UPDATED: Projecting the 53-Man Eagles Roster and Practice Squad
By Lance Epstein
With tomorrow’s deadline looming to get the roster size down from 75 players to 53 players, the Eagles decided to cut 10 players and place DE Victori Abiamiri on the PUP list on Friday. The Eagles still must release 12 more players to get down to the league mandatory 53.
However, the trade today for OG Reggie Wells complicates things a bit. ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that the Eagles are trying to deal OG Stacy Andrews and insert Wells into his starting right guard position. Nevertheless, Andrews is likely to be included on the 53-man roster unless they can work out a deal before tomorrow’s deadline.
If the Eagles are unable to make a deal, then Max Jean-Gilles, Fenuki Topou and/or King Dunlap could be sweating it out for one of the last roster spots. Remember Wells can play both guard and tackle at a high level, so he allows the Eagles to get rid of a tackle or a guard.
For the second consecutive day, the Eagles pulled the trigger on a deal. This time they dealt a undisclosed 2011 draft pick to the Ravens for DE Antwan Barnes.
The acquisition of Barnes could mean a couple of different scenarios. It could be that DE Darryl Tapp, who has been unimpressive, gets released. Or it could mean that rookies Jeff Owens or LB Jamar Chaney might be on the Eagles practice squad and not the 53-man roster.
After yesterday and today’s transactions, here is a projection of what the Eagles 53-man roster and practice squad may look like.
Kevin Kolb, Michael Vick and Mike Kafka
Analysis: This is the easy of all of the positions. Kolb is going to be the starter and Vick is the only backup with NFL experience. Kafka will be groomed this year on the sideline, but most likely be inactive for every game unless Vick or Kolb gets injured.
Running Back/Fullback (4):
LeSean McCoy, Leonard Weaver, Mike Bell and Eldra Buckley
Analysis: When the Eagles released (RBs) Martell Mallett and J.J. Arrington earlier today, it was a clear indication that Buckley had made the squad. While the unit appears solid with McCoy and Weaver, there are a lot of concerns elsewhere. Bell missed most of training camp, the preseason and OTAs with leg injuries. In addition, Bell is known to be injury prone for much of his professional and college career. Buckley is a nice special teams player, but he is too small to be asked to play significant minutes if Bell goes down. More importantly, Mallett looked like a better back than both Buckley and Bell (when healthy) in practice and game situations. If Bell continues to come up with injuries the Eagles could look to resign Mallett and drop Bell.
Wide receiver (5):
DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper and Hank Baskett
Analysis: Even though (WR) Kelley Washington had a good game versus the New York Jets, the Eagles do not have the room to keep six wide receivers. It would not be shocking if the Eagles did keep Washington, but they could use the extra roster spot to keep a young player that could be a bigger part of their future. The first four wide receivers are locks to make the squad. This is going to come down to Baskett versus Washington and Baskett’s familiarity with the Birds is the reason he stays.
Tight End (2):
Brent Celek and Clayton Harbor
Analysis: The biggest disappoint in training camp might have been TE Cornelius Ingram and his inability to get back on the field. It is not his fault that his knee continuously causes him problems, but the Eagles cannot waste a roster spot on a player who might never be healthy enough to help the squad. He is still eligible to make the practice squad and could make it through waivers due to his knee condition. Although the Eagles like carrying three tight ends, so they might put Ingram on PUP list and see where he is at after six weeks. If he is not healthy enough to return by that time, then they could place him on IR. On the other hand, it is more likely they outright release him.
Offensive line (10):
Jason Peters, Todd Herremans, Jamaal Jackson, Stacy Andrews, Reggie Wells, Winston Justice, Nick Cole, Austin Howard, Mike McGlynn and Max Jean-Gilles
Analysis: Before the Eagles’ dealt for Wells, (OT) King Dunlap barely was beating out (OT/G) Fenuki Topou for a spot on this roster. With the acquisition of Wells, the decision became whether to keep Dunlap or Max Jean-Gilles. Neither has been overly impressive since the start of camp, but Dunlap has not improved over the last two years. He is the same player this camp that he was last camp. During the preseason, quick defensive ends went around him with easy. As for Jean-Gilles, he has shown throughout his career that he can be an adequate spot starter if called upon. Also, Stacy Andrews can slide over to tackle and Wells can play guard if an injury occurs along the line. More importantly, undrafted free agent Austin Howard has emerged as a serious player. He mauled opponents consistently throughout the preseason and was rarely out of position or called for a penalty. He is a converted tight end like Jason Peters, who is thriving at tackle. If Peters or Justice has a mediocre season, then Howard might be battling for a starting job next year.
