Projecting The 53-Man Roster: Take 2

The Battle Royale between Sheil and I to see who can most accurately predict the Eagles’ final roster continues. I may have made  a couple missteps in my initial analysis but Sheil, I can tell you, is feeling quite wobbly at the moment. As we exited Lehigh on Tuesday it was evident that he was re-thinking more than a few of his decisions. The one I’m sure he regrets the most is agreeing to lock horns with yours truly.

I can taste that whiskey now.

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

And yes, in that order. I can tell you this much: Foles has done a couple things at camp that have opened some eyes within the organization. That might mean something for when evaluations are made down the road but not for the here and now. The plan has been to have Kafka back up Vick, and a solid camp and preseason opener by Foles won’t turn that plan on its head. It’s unwise to overreact to one exhibition appearance against backups. (The same logic should apply when looking at Trent Edwards’ fourth-quarter efforts.) With Kafka sidelined with a broken left hand, Foles can make things interesting if he lights the world on fire the next couple weeks. But for now it’s Vick, Kafka then Foles, with Edwards on the outside looking in.

Running backs (4): LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis, Chris Polk, Stanley Havili.

Sticking with this projection for now. Bryce Brown is ahead of Polk on the depth chart and probably has the ability to be a more prolific runner. I just don’t know how he fits into the puzzle. McCoy and Lewis will see almost all the action this year. The third back could be used for special teams, some goal-line packages and be called on in the case of injury. Will Brown be a capable special teams player? And if someone goes down, can he be relied upon to adequately pass protect for Vick? I’m going against the grain here and I’m probably wrong but dammit, I’m riding with it.

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

We need to see more out of McNutt over the coming weeks. If he doesn’t flash, maybe he can be safely stashed on the practice squad. That would open the door for another receiver, should the Eagles still want to keep six. Chad Hall is an option (though Johnson’s skill-set seems to eliminate the need for Hall). I’ll throw Mardy Gilyard’s name into the mix as a sleeper. He looks like a tough cover, and was on the receiving end of Foles’ 44-yard touchdown pass against Pittsburgh. Let’s see if he can stand out against New England Monday.

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

Brett Brackett and Chase Ford have not stood out since shorts and shells were replaced by full pads. The idea of having a 6-5 or 6-6 target for Vick is nice, but they have to be able to pass protect. We haven’t seen that yet. Celek says his injured knee is stabilizing and that he will play against the Patriots. Harbor has had a good camp and will go into the season as the No. 2 assuming the Eagles don’t go shopping outside the organization.

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

In the last round of projections I told you I was close to leaving Dunlap off the 53 because he looked to be laboring on the practice field. That goes to show you two things: 1) I’m an idiot and; 2) The left tackle position is in a worrisome state. I can’t buy Andy Reid’s explanation that Dunlap was promised he would get a chance to compete for the starting job when he signed on. Since when is Dunlap getting guarantees about anything? This is more about the early struggles of Bell. There shouldn’t be panic in the streets – Howard Mudd has a history of switching things up in the beginning to find the right mix – but you would prefer that Bell just grabbed the starting spot and didn’t let go. Elsewhere on the offensive line, Dallas Reynolds is listed as the backup center and has a chance to make the team as well.

Defensive linemen (10): Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Fletcher Cox, Derek Landri, Brandon Graham, Darryl Tapp, Phillip Hunt, Vinny Curry, Cedric Thornton.

Here’s what I’m thinking: You can get by with a four-man defensive tackle rotation of Cox, Thornton, Landri and Jenkins if you leave Antonio Dixon off. That allows you to keep all of these quality defensive ends. (Are you really going to part with Hunt right now?) This is one plausible scenario. The other is to orchestrate a trade (Tapp is the most logical, Graham more out of the box but not an entirely crazy notion). As Reid said Tuesday, this thing isn’t settled yet.

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

I made one change here, switching Clayton for Akeem Jordan. Here’s why: the  instability at safety. Let’s suppose for a second that everything blows up in their face at the safety position. Kurt Coleman struggles, O.J. Atogwe no longer has it and Jaiquawn Jarrett gets cut. What are they going to do? There’s at least a chance (and maybe it’s really remote) that Clayton can be used in a pinch. Not a great solution but more of a “desperate times” approach. Enough to give him the edge of Jordan, at least, if there’s not much distance between the two.

Cornerbacks (6): Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Joselio Hanson, Curtis Marsh, Brandon Boykin, Brandon Hughes.

Cliff Harris looked good early. Then he got injured, and hasn’t been noticeable since his return. Maybe he can be kept on the practice squad. Kevin Thomas, acquired from the Colts in a trade, hasn’t opened many eyes from what I can tell. Hanson still has a hold on the starting nickel corner spot.

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

The decision to leave Jarrett on is also against popular sentiment and I wouldn’t argue if they parted ways. However, we are still talking about a 22-year-old former second-round pick. Yes, he looked bad against Pittsburgh. No, he has not distinguished himself. If you are the Eagles, though, do you cut bait this early after making such a large investment? If  I’m them, I am holding out a little hope that he can find his footing.

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

McBriar is listed as the first-team punter and holder on the latest depth chart.

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