Twitter Mailbag: How Many Backs Will Stick?
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@Tim_McManus how many RBs and WRs do you see making the team? I’m a big fan of Henry Josey after watching him play at Mizzou.
— Nick Atkins (@nsa817s) July 10, 2014
Josey has a great story, too. (Sheil wrote about it here.) Easy guy to root for. Running back spots will be hard to come by, though. Last year the Eagles went with three backs — LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown and Chris Polk — as they whittled their roster down to 53. They brought up Matthew Tucker from the practice squad during the season as a result of a Polk injury. Right now, it looks like McCoy, Darren Sproles and Polk will be the trio in 2014. There’s a chance they carry a fourth, but one of the backs will have to give them good reason to do so. Josey needs to have a really nice summer to capture a spot. Same goes for David Fluellen and Tucker. The more realistic scenario may be that the Eagles keep a running back on the practice squad who can be brought up as needed.
As for receiver, the Eagles originally went with five wideouts but carried six for a good portion of the season. Four of the spots will most likely be occupied by Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff. The coaching staff seems to like Brad Smith. I think he makes the team. Then there is a group that includes Arrelious Benn, Ifeanyi Momah, Jeff Maehl, Damaris Johnson, B.J. Cunningham, Quron Pratt, Will Murphy and Kadron Boone that will be competing for a slot that may or may not be available. The best chance of making this team as a reserve is if you can 1) make an impact on special teams and/or 2) bring a unique skill set to the table. Because of the second part of that equation, I’m not writing the 6-7 Momah off quite yet. Maehl had six special teams tackles last year. The staff is intrigued by what Benn can bring to the table if healthy.
I’m not expecting many curveballs this year. (Which, of course, means there will be several.) There’s a chance outside linebacker Travis Long makes the team, which could signal the end of Brandon Graham‘s time in Philly. But I don’t know: do you really want to put the backup spots in the hands of two players in Long and Marcus Smith who have yet to play an NFL snap?
Perhaps one of the young offensive linemen can claim a spot given the depth issues and the possible Lane Johnson suspension. But I’m not expecting anything too shocking.
@Tim_McManus With Carey Spear’s struggles during mini camp, do you think a third kicker could be brought into the competition?
— Nick Ellis (@Nick_Ellis_) July 10, 2014
Chip Kelly says that Spear was brought in to compete for the job, but it feels like his presence on the roster is more to push Alex Henery. Whatever the case, I’m definitely not sold on Spear being the answer. And while Henery may have worked in the offseason to increase his strength, I’m skeptical that we’ll see a vastly different kicker than the one that took the field last year.
The free agent market isn’t exactly filled with amazing options. The 36-year-old Rob Bironas seems like the best of the bunch. He was 25-of-29 in field goal attempts for the Titans last year and was 2-of-3 from 50-plus yards. Rotoworld has Rian Lindell and David Akers as the next best options. I think it’s Henery’s job for now. If he struggles this summer, that’s when you could see another kicker brought in.