Eagles Wake-Up Call: 53-Man Roster Projection
T-Mac issued me a challenge. Publicly. Of course I’m going to respond.
With a couple of preseason games in the books and way too much film analyzed, here’s how Chip Kelly will cut the roster down to 53 guys. As Chip would say, you can write this down in ink, not pencil.
Quarterbacks (3): Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow.
I already know what you’re going to say; I can envision the tweets, emails and comments now. No, Tebow isn’t a NFL-caliber quarterback. But he is a NFL-caliber football player. I think Chip is intrigued enough by Tebow’s potential in short-yardage and goal-line situations to keep him. I wouldn’t want Tebow in the game throwing passes, but I wouldn’t want Matt Barkley out there either. If neither of them can throw the ball that well, I’ll take the guy who can at least run it. Plus, the Eagles are reportedly shopping Barkley so Tebow may get the nod by default.
Running backs (4): DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Kenjon Barner.
Practice squad: Raheem Mostert.
I’m a fan of Mostert, so much so that if Barner wasn’t forcing his way onto the roster on special teams, I think the Eagles would still keep four running backs. But I’d be shocked if Chip kept five here and you can’t keep Barner off the team with his performance in the first two games. That’s why Mostert is my first selection for the practice squad.
Wide receivers (6): Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Josh Huff, Riley Cooper, Miles Austin, Seyi Ajirotutu.
Practice squad: Rasheed Bailey, G.J. Kinne.
For me, this is one of the easier position groups to project. Matthews, Agholor and Huff look to be contributors for the next few years while Cooper and Austin are owed guaranteed money. Meanwhile, Ajirotutu is an excellent special teams player whom the Eagles wouldn’t want to lose. Bailey, an undrafted free agent from Division III’s Delaware Valley University, appears destined for the practice squad along with Kinne.
Tight ends (3): Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, Trey Burton.
Practice squad: Eric Tomlinson.
Tomlinson has played well enough to make the practice squad, but he isn’t worth taking someone else off the 53-man roster for. Ertz’s injury also doesn’t appear to be concerning enough to warrant a fourth tight end, but if he’s expected to miss multiple regular season games, add Tomlinson to the roster.
Offensive linemen (8): Jason Peters, Allen Barbre, Jason Kelce, Andrew Gardner, Lane Johnson, Matt Tobin, Malcolm Bunche, David Molk.
Practice squad: Kevin Graf, Brett Boyko.
The big name missing here? John Moffitt. Although the Eagles seem interested in his potential, I don’t think he’s played well enough to justify keeping him over Tobin, Bunche or Molk. This position group, however, appears to be the biggest unknown. It wouldn’t surprise me if Moffitt makes it, Boyko stays instead of Molk and the Eagles keep nine offensive linemen.
Defensive linemen (7): Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Cedric Thornton, Beau Allen, Brandon Bair, Taylor Hart, Brian Mihalik.
Because of the injuries at outside linebacker, Vinny Curry is shifted to that position group. I like what I’ve seen out of Mihalik—especially as a pass-rusher—and think he slips in. Regardless of who the seventh defensive linemen is—if there is one—the Eagles have plenty of depth here.
Outside linebackers (6): Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Marcus Smith, Bryan Braman, Vinny Curry, Brad Jones.
This is a lot of outside linebackers to keep, but Curry and Jones both play other positions, Braman is a special teams stud and Smith has shown enough improvement to warrant a roster spot.
Inside linebackers (4): DeMeco Ryans, Kiko Alonso, Mychal Kendricks, Jordan Hicks.
The Eagles will only keep four here, but they have a good group. Alonso is a good, young talent while Kendricks just got his four-year contract extension. It’s unclear whether Ryans will be completely healthy by the preseason opener, but the linebacker was optimistic after practice Tuesday that he’ll be ready to go for Atlanta.
Cornerbacks (5): Byron Maxwell, Nolan Carroll, Eric Rowe, E.J. Biggers, Jaylen Watkins.
Practice Squad: Denzel Rice, Randall Evans.
Well, this group looks quite different than it did this time last year. Maxwell and Carroll are firmly entrenched in the top two spots, but the battle for the nickel corner continues. Rowe has shown improvement and Biggers has played well on special teams. Watkins hasn’t been stellar so far in the preseason, but he still has a spot on the team.
Safeties (4): Malcolm Jenkins, Walter Thurmond, Chris Maragos, Chris Prosinski.
Practice squad: Jerome Couplin, Ed Reynolds.
If this was a 54-man projection, Reynolds would be on it. I’m torn between him and Prosinski for the fourth safety spot, but Reynolds is eligible for the practice squad whereas Prosinski isn’t. That’s enough for me to give Prosinski the edge so the Eagles have a shot at holding onto both of them.
Specialists (3): Cody Parkey, Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos.
Sorry, Kip Smith. Your knuckle-ball kicks were fun to watch, but they aren’t going to earn you a roster spot.
WHAT YOU MISSED
An in-depth look at the intricacies of playing special teams well enough to make the Eagles’ roster.
“In this day and age, the prototype, he’s getting close to it.” Bill Davis touches on newly-extended Mychal Kendricks.
Relive the Eagles’ win over the Ravens through the lens of our photographer, Jeff Fusco.
“He’s really stood out as the most consistent guy.” Andrew Gardner is leading the race for right guard.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
When the regular season begins, the spotlight is going to shine bright on Byron Maxwell, writes Paul Domowitch.
A year ago, Byron Maxwell was in the final year of his sixth-round rookie contract making, by NFL standards, chump change: $645,000. He was in his first full year as a starting corner.
If he gave up a big play, which admittedly didn’t happen very often last season, no one called him a bum or a fraud or compared him to Nnamdi Asomugha. The Eagle, not the Raider.
But that was then and this is now. That was Seattle and this is Philadelphia, where it’s been 55 damn years since the Eagles last won an NFL title and patience is harder to find than good manners.
Jeff McLane says the key to success, and safety, for Sam Bradford lies in a quick release.
While the Suggs play has generated much attention about whether Bradford can or cannot be hit on running plays, in all likelihood there won’t be many opportunities for defenders, especially if the Eagles run as few zone-read plays as Chip Kelly says they do.
But Bradford, assuming he plays all 16 games, will drop to throw about 600 times this season. That’s a lot of chances for pass rushers to tee off on him. And there is no need for a rules interpretation. If you can get to him before he throws or is in the act of throwing, he’s fair game.
We’ll speak to Pat Shurmur at 11:20. Practice begins at 11:40.
Adam Hermann contributed to this post.