Eagles Offense: How the Pieces Fit
Quarterbacks (3): Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Trent Edwards.
Going into camp, backup quarterback was one of the biggest concerns on this football team. You know the Vick numbers by now. In 2011, he missed three games completely, failed to finish two more and played injured in a sixth (vs. the Cardinals). The Eagles’ record in those games: 1-5. In the other 10, where Vick played relatively healthy, they were 7-3.
It’s difficult to project how much of Foles’ preseason success will carry over into the regular season. But considering this is still a big-play offense, predicated on hitting DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and others downfield, at least the Eagles now have a backup who can make all those throws. Andy Reid criticized himself last year for being too conservative when Kafka came into the Falcons game. I doubt that’ll be the case with Foles. The rookie will make mistakes, but if the preseason is any indication, he’s going to be aggressive when he gets on the field.
As for Edwards, the Eagles keep a third-stringer with 33 career starts under his belt. Someone who is content with being a third-stringer and helping Vick and Foles in any way he can. Seems like the right move.
Running backs (5): LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk, Stanley Havili.
The Eagles went heavy here, keeping both seventh-round pick Bryce Brown and undrafted free agent Chris Polk. Polk was on the bubble, but it’s clear that Howie Roseman felt like the running back would get snatched up by another team if the Birds let him go.
Whether Polk is active or not to start the season will depend entirely on his special-teams prowess. And it’ll be interesting to see if he’s able to stick on the 53-man roster all season. The one thing he really has going for him is that Polk brings a different element than the Eagles’ other backs. He’s a bruiser with a versatile skill set and above-average blocking ability.
Lewis will start the season as McCoy’s backup. He’s looked shifty in the screen game and seems comfortable as a blocker. Brown’s role will depend on how he develops, but the rookie looks capable of being a special-teams contributor right away. Havili is the fullback, although there’s still a chance the Eagles could make a move there.
Wide receivers (5): DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Damaris Johnson.
One of the themes with the roster is that the Eagles are putting faith in a lot of young players. I wrote about that yesterday when discussing the decision to go with Brandon Boykin over Joselio Hanson. To a lesser degree, that’s the case with Johnson here. Cooper is not expected to be ready in Week 1 as he continues to rehab a fractured collarbone. That means Johnson opens the season as the No. 1 punt returner and the No. 4 wide receiver. That designation could mean only a handful of snaps, but should Jackson or Maclin go down, the rookie will be expected to produce.
If the Eagles see an attractive developmental wide receiver on the waiver wire, they could potentially make a move.
Tight ends (2): Brent Celek, Clay Harbor.
Not a whole lot to say here. The Eagles began training camp showing interest in Visanthe Shiancoe and Jeremy Shockey. They didn’t sign either guy, but if the plan was to light a fire under Harbor, it may have worked. The former fourth-round pick had a tremendous summer and could see an increase in playing from 2011, when he was on the field for 33.6 percent of the snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.
Offensive line (8): King Dunlap, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Danny Watkins, Todd Herremans, Dennis Kelly, Demetress Bell, Dallas Reynolds.
This is perhaps the thinnest part of the roster. Among the three backups, the Eagles have two players (Kelly and Reynolds) who have never played in an NFL game. And a third (Bell), who they simply cannot trust to be on the field at this point.
The guess here is that the Birds will almost definitely make a move for an offensive lineman, although that doesn’t mean they’ll keep more than eight. If they find a guard/center, Reynolds could be gone.
On gamedays, at least to start the season, Bell will probably be inactive. The key is Kelly. If the Eagles feel the rookie can fill in at tackle and guard, they could go with just one backup offensive lineman on gamedays; they’ve done that in the past.