Eagles Wake-Up Call: 53-Man Roster Projection
The Eagles closed out the preseason Thursday night with a 37-7 victory. On Friday and Saturday, they will cut the roster down from 75 to 53.
One final time, here’s who we have making the cut.
Quarterbacks (3): Nick Foles, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley.
This is a lock. Any other arrangement would be a stunner. Foles starts, Sanchez backs him up, and Barkley is the third-stringer.
Running backs (4): LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, Chris Polk, Kenjon Barner.
This is easily the most difficult position to figure out. McCoy and Sproles are locks. Beyond that? A lot of confusion.
Thursday night’s game added more wrinkles as Matthew Tucker left with a shoulder injury and Barner left with an ankle injury. Polk, meanwhile, didn’t dress as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury.
I still think Polk gets the third spot. The Eagles know he can play special teams, and in a small sample size last year, he looked like someone who could run the ball effectively in this offense. Previously, I thought Chip Kelly sounded frustrated with Polk’s inability to stay healthy. But after Thursday night’s game, Kelly said he felt for Polk and pointed out that the third-year player is doing everything he can to stay on the field. For that reason, I think he sticks.
The fourth spot is a toss-up. Barner hasn’t been here for long, but Kelly knows him well from their Oregon days together. Tucker has done a good job as a ball-carrier, but Barner may have the edge on special teams. For that reason, I’m going with him.
If one of their injuries is more serious than the other, the Eagles’ decision will be easier.
Henry Josey has looked great as a ball-carrier, but the fourth RB is not going to see a lot of touches. If he doesn’t catch on with another team, Josey seems like a good practice squad candidate.
Wide receivers (6): Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff, Brad Smith, Jeff Maehl.
I feel confident about the first five. The sixth is a three-man race between Damaris Johnson, Arrelious Benn and Maehl.
I didn’t think Johnson had much of a chance going into the preseason, but he saw time at running back and made the most of his opportunity. On Thursday night, Johnson had five carries for 69 yards, including a 46-yarder. Ultimately, though, I think the evaluation goes back to last year. Johnson lost the kickoff returner job and wasn’t a factor offensively. I don’t think he makes it.
The coaches could go either way with Benn and Maehl. Benn had a 43-yard TD vs. the Jets. Maehl came down with a 32-yard grab on a 50/50 ball. Considering Benn’s injury history and the fact that the Eagles are familiar with Maehl from his in-season performance last season, I think the former Duck makes the squad.
Ifeanyi Momah has improved, but there’s still plenty of work necessary.
Tight ends (3): Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, James Casey.
Trey Burton put some good stuff on tape (six catches, 45 yards, TD). But I think these three have been set in stone for awhile now.
Offensive linemen (8): Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, Allen Barbre, Matt Tobin, David Molk, Andrew Gardner.
The biggest surprise of the Eagles’ preseason was the performance of the second-team offensive line. That made this section especially difficult to project.
Dennis Kelly was one of my final cuts. I think he’s squarely on the bubble, and the Eagles could certainly choose to keep him instead of a defensive player.
Defensive linemen (7): Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Cedric Thornton, Taylor Hart, Vinny Curry, Beau Allen, Brandon Bair.
I feel confident projecting this group. Hart will likely be inactive to start the season. I wouldn’t be surprised if Logan and Allen split time fairly evenly at nose tackle. Curry should see increased snaps as a pass-rusher.
Bair played too well in the preseason to be left off. He’s someone who can help them right now.
Outside linebackers (6): Connor Barwin, Trent Cole, Marcus Smith II, Bryan Braman, Travis Long, Brandon Graham.
You could just as easily throw Long into the inside linebackers section. That’s where he’s been taking all his reps the last couple of weeks. Long had a sack on a delayed blitz against the Jets.
Smith could be inactive to start the season. Graham will back up Cole. Braman will play special teams.
Inside linebackers (3): DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Najee Goode.
Because the team seems comfortable counting Long as its fourth inside linebacker in case of emergency, they only keep three at this position.
I think this is the end for Casey Matthews, and Emmanuel Acho doesn’t make the cut.
Cornerbacks (5): Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Nolan Carroll II, Jaylen Watkins.
This is the easiest position to project.
Safeties (5): Malcolm Jenkins, Nate Allen, Earl Wolff, Chris Maragos, Ed Reynolds.
Reynolds is my last player to sneak on the roster. There’s no real need to keep a fifth safety, and I’d expect him to be inactive on gamedays. But given that the Eagles spent a fifth-round pick on Reynolds, the guess here is he sticks.
Specialists (3): Jon Dorenbos, Cody Parkey, Donnie Jones.
Making decisions based on a small sample size is dangerous, but what else are the Eagles supposed to do? Parkey hit a 54-yarder and a 53-yarder against the Jets. Sure, it was only the preseason, but there was certainly some pressure on him, knowing he’d have a small window to make his mark. And Parkey came through.
I think the move is to give the rookie a shot. If it doesn’t work out, you can always bring in a veteran. I highly doubt they’ll look back and regret letting Alex Henery go.
There’s no perfect solution, but the Eagles’ best bet right now is to go with Parkey.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Observations from the Eagles’ 37-7 win over the Jets.
Peter King thinks the Eagles are going to be the top seed in the NFC.
Tim posted his 53-man roster projection before the game.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com offers his take on Josey:
What to do with Josey? Love this kid. I didn’t put him on my 53-man roster (see story), but the kid just gains big yards every time he touches the ball. He ran 22 times for 121 yards Thursday night (5.5 average) and 34 times for 225 yards this preseason (6.6) along with three catches for 39 yards and a touchdown. That’s production. Josey doesn’t have great size and he’s not a proficient blocker, and if something happened to Shady you’d have to go with Chris Polk or Matthew Tucker as the primary ball carrier — assuming one of them is healthy. But, man, Josey is a talent. I’d be worried about losing him if I tried to sneak him through waivers onto the practice squad. I’m keeping the kid.
Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz offers instant analysis from last night’s game:
The overall defense played well. I don’t think anyone really jumped out. ILB Emmanuel Acho helped himself, from what I could tell. Would have been even better if he held onto a ball that he almost picked off. Bryan Braman looked good rushing off the edge. He has a very good dip move. Earl Wolff had a nice FF. Ed Reynolds had a couple of nice tackles, but missed an INT that would have really made him look good. Jaylen Watkins was physical as a hitter and tackler, but he did give up the TD pass.
The team could start announcing cuts. We’ll have it all covered.