Defensive Line (10)
Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, Mike Patterson, Brodrick Bunkley, Antonio Dixon, Trevor Laws, Darryl Tapp, Juqua Parker, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim and Antwan Barnes
Analysis: People are probably wondering why in the world would the Eagles carry five defensive tackles? There are two good reasons. First, the Eagles really like Owens and his potential. If the Eagles release Owens, it is unlikely that he will clear waivers and he probably catches on with another team’s 53-man roster. Another motivation is also connected to the Owens situation. The Eagles would love to keep Owens as a potential long-term replacement for (DT) Brodrick Bunkley. It has been reported that Bunkley could be difficult for the Eagles to resign to an extension since he will demand a lot of money. Head coach Andy Reid would love to think about the future by keeping Owens along with Dixon and Laws. However, the acquisition of Antwan Barnes makes it unlikely that Owens will be part of the 53-man roster. Owens will have to pass through waivers to make the Eagles practice squad. As for the defensive end position, Tapp would be dangerously close to not making this roster if the Eagles did not just sign him to a contract extension, which owes him some nice chunk of change in guaranteed money. Tapp might get the honor of the worst pick up of the offseason for the Eagles. He should expect the same treatment he got in Seattle, which is lack of playing time. With Graham, Te’o-Nesheim and Parker playing much better than him, he might be a healthy inactive for the Eagles.
Stewart Bradley, Ernie Sims, Akeem Jordan, Omar Gaither, Keenan Clayton, Jamar Chaney and Moise Fokou
Analysis: The return of Bradley is going to be huge for the Eagles defense. He has already demonstrated the same speed and athleticism that had him as a transcending linebacker in this league before his ACL injury. His leadership skills out on the field were also sorely missed last season. Ernie Sims and Akeem Jordan will be immensely improved by just having Bradley’s mere presence on the field. Unlike last year, the Eagles have plenty of depth at the linebacker position. The return of Gaither provides the Eagles a player who knows the system and can step in to fill the void if Sims or Jordan has to miss a game. Rookie Keenan Clayton has not fared well at practice, but when game time rolls around he is a special teams force and just has a knack for creating plays. One of the last linebackers to make the squad did so in the final preseason game. At the beginning of camp, Moise Fokou was penciled in as the team’s starting SAM linebacker. By the fourth preseason game, he was squarely on the bubble. However, he saved his job by putting on a show as he recorded 11 tackles and got pressure on Jets QB Mark Brunell. Sadly, the might Eagles will not be able to keep seventh-round pick Jamar Chaney. He is in a similar position as Owens. The Eagles know that Chaney is not ready yet, but with Gaither’s contract expiring soon, they could be thinking long-term with Chaney. Still, the Eagles may find a way to keep both him and Owens, but for this he makes the squad and Owens is cut.
Asante Samuel, Ellis Hobbs, Joselio Hanson, Trevard Lindley and Dimitri Patterson
Analysis: Perhaps the two most improved players during training camp and the preseason were Samuel and Hobbs. Samuel finally took the initiative to make a tackle and be physical on the outside. Hobbs looked like an entirely different player than what he showed in nine games last season. He made tackles after short receptions, was never out of position, played with confidence, created turnovers and was extremely physical with wide receivers. It is amazing that at the beginning of camp that he was thought to be a weak spot on the Eagles defense. While Hanson probably makes the squad, he really shouldn’t. The Eagles have not one, but two players in Lindley and Patterson that can do his job for the fraction of the price. One of the only rationales for Hanson making this squad after his porous preseason is due to Lindley being a rookie. If Lindley was a second-year player, the Eagles might be looking to cut ties with Hanson, save the money and go with recently acquired (CB) Jorrick Calvin. Calvin will be part of the numbers game, but a player the Eagles would love to store him on their practice squad.
Quintin Mikell, Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman and Macho Harris
Analysis: The first three on this list were obvious going to make the squad. Both rookies, Allen and Coleman, have a great understanding of the defensive scheme, are leaders and could eventually be the club’s starting safeties in a year or two. This position comes down to the Eagles keeping Quintin Demps or Macho Harris. Demps was given the starting free safety job after Brian Dawkins left for Denver. Unfortunately, Demps was beat out by then rookie fifth-round pick Victor “Macho” Harris. Not only did Demps get beat out, but he also fell into Reid’s doghouse. Of course, Harris had an OK rookie season, but nothing spectacular. In addition, he has been injured throughout much of camp and the preseason. When he did play against the Jets in the preseason finale, he appeared to be a step behind. Still, Harris can play multiple positions in cornerback and safety. Plus he was not awful when he did start at free safety. Moreover, the Eagles still love his upside. The same cannot be said of Demps, who runs his mouth and has failed to live up to expectations.
Special Teams Specialists (3):
David Akers, Sav Rocca and John Dorenbos
Analysis: For the third season in a row, this stays the same. Is there a better job in the NFL than being a long-snapper? Dorenbos might be one of the safest Eagles when it comes down to cutting down players.
Practice Squad (8):
CB/KR Jorrick Calvin, TE Cornelius Ingram, LB Jamar Chaney, RB Martell Mallett, OT Fenuki Topou, DE Eric Moncur, C A.Q. Shipley and DT Jeff Owens
Here is a quick rundown of the rules:
** 8 players awarded to practice squad/scout team
** Players cannot have played more than nine regular season games or been on the active roster for an entire year, nor can players be allowed to spend more than two seasons on the same team's squad unless that team's active roster never dips below 53 players.
**Players are free to sign on with a club from the practice squad, but must be done six days in advance of the team’s next game (if team has a bye, then 10 days)