Projecting the Eagles’ 53-Man Roster

Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Antonio Dixon.Things have been going just a little bit too smoothly here at Birds 24/7.

So McManus and I decided to mix it up a little bit. We’ll be going head-to-head in our attempts to project the Eagles’ 53-man roster. Each week, between now and and when the Birds make their final cuts, we’ll each post our projections. Whoever gets the most players right on our final versions will be crowned the winner.

We haven’t decided on stakes yet, but if you have ideas, feel free to speak up in the comments below.

Without further ado, I’m up first.

Quarterbacks (3): Michael Vick, Mike Kafka, Nick Foles.

Not a lot of intrigue here. It’s been clear for some time now that Trent Edwards is not going to make this team. Foles will spend his rookie season watching and learning. And Kafka will back up Vick. At some point, we’ll find out if the Eagles made a mistake in sticking with Kafka instead of adding a more stable insurance plan.

Running backs (4): LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown, Stanley Havili.

This will be one of the big battles to watch in the preseason. Lewis, Brown and Chris Polk have all flashed their talents during training camp. Lewis is the favorite to back up McCoy; he’s looked especially impressive in the screen game at Lehigh.

Brown will have to fight off Polk for a roster spot. Polk is light years ahead of Brown in blitz pickup and is probably a better receiver. But Brown may have more upside as a runner. Considering neither guy is likely to get on the field much as a rookie, I’m giving Brown the edge. But there’s still a long way to go.

Wide receivers (6): DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Marvin McNutt, Damaris Johnson.

Jackson, Maclin and Avant are obviously locks. Cooper is recovering from surgery to repair his fractured left collarbone, but is expected to return around Week 1. Remember, he averaged 80 yards receiving per game in three starts last season and also contributed on special teams. Assuming he’s healthy, Cooper will make the team.

That leaves one or two more spots. McNutt has had several good moments at camp and was a productive college player. He should make the roster.

And I’ve got Johnson sneaking on too. The Eagles were terrible in the return game last year, and he has a chance to nail down the punt returner job with a strong preseason. Not sure if it will happen for him as a rookie, but Johnson could certainly have a role offensively in the future.

Chad Hall gets left off. I don’t really see a role for him on this team, given the other talent.

Tight ends (2): Brent Celek, Clay Harbor.

The story at the beginning of camp was that the Eagles were looking at Visanthe Shiancoe and Jeremy Shockey to push Harbor. But since then, the third-year tight end has had an outstanding camp, catching everything thrown his way.

Brett Brackett has also looked reliable as a receiver, but I don’t see the the need for the Eagles to keep a third tight end. He could be a practice-squad candidate.

Offensive linemen (9): Demetress Bell, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Danny Watkins, Todd Herremans, King Dunlap, Julian Vandervelde, Dennis Kelly, Dallas Reynolds.

The starters are pretty much set in stone, barring injury, but what becomes clear here is that the Eagles don’t have a lot of offensive line depth.

Dunlap projects as the first man in should either Bell or Herremans go down. Kelly looks like more of a project and won’t get on the field as a rookie, but should still make the roster.

The interior battles are more interesting. As I wrote recently, the Eagles need to figure out who their backup center is going to be. Reynolds has manned that spot with the second team, and he also got a shot at guard with the first team when Mathis was sick last week. He’s squarely on the bubble, but has a shot to make the roster.

Vandervelde provides depth at guard, but he’s still learning the center position. If the Eagles feel like he can adequately back up Kelce, there’s probably no need to keep Reynolds.

My projection leaves veterans Mike Gibson and rookie sixth-round pick Brandon Washington off the roster.

Defensive linemen (11): Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Fletcher Cox, Derek Landri, Brandon Graham, Darryl Tapp, Phillip Hunt, Vinny Curry, Antonio Dixon, Cedric Thornton.

The first thing you might notice is I don’t have Mike Patterson’s name listed. Andy Reid announced at the start of training camp that Patterson would not participate in activities at Lehigh. He’s been here working out, but we can only assume this is a wait-and-see situation. And there appears to at least be a chance that he begins the season on the PUP list. No inside information here. Just going off what we know at this moment. Patterson’s situation could change at any time, but given the uncertainty, I’m placing him on PUP for the purposes of this projection.

Elsewhere, I went heavy on defensive linemen. The Birds’ mentality is that everything starts by getting pressure from the front four. Cole, Babin, Jenkins, Cox, Landri, Graham and Curry are locks.

I’ve got the Eagles keeping both Tapp and Hunt at defensive end. Other than Cole, Tapp might be the Eagles’ most well-rounded defensive end. I think you can win with guys like him – high energy, respected by players and coaches, and productive when called on. Hunt, meanwhile, showed real flashes of being an effective pass-rusher last season. He’s probably best utilized with a limited number of snaps on gamedays.

At defensive tackle, I wouldn’t say Dixon or Thornton are locks. But if Patterson’s not ready to go, Dixon gives Jim Washburn a proven run-stuffer. Thornton is only 24 and has had a good camp.

Linebackers (6): DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Brian Rolle, Jamar Chaney, Casey Matthews, Akeem Jordan.

By my count, there’s only one spot up for grabs here. Ryans, Kendricks, Rolle, Chaney and Matthews will all make the team.

Jordan is fighting with Keenan Clayton to be the sixth linebacker. The competition is still very much on, but at this point, since Jordan’s the more productive special-teams player, I give him the edge. Clayton’s strength is in coverage, and if the Eagles want to use him in their dime package like they did towards the end of last season, he could win the job.

Cornerbacks (5): Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Curtis Marsh, Brandon Boykin, Brandon Hughes.

This might have been the toughest group to project. Asomugha, Rodgers-Cromartie, Marsh and Boykin are locks.

If the Eagles are uncomfortable with Boykin starting the season as the nickel cornerback, Joselio Hanson has a shot to make the team. Hanson is currently ahead of Boykin on the depth chart, but the rookie has looked good and was drafted to win this job.

In terms of depth, I have Hughes on the roster, but undrafted rookie free agent Cliff Harris still has a shot. Harris turned his ankle earlier this week and may not play vs. the Steelers. He is more of a project, but if the Eagles like Harris’ upside, he could make the team and just be inactive on gamedays as a rookie. There’s also a chance the Eagles keep six corners, and both Hughes and Harris make the team. Or the Eagles could try to sneak Harris onto the practice squad.

We’ve seen pretty much nothing out of the cornerback the Eagles acquired from the Colts last week, Kevin Thomas. But considering the Birds dealt a pair of linebackers who weren’t going to make the team anyway, I don’t think they’re tied to Thomas being on the roster.

Safeties (4): Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Oshiomogho Atogwe.

Allen and Coleman are your starters, and Jarrett joins Atogwe as the backups.

Jarrett is not a lock, but he’s probably shown enough at Lehigh to earn a roster spot, considering the Eagles spent a second-round pick on him in 2011.

Atogwe missed all of the spring practices, and we’ll see how healthy he looks in the preseason games. But at this point, I think he makes it.

Given the Eagles’ uncertainty at safety, I’m not sure they can afford to keep Colt Anderson solely for the purpose of playing special teams. Anderson is recovering from a torn ACL and is not yet participating in practice. When healthy, he’s certainly a standout on the coverage units, but for now, I’m leaving him off. Again, that could change in a few weeks.

Specialists (3): Alex Henery, Mat McBriar, Jon Dorenbos.

McBriar is listed as the first-team punter on the depth chart, ahead of Chas Henry. Considering Henry was unimpressive as a rookie, my guess is this is McBriar’s job to lose.

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