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.

LB Review: Competition For Rolle?

Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Jamar ChaneyHere’s a review of how the Eagles linebackers performed against the Browns after having re-watched Friday night’s game.

DeMeco Ryans – Like the rest of the starters in the back seven, he only played a couple series, and Ryans didn’t have much of an impact. He got blocked on Montario Hardesty’s 6-yard run. In coverage, Greg Little got behind him in zone on third down, but Brandon Weeden misfired badly. I don’t think the preseason was enough to accurately judge Ryans one way or another. We’ll see how much of an upgrade he provides in the middle when Week 1 rolls around.

Mychal Kendricks – I think it’s fair to say he’s been their best linebacker this preseason. Kendricks was in on a couple plays against Cleveland, tackling Hardesty after a 3-yard run and knocking him out of bounds after a 2-yard gain. Expect him to be a three-down linebacker right out of the gate.

Brian Rolle – Let’s start with the two offsides penalties on the first drive. One was completely bogus. Rolle was nowhere near the line of scrimmage before the ball was snapped. The broadcast said it was him, but it had to be a defensive lineman. In coverage, (while it’s difficult to tell off of TV), it looked like Rolle might have been responsible for tight end Alex Smith, who ran free for a 20-yard gain in the first. And Rolle was a little slow picking up Hardesty out of the backfield on a 7-yard completion in the second. Against the run, he stopped Hardesty for no gain in the first. Overall, credited with four tackles (three solo). Rolle also played nickel with the second team.

Jamar Chaney – He played WILL with the second team and also stayed on the field in nickel. Chaney was in on a tackle, but Andy Reid said his hamstring was tightening up during the game. Reid also said that Chaney is still competing with Rolle for the starting job. That may be the case, but I still think Rolle is the favorite to line up at WILL when the regular season starts. Chaney’s been battling the injury and could get a shot down the road.

Ryan Rau – With Casey Matthews out, he played middle linebacker with the second group and forced a Hardesty fumble. Rau and Vinny Curry stopped running back Adonis Thomas for no gain in the third. Not going to make the roster, but got some good plays on tape.

Akeem Jordan – He played SAM with the second team and brought Hardesty down after a 4-yard gain in the first. Jordan’s had a solid preseason, and I think he’ll make the team.

Keenan Clayton – He made his case Friday night, but the feeling here is that the coaches know what Clayton brings to the table at this point. One preseason game is not going to dramatically change their opinion of him. Clayton came up with a punt block in the first. He played WILL and stayed on the field in nickel with the second team. In coverage, Clayton broke up a pass, nearly coming up with an interception in the third. He deflected a Seneca Wallace pass in the fourth, leading to a Cliff Harris interception. Poor tackling attempt on a 3rd-and-16 completion, allowing the Browns to pick up the first down and extend their drive. Against the run, Clayton tackled Thomas for a 2-yard loss in the third. He sits squarely on the roster bubble. Clayton could beat Jordan out for a spot, or if they wanted to, the Eagles could keep a seventh linebacker. That seems like a longshot though.

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

LB Review: Kendricks Delivers; Ryans Improves

Philadelphia Eagles LB Mychal KendricksHere’s a player-by-player breakdown of how the Eagles linebackers performed Monday night after having re-watched the game. Look for reviews of the rest of the positional groups on Tuesday and Wednesday. And yes, I know the Patriots sat a bunch of their starters.

DeMeco Ryans – In the first preseason game against the Steelers, he failed to notch a tackle and seemed to regularly get to the ball just a second late. But against New England, there was marked improvement. Let’s start with the run game. Ryans (5 tackles, 3 solo) shot into the backfield and forced Shane Vereen to change direction on a 3-yard run that was negated because of a holding penalty. Later, he fought off a block and stopped Vereen after a 3-yard gain. Ryans and Rolle bottled up Vereen on another play after a 3-yard gain. And he made a good read and good tackle, dropping Vereen for a 1-yard loss.

For the most part, Ryans looked good in coverage too. He broke up a pass intended for Jeremy Ebert in the second. And he ran with Ebert on a shallow cross, tackling him after a gain of 1 on 3rd-and-18. On a different play, Ryans tried to throw Ebert’s timing off by bumping him within 5 yards of the line, but it didn’t work as the wide receiver had a 20-yard catch and run. Ryans was asked to blitz a couple times too. He and Mychal Kendricks went after the QB on 3rd-and-8, but the defense got burned on a 16-yard screen to Julian Edelman. They blitzed again on a 3rd-and-9 play, but the Patriots picked up 20 yards and a first on a screen. It’s worth noting that Ryans was the only linebacker on the field in the Eagles’ dime package with six defensive backs.

