Eagles Wake-Up Call: Roster Analysis
Now that the Eagles have cut their roster down to 53 players, let’s take a position-by-position look at what to expect this season.
Quarterbacks (3): Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, Stephen Morris.
Much has been made about the third quarterback spot, but now that the season is starting, the focus should (hopefully) shift back to the only guy who matters: Bradford. He had an excellent preseason and training camp, and you can’t ask for much more than what he did. While his left knee doesn’t concern me because of the offensive line’s talent and his quick release, I do wonder if he can sustain his success when defenses start game-planning for the Eagles. His passing lanes opened up more in the preseason because defenses didn’t prepare for the tempo, but he also showed he can fit the ball into tight windows.
Running backs (4): DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Kenjon Barner.
This is the best group of running backs in the NFL. Even if one of them gets hurt, the Eagles will still get great production out of the backfield. Between the four of them, they’ll contribute both on the ground and in the air, through blocking and on special teams.
Wide receivers (6): Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Josh Huff, Riley Cooper, Miles Austin, Seyi Ajirotutu.
This is the biggest unknown of the Eagles’ offense. You know Matthews is going to be a good slot receiver, but Agholor and Huff’s production is far less certain. It’s unlikely Austin and Cooper will contribute much and Ajirotutu is on the roster because of his special teams play. Agholor will develop into a good receiving option by the end of the year, but will Huff (or anyone else) step up in the meantime?
Tight ends (3): Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, Trey Burton.
When Chip Kelly didn’t keep a fourth tight end, that told me Ertz is on track to either play in Atlanta or shortly thereafter. Regardless, Burton and Celek are talented and Burton will surprise people with his production. I expect him to score a few touchdowns this season.
Offensive linemen (9): Jason Peters, Allen Barbre, Jason Kelce, Andrew Gardner, Lane Johnson, Matt Tobin, Dennis Kelly, David Molk, Josh Andrews.
I understand people are concerned about the Eagles’ depth here, but how many offensive lines around the NFL could lose a starter or two and still be good? They have an excellent starting five and Barbre and Gardner have transitioned seamlessly. Peters had an underrated preseason and will once again be outstanding in both run and pass blocking.
Defensive linemen (7): Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Cedric Thornton, Vinny Curry, Beau Allen, Brandon Bair, Taylor Hart.
Not to sound like a broken record, but the Eagles have another position group that is among the best in the NFL. I’ve written before about how Logan appears poised to make a jump heading into year three, and I see him having a Pro Bowl-caliber year. He processes the game much quicker and now anticipates rather than only reading and reacting. When I asked him after the preseason finale why the defensive line has looked so impressive, he summed it up in one word: communication.
Outside linebackers (5): Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Marcus Smith, Bryan Braman, Brad Jones.
This is one position people are too concerned about. There isn’t much depth here, but the third outside linebacker doesn’t need to play more than 40 percent of the defensive snaps as Graham did last season. Curry will be a nice option on pass-rushing downs, but I worry about dropping him back into coverage a lot if that’s the route they go.
Inside linebackers (4): DeMeco Ryans, Kiko Alonso, Mychal Kendricks, Jordan Hicks.
Kendricks was rusty in his preseason debut, but that’s all it was. With the skill the Eagles have at this position, it will be interesting to see how much—if at all—defensive coordinator Bill Davis uses this trio together. Perhaps the biggest beneficiary here? Hicks. He has three good guys to learn the inside linebacker position from.
Cornerbacks (5): Byron Maxwell, Nolan Carroll, Eric Rowe, E.J. Biggers, Denzel Rice.
Rice over Jaylen Watkins was a mild surprise, and that could certainly have an impact. At least in the beginning of the season, the Eagles will rotate who the nickelback is. This group is the biggest concern to me, but we’ll quickly find out how good they are after they face Julio Jones and Dez Bryant in the first two games of the season.
Safeties (4): Malcolm Jenkins, Walter Thurmond, Chris Maragos, Jerome Couplin.
This is my other question mark heading into the season. Jenkins and Thurmond played well in the preseason and training camp, but will that translate once they face good quarterbacks for an extended period of time?
Specialists (3): Cody Parkey, Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos.
Parkey is fine, don’t worry about his health.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Adam let us know how roster cuts affected the other three NFC East teams.
Who is Stephen Morris? T-Mac gives you background on the new quarterback.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Riley Cooper knows why the Eagles have spent early draft picks on wide receivers recently, writes Reuben Frank.
“They’re always trying to bring someone in to try to take your job, and I know that, and I’m going to do everything I can for that not to happen,” he said.
“I’m not approaching the game any different than I ever have. I’m still going out there and busting my tail and doing what I do. I’m a high-effort guy, I’m a high-motor guy, and I do everything. I block, I catch, I run, and I’m going to try to continue to do it all.”
Brent Celek is inspired by his grandfather, reports Sam Carchidi.
Celek, a blue-collar player who has been with the Eagles longer that every player except long snapper Jon Dorenbos, says he has been indirectly pushed by his grandfather, Ed Celek, who is a retired business manager and supervisor of buildings and grounds for schools in Fremont, Ohio.
Ed Celek went to Notre Dame to play football, “but his mom died and he had to go home and take care of his family, so he really never got to live out the football dream,” Brent Celek said after a practice last week. “I think he wanted his own kids to play football, and my dad was never a big football fan. My dad got offered a scholarship to Kent State and didn’t go, didn’t want to play college football.”
We’ll take a swing around the NFL to check in on former Eagles.