornerback late in the third.

Nate Allen – Encouraging signs all around for Allen (7 tackles, 2 solo). He did a good job against the run, stopping Vereen after a 2-yard gain in the first. Allen dropped Vereen after a 1-yard gain in the red zone in the second. And he flew in to help trip Stevan Ridley up after a 2-yard gain in the third. It’s always tough to judge safety play off of TV, but Allen had good coverage on one deep ball, breaking up a Hoyer attempt intended for Stallworth.

Kurt Coleman – Didn’t notice Coleman much, which sometimes can be a good thing for safeties. Branch found a hole in the Eagles’ zone, in front of Coleman and behind Mychal Kendricks, for a 17-yard gain on 3rd-and-13 in the second. But that very well could have been on the rookie not taking a deep enough drop.

Jaiquawn Jarrett – He didn’t really get a lot of chances to show his progress. Jarrett entered the game mid-way through the third quarter. It looked like he closed on time on a deep incompletion to Stallworth down the left sideline. Still very much on the roster bubble.

Tom Nelson – With Oshiomogho Atogwe sidelined because of a hamstring injury, he ran with the second team. Nelson made a good tackle on a screen to Vereen, limiting him to 4 yards on 3rd-and-10. He also suffered a high ankle sprain during the game.

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

Asomugha Returns to Practice, Has Trouble Speaking

Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Nnamdi AsomughaNnamdi Asomugha was a full participant in practice Friday afternoon for the first time since a violent mid-air collision with Nate Allen on Monday.

Asomugha suffered a lip laceration and a sore neck. On Tuesday, Andy Reid said the cornerback had “whiplash-type symptoms.”

Yesterday, Asomugha began practice, but did not finish because of discomfort in his neck. He said today that he couldn’t talk much because his lip is still recovering. Asomugha added that his neck is fine.

“It feels good to be back, get the wind back.” he said. “I just can’t really talk.”

Asked about what was going through his head right after the collision, Asomugha said, “I didn’t know what was going on, just the initial pain down my spine. Besides that, it’s fine.”

Players were in full pads yesterday, but today, it was just helmets and shells.

Meanwhile, Joselio Hanson, Antonio Dixon and Curtis Marsh all returned to practice and participated fully.

Hanson suffered a dislocated right pinky finger yesterday. It was heavily wrapped today. Dixon left yesterday because of a left triceps spasm, but he returned. And Marsh has been dealing with a hamstring injury. He said he “definitely” expects to play Monday vs. the Patriots.

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

Dixon, Asomugha And Hanson Leave Practice

Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Antonio Dixon.Nnamdi Asomugha, Antonio Dixon and Joselio Hanson all started practice Thursday afternoon at the Novacare Complex, but none of them finished.

Asomugha gave it a go, but headed back inside. He’s recovering from a sore neck and what Andy Reid called “whiplash-type symptoms” after a violent collision with Nate Allen on Monday at Lehigh.

Dixon, meanwhile, left practice because of a left triceps spasm. Last year, Dixon tore his left triceps in Week 4 against the 49ers and missed the rest of the season.

And finally, Hanson dislocated the pinky finger on his right hand.

In terms of reinforcements, the Eagles have Cullen Jenkins, Fletcher Cox, Derek Landri and Cedric Thornton at defensive tackle. As I wrote earlier, Dixon sits squarely on the roster bubble.

Hanson, meanwhile, has fought off Brandon Boykin for the first-team nickel corner job. If he misses time, though, the rookie will likely get some reps there.

As for Asomugha, the Eagles aren’t particularly deep at cornerback. Curtis Marsh continues to recover from a hamstring injury. Brandon Hughes will likely be the next man up if both Asomugha and Marsh miss time.

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.

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