Overall, an encouraging performance for the veteran.

Mychal Kendricks – I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say he was the Eagles’ best defensive player on Monday night.

Kendricks (6 tackles, 3 solo) played SAM in the base defense and stayed on the field with Ryans in nickel situations. I don’t see him giving that spot up going forward. Kendricks did a great job of recognizing an early screen, getting off the block of center Ryan Wendell and bringing Vereen down after a 4-yard gain near the sideline. He picked up Danny Woodhead out of the backfield and stuck with him on a third-down incompletion. Brandon Bolden wisely dropped a screen pass in the second, or Kendricks would have dropped him for a 5-yard loss. The rookie was not perfect. He got beat by Alex Silvestro for a touchdown in the second quarter, but in fairness to Kendricks, the Eagles got absolutely no pressure on the play.

Against the run, he crushed the fullback and was a major reason a Vereen run only picked up 2 yards in the first. Kendricks made a great read and a great tackle, dropping Vereen for a 5-yard loss. He blew up the lead blocker on a Vereen run that lost a yard. And he made a great read on a draw play, dropping Bolden for a 7-yard loss.

Kendricks was also used to rush the passer. Remember, he had seven sacks in 2010 at Cal. During the broadcast, Jon Gruden said, “One of the things Juan Castillo, the defensive coordinator of the Eagles, wants to do, is blitz more.” I don’t know if that’s true or not, but on one play, Kendricks lined up as a stand-up defensive end and put a great move on Vereen to pressure Ryan Mallett and force him out of the pocket. It would have resulted in a Trent Cole sack, but Nnamdi Asomugha was called for a holding penalty.

Just a solid overall performance. Kendricks very much looked the part of the fast, athletic, play-making linebacker the Eagles have been seeking. Yes, the Patriots were resting many of their starters, but the important thing here is that the rookie appears to know what he’s doing.

Brian Rolle – He started at the WILL spot and was relatively quiet (1 tackle, 0 solo). Rolle assisted on a tackle of Vereen after a 2-yard gain in the first. He and Ryans later stopped Vereen after a 3-yard gain. Rolle played nickel with the second team.

With Jamar Chaney injured, Rolle will likely start the season at WILL, but he hasn’t made many plays in the first two preseason games.

Akeem Jordan – His primary value comes on special teams, and Jordan made the tackle on the Patriots’ first punt return.

He played SAM with the second team and stayed on the field in nickel. Jordan had good coverage on Ebert on a fourth-quarter incompletion. And he also stuck with the wide receiver on a later third down. Jordan came on a blitz off the right edge in the fourth and deflected a Brian Hoyer pass.

I still think he has a leg up on Keenan Clayton for the final linebacker spot.

Keenan Clayton – He didn’t get into the game until the fourth quarter, playing WILL in the base and staying on the field in nickel. Clayton didn’t play a lot of snaps.

** In addition to Chaney (hamstring), Casey Matthews did not play because of a high ankle sprain. Ryan Rau played middle linebacker in the fourth quarter.

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.

LB Review: Eagles Rookie Kendricks Shows Flashes

Philadelphia Eagles LB Mychal KendricksHere is my player-by-player review of the Eagles linebackers after having re-watched Thursday night’s preseason game against the Steelers. I will provide breakdowns on the other positions on Friday and Saturday.

DeMeco Ryans – The new Eagles middle linebacker stayed on the field for all three downs, as expected. The results were mixed. Ryans was not credited with a tackle, but was around the football on several plays. He was one of many defenders, who helped bring Isaac Redman down on a 2-yard run in the first. Ryans also assisted on a Redman 5-yard gain. And he helped Joselio Hanson bring down Redman for a 1-yard loss on third down in the first. On a different play, he plugged a hole on a Jonathan Dwyer run, forcing him to bounce it outside, but missed the tackle. And Ryans got blocked by the center on the 3rd-and-13 draw that went for 14 yards. Overall, an OK performance. Obviously, plenty of time to go until the season starts, and we need to see more.

