Eagles Wake-Up Call: 53-Man Roster Projection
With a dozen training camp practices and the first preseason game in the books, now seems like a good time to roll out my first 53-man roster projection of the year. Josh is welcome to challenge me with one of his own, but given my past dominance in this arena, his efforts will likely be futile.
Quarterbacks (3): Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley.
Barkley entered as the No. 3 quarterback and performed well enough against the Colts to hold onto that position — for now. If it’s about choosing someone who can execute the tempo offense with the most precision should Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez be unavailable, Barkley will be the choice. But it’s hard to ignore all the trade chatter around the USC product since word of Tebow-to-Philly first surfaced, and you wonder if Kelly is intrigued by how he might be able to use Tebow on game days. Curious to see how this one plays out.
Running backs (4): DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Kenjon Barner.
Barner certainly helped his stock with a two-touchdown showing against Indy. Rookie Raheem Mostert opened some eyes as well, though the bet here is that the Eagles try to slide him onto their practice squad. Kelly has opted to go with four tight ends and three RBs each of the past two seasons, but there’s more depth at running back this year.
Wide receivers (6): Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Josh Huff, Riley Cooper, Miles Austin, Seyi Ajirotutu.
The Eagles went with six receivers on their initial 53-man last year. I believe Austin will make the team and be part of the receiver rotation along with Matthews, Agholor, Huff and Cooper. Once you start getting into the back end of the roster you have to factor in special teams contributions. Ajirotutu has been productive in that department during his career and has been working with the Eagles’ first team unit on kickoffs. There are a lot of people pulling for local product Rasheed Bailey. He seems like a prime candidate for the practice squad, which would be a good story in its own right.
Tight ends (3): Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, Trey Burton.
The Ertz injury clouds this picture somewhat. If he is ready for Week 1, Kelly can presumably feel more comfortable carrying three tight ends on his roster. What if he’s not? Would that increase Eric Tomlinson‘s chances of making the team? Given the above mentioned depth at running back, we’ll say Kelly goes with three tight ends and stashes Tomlinson on the practice squad for insurance.
Offensive linemen (9): Jason Peters, Allen Barbre, Jason Kelce, Matt Tobin, Lane Johnson, Andrew Gardner, John Moffitt, Julian Vandervelde, Malcolm Bunche.
This one is tough to forecast. Speaking to the coaches it’s clear that Moffitt has a bunch of rust to knock off, but he has experience and some upside. This projection leaves guys like David Molk, Dennis Kelly and Brett Boyko off, and you can make a case for all of them. I think they like Boyko, but will say he goes on the practice squad.
Defensive linemen (7): Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Cedric Thornton, Vinny Curry, Beau Allen, Brandon Bair, Taylor Hart.
This feels like a pretty safe bet. Seventh-round pick Brian Mihalik seems more like a project (practice squad?) and guys like Wade Kelikiipi, Travis Raciti and Alfy Hill look like longshots. Hart is showing some signs of improvement and should make the team.
Outside linebackers (5): Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Marcus Smith, Bryan Braman, Brad Jones.
This strikes me as one of the thinnest positions on the team. While Smith is starting to show some positive signs, I still don’t think he’s close to the player Graham was a year ago. The three-man rotation could very well be weaker overall. Jones has been cross-training at inside and outside linebacker. Given the need at the position, his best shot of seeing playing time is at OLB.
Inside linebackers (4): DeMeco Ryans, Kiko Alonso, Mychal Kendricks, Jordan Hicks.
There are going to be some difficult cuts to make here. Najee Goode and Emmanuel Acho can play in this league, but the Eagles are pretty stacked at ILB and I’m not sure they can afford to carry more than four, especially since Jones can move inside if need be.
Cornerbacks (5): Byron Maxwell, Nolan Carroll, Jaylen Watkins, Eric Rowe, E.J. Biggers
A different look to this crew with no Brandon Boykin or JaCorey Shepherd. Randall Evans and Denzel Rice could be decent practice-squad options.
Safeties (4): Malcolm Jenkins, Walter Thurmond, Chris Maragos, Ed Reynolds.
Earl Wolff is apparently dealing with more knee problems. Not good for his chances. Reynolds had a big game on Sunday to work himself back into the conversation. Chris Prosinski is a good special teams player, but with the Eagles in need of a decent third safety option, Reynolds could have the edge.
Specialists (3): Cody Parkey, Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos.
No need to panic off a couple preseason misses.
WHAT YOU MISSED
A unique look at the Eagles’ preseason opener through the lens of our photographer Jeff Fusco.
“If he continues to perform like that, we have to fit him in.” Chip Kelly on Cody Parkey, Kenjon Barner and the quarterbacks.
“Then there’s the Mike Schmidt quote.” Kelly, Bradford talk with Peter King.
Day-after notes: Why the bad was good for Agholor; Kelce on Gardner; Logan’s day in perspective.
Josh does some homework to see how Barkley and Tebow stacked up.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Jeff McLane on the performance of Barkley.
Matt Barkley further separated himself from Tim Tebow as a thrower. Barkley took over in the first quarter and played through the first series of the third quarter. He completed 12 of 20 passes for 192 yards. The Eagles offense netted 13 points when he was at quarterback. Barkley tossed one interception. He rolled to his right and Colts linebacker Bjoern Werner tipped the ball and Colts linebacker Amario Herrera caught it. Maybe Barkley should have pumped there, but Chip Kelly said Werner should have been blocked on the bootleg. He otherwise had a strong first game. Barkley tossed a strike to Matthews for 26 yards and a play later hooked up with Miles Austin for 39 yards. The pass was underthrown, but Austin did a nice job of shielding the defender and catching the ball over his shoulder. As I have written since the spring, if Kelly wants a pure passer as his third quarterback, Barkley is the choice. I’m not quite ready to say Barkley should be given as many second team snaps as Sanchez, though.
Reuben Frank writes about Sanchez’s outing.
Fans might not want to hear it, but Sanchez is locked into the No. 2 job behind Bradford.
Despite a shaky afternoon Sunday.
Sanchez shrugged off his performance. He played only two series and did put up seven points in a game the Eagles went on to win 36-10.
“I don’t know, we got the win,” he said. “I thought we took care of the ball OK. There were a couple of throws and stuff that I know some of the guys wanted … but we’ll let the coaches grade it out. Obviously, a win’s big and we’ll just move on from here.”
Kelly speaks at 11:30. Practice resumes at 11:45.