Eagles Wake-Up Call: Remaining Roster Battles
Roster trimming is underway. The Eagles released 12 players — including G.J. Kinne and Kevin Graf — on Sunday, leaving the count at 78 (or 76 if you factor in pending injury designations for JaCorey Shepherd and Emmanuel Acho). That number needs to be at 75 by 4 p.m. Tuesday and 53 by Saturday afternoon.
“I think we have more depth, so I believe we’ll cut some players that will make other rosters. I’m hoping,” said Chip Kelly prior to Saturday’s game. “But it is going to be difficult and we’ll have to sit down long and hard after this Packer game and ‑‑ when it’s difficult to get to 75, I think from a coaching standpoint that’s a good thing, but there is still a human factor that gets involved with cutting somebody, and that part is not a lot of fun.”
There are some tough decisions ahead in the coming days. Let’s take a position-by-position look at potential roster battles heading into Thursday’s preseason finale against the Jets.
Matt Barkley and Tim Tebow should each get extended playing time in New York this week. I’m not sure we’ve learned anything new in the first three exhibition games. Barkley is the better thrower but has not done enough to inspire total confidence. Tebow is not a polished passer but brings a running threat that could be appealing to Kelly for specialty situations (though his tryout as a two-point specialist could have gone better in Green Bay). This largely comes down to preference.
Kenjon Barner and rookie Raheem Mostert have opened up eyes both for their contributions out of the backfield and on special teams. Heading into the preseason, the question was whether Kelly would keep a fourth running back; now it just seems like a matter of which one he will keep. Barner is considered the favorite with Mostert being mentioned as a practice squad candidate. One way or another, it’s a safe bet that both players will be receiving NFL paychecks this season.
Justin Tukes was released, leaving Eric Tomlinson and Andrew Gleichert as the remaining tight ends behind Brent Celek, Zach Ertz and Trey Burton. Given the depth at running back and receiver, Kelly might have to roll with three tight ends.
Jeff Maehl (3 catches, 43 yards, TD) had a strong showing against the Packers. He could be fighting special teams standout Seyi Ajirotutu for the final receiver slot. There is probably not enough room for local product Rasheed Bailey, though practice squad seems like a real possibility at this point.
Jason Peters, Lane Johnson, Andrew Gardner, Jason Kelce and Allen Barbre are the projected starters. Matt Tobin will probably make it. That leaves just a few openings for the likes of Dennis Kelly, John Moffitt, Malcolm Bunche, Brett Boyko, Josh Andrews, David Molk and Julian Vandervelde to fight over.
Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Cedric Thornton, Vinny Curry, Beau Allen and Taylor Hart should all make it. Brandon Bair is probably the next man in. With seven spots potentially spoken for, it will be tough for Kelly to carry Brian Mihalik or Travis Raciti.
Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Marcus Smith, Bryan Braman and swingman Brad Jones will likely be on the 53. Because of how thin the position appears, guys like Diaheem Watkins and Deontae Skinner have slightly better chances than they otherwise might. It would makes sense for the Eagles to look at the post-cut market and try to bolster the position from the outside.
DeMeco Ryans, Kiko Alonso, Mychal Kendricks and Jordan Hicks are in. If Kelly goes with a fifth it will almost certainly be Najee Goode, especially now that Emmanuel Acho has been waived/injured following thumb surgery.
Let’s assume Kelly goes with five corners. Byron Maxwell, Nolan Carroll and Eric Rowe get three of the spots. E.J. Biggers has probably done enough to earn the fourth. That would leave one place for Jaylen Watkins, Randall Evans and Denzel Rice.
Malcolm Jenkins, Walter Thurmond and Chris Maragos are in. That leaves Jerome Couplin, Chris Prosinski and Ed Reynolds potentially competing for the final roster spot. Prosinski is considered the superior special teams player (and we know how much Kelly values special teams play, particularly at the bottom of his roster). Reynolds has been up and down on special teams, but has flashed at safety some this preseason. Couplin (6-1, 215) has looked pretty good since returning from an appendectomy and is intriguing from a measurables perspective. It’s worth noting that Couplin and Reynolds are eligible for the practice squad, whereas Prosinski is not.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Eagles release Kinne, 11 others. More details here.
Four Downs: Sam Bradford and the red zone; Taylor Hart flashes; nickel spot unresolved.
Day after notes from Josh: the passing concept that led to touchdowns for the Eagles last night, Brandon Graham‘s golden game and backfield weapons.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
When it comes to Tebow vs. Barkley, Tommy Lawlor would prefer to see what’s behind Door Number Three.
I would love to see the Eagles let go of both Matt Barkley and Tim Tebow. Neither player has looked good in the last couple of games. I would prefer the Eagles to sign a young player with some upside. The Packers have 4 QBs. If they cut Matt Blanchard, he would be of interest. I know some of you would like to see the Eagles go after E.J. Manuel. I have no interest in him. Seems like he might stick in Buffalo at this point. Sean Renfree could be cut by the Falcons. He would be interesting. The Rams might cut Austin Davis, who played well against the Eagles last year.
None of these guys is anything special. The point is that we’ve seen next to nothing from Barkley. And Tebow remains a mystery. We don’t know how he would play when on the field with starters and a gameplan built specifically for him. To this point, he’s been slightly less than spectacular.
Reuben Frank thinks the Eagles’ backs could be a big part of the team’s passing game.
Bradford said these multi-dimensional backs are tremendous weapons out of the backfield in this offense.
“It’s huge,” he said. “I think if you talk to a lot of those defensive guys, it’s really frustrating when they take everything away down the field and then we’re able to throw a checkdown and Sproles or DeMarco or Ryan makes someone miss and then it’s a 12- or 15-yard pickup on a play they had good coverage on.
“The fact that all three of our backs can do that is huge. We can throw it to any of them.”
The Eagles got away from throwing to the backs last year. LeSean McCoy, who averaged 55 catches in his first five seasons, had a career-low 28, and just nine the last nine weeks of the season. Sproles caught 40, but after his 152-yard game Week 2 against the Colts, he averaged just 17 receiving yards per game the rest of the season.
It’s only preseason, and who knows, but it sure seems like Bradford wants to use the backs significantly more than Nick Foles and Sanchez did last year.
Short week for the Eagles, who conclude exhibition play Thursday night at the Jets. Today’s practice begins at 11:35. Kelly will address the media beforehand.