By 6 p.m. Saturday, the Eagles have to cut 22 players and get their roster down to 53. Many of the bubble guys will get a chance to make one final impression Thursday night, as Chip Kelly acknowledged there’s still “a lot up in the air.”
New offensive scheme, new defensive scheme, new coaching staff and new personnel. Kelly’s moves this weekend will tell us a lot about his roster-building philosophy. Keeping that in mind, here are 10 players whose future with the franchise hangs in the balance as we approach cut-down day.
The third and most important preseason game is almost upon us. Saturday’s game in Jacksonville will be the final tune-up for the starting units before the season opener against the Redskins. It also represents some players’ last chance to impress the coaches before the roster gets trimmed to 75 on Tuesday. (The number goes all the way down to 53 by Aug. 31.)
Here are five Eagles that we’ll be paying close attention to:
The team could add a player or two in the coming weeks, but given that it’s Aug. 4, there aren’t a lot of attractive options out there. Keeping that in mind, let’s take stock of where the current wide receivers on the roster stand.
Michael Vick singled out Russell Shepard on Saturday, saying that out of all the young receivers, he is the one that has stood out the most.
Little did Vick know how much that would mean to the undrafted rookie out of LSU. Shepard played quarterback through high school. Guess who he tried to emulate on the field?
“My whole persona and way I played the football game was to be like Michael Vick,” said the Texas native following Sunday’s practice at the Linc. “For my idol, my favorite player of all time, my mentor to say some good things about me, words can’t explain the way that makes me feel.”
Entering the final year of his deal, Maclin was committed to proving his worth on the field this offseason.
“I think Jeremy Maclin has emerged as one of the hardest-working guys on our team,” Michael Vick said last month at Maclin’s football camp in West Deptford, N.J. “You watch him in the weight room, he goes in there and he’s just a different person there. So I think that’ll translate over to the field.”
Instead, Maclin faces surgery and a grueling rehab regimen away from his teammates in the months ahead.
In the past three seasons, Maclin has averaged 67 catches, 893 yards and seven touchdowns. So how will the Eagles replace that production in 2013? Here’s a look at their current options on the roster.
Russell Shepard is probably as happy as anyone to be through the draft process and onto an NFL practice field.
Not only did the LSU wide receiver go undrafted in late April, but got off on the wrong foot with the team that eventually scooped him up — the Eagles — by telling a Louisiana radio station that he signed a deal with Philadelphia while the draft was still ongoing. Teams are not permitted to negotiate a contract until the draft concludes. A league representative told Birds 24/7 that they were looking into the situation to determine the facts. The Eagles had to put out a statement denying Shepard’s claims.
It wasn’t an ideal first impression.
Wide receiver Russell Shepard raised some eyebrows when he told a Louisiana radio station that the Eagles had signed him to a free-agent contract before the draft was over, which would be against the rules. The NFL is checking it out.
“Yes, we are looking into it to determine the facts,” said league spokesman Greg Aiello.
Shepard said Chip Kelly reached out to him at the beginning of the sixth round and explained that the Eagles wanted him, but were short on picks after trading away a seventh-rounder to move up and grab Matt Barkley.
“I actually took myself off the draft board during the draft,” Shepard told the station. “Teams started calling me probably in the middle of the sixth round asking me ‘is it true that you’ve signed with a team already? The draft isn’t even over?’ and I actually got it out of the way before the draft was over.”
The Eagles, through a statement, said Shepard’s account is off the mark.