Mychal Kendricks – If you were expecting Kendricks to look like a Pro Bowler in his first game action in the NFL, you were disappointed. If you wanted to see him show flashes of the player the Eagles hope he eventually becomes, well, you got that. Kendricks showed off his speed, chasing Redman to the sidelines and slowing him down before a teammate arrived on a 2-yard run. He forced Chris Rainey out of bounds for a 2-yard loss on a toss to the right. Kendricks sniffed out a screen to Dwyer, and maybe more importantly, made the tackle for a 2-yard loss. And finally, he dropped Baron Batch after a 2-yard run in the first. Did Kendricks make mistakes? Absolutely. He was slow to pick up David Johnson out of the backfield on 3rd-and-3, and Ben Roethlisberger connected on a 7-yard gain. Andy Reid actually talked about that play after the game. On another play, Kendricks had to make a decision between sticking with Rainey and going after Roethlisberger, who escaped the pocket. Kendricks chose to chase the QB, who found Rainey for an 8-yard completion. Note that Kendricks stayed on the field in nickel situations.

Brian Rolle – He got the start at WILL, but didn’t play particularly well. As analyst Brian Baldinger pointed out, Rolle leaped wildly on Redman’s 3-yard carry on 4th-and-1. He was blocked by the fullback on a 4-yard Redman run and by an offensive lineman on Dwyer’s 33-yard run. Rolle got credit for half-a-sack with Darryl Tapp after Derek Landri caused pressure up the middle. And he played some nickel alongside Casey Matthews in the third. The competition at the WILL spot is very much on. Jamar Chaney will have a chance to compete with Rolle once he gets healthy.

Casey Matthews – It’s difficult to figure out what exactly the Eagles’ plans are for him in his second season. Matthews played middle linebacker with the second group and dropped Batch for a 1-yard loss in the third. I thought he’d get a chance to compete for the first-team nickel spot or even the first-team WILL spot, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Akeem Jordan – He played SAM with the second group. Jordan stopped John Clay a 2-yard gain in the third and finished the game with three tackles. The Eagles coaches know what they have in Jordan at this point. It’s just a matter of whether they find him valuable enough to keep on the roster.

Keenan Clayton – He played WILL with the second group and also stayed on the field in some nickel situations. Want to know why Clayton hasn’t been given more of a look as a three-down player? Check out the running play in the red zone where Steelers seventh-round pick Kelvin Beachum shoved him to the ground. On Rainey’s 57-yard touchdown, Clayton couldn’t make a play near the line of scrimmage, although he was blocked in the back. If he makes the team, Clayton’s role will almost certainly be specific to playing in coverage – in dime or other specific packages.

Eagles training camp preview: Linebackers

Eagles veterans are scheduled to report to training camp by Wednesday evening. Between now and then, we’ll preview what to look for at each position during the next few weeks.

Save ‘em a spot: DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Brian Rolle, Jamar Chaney, Casey Matthews.

Ryans arrives with high expectations after the Eagles have continually failed in recent years to find an adequate middle linebacker. Barring injury, he is a lock to start in the middle when the Eagles open the season against the Browns. But can he be good enough in coverage to stay on the field for all three downs?

The Eagles were in nickel about 46 percent of the time last year, according to Football Outsiders (you’re going to see me cite that stat quite a bit). In Houston, Ryans earned the reputation of being a great leader and a great teammate. But it’ll be hard to lead if he’s replaced in sub packages and on the sidelines nearly half the time.

The SAM job is Kendricks’ to lose, and he’ll likely stay on the field in nickel packages too.

As for WILL, Rolle, Chaney and Matthews will battle it out. Rolle produced mixed results as a rookie, leading all Eagles linebackers with six tackles for loss, but he missed his share too. Chaney started last season out at SAM, played poorly and was not very good when he returned to the middle either.

And then there’s Matthews. Talk about a strange rookie season. He was thrown into the middle to start the year, couldn’t get the job done, was moved to WILL in Week 3 and then barely saw the field again until Week 14. But in the final four games, Matthews played a lot (about 61 percent of the snaps) and played pretty well.  He should get a shot to win the WILL spot, and even if that doesn’t happen, Matthews could very well snatch one of the nickel positions, considering coverage was one of his strengths at the end of last season. In the spring, he said he bulked up to 250 pounds, and we’ll see in the next few weeks if that’s affected his speed.

Fighting for a job: Keenan Clayton, Moise Fokou, Akeem Jordan, Greg Lloyd, Ryan Rau, Monte Simmons.

Unless I’m wrong about someone in the first section (and I will reluctantly admit that’s possible), the six players in this group will be fighting for one spot.

Most likely, it’ll be either Clayton, Fokou or Jordan who makes the cut. Remember, special teams is a key here, and Jordan led the team with 14 special teams tackles last year. Fokou had 10, and Clayton had nine.

Clayton has been an enigma since the Eagles drafted him in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. He never seems to impress coaches in practice, but he saw significant action in the final month of last season. With the increasing need for linebackers to cover, Clayton has a chance to work himself into the mix.