The Eagles have settled on a 53-man roster - for now.
This is a turbulent time in the football personnel world. Rosters are constantly changing and being adjusted as new players become available. This truly is the time when one team's trash is another team's treasure, so to speak. Nothing is set in stone. While the Eagles could make another small change, the likelihood is that the roster is set for at least the season opener. After games start and injuries set in, changes will happen due to need rather than trying to shape a roster by choice.
Howie Roseman and Andy Reid should be very happy right now. They have put together a terrific roster. Every team heads into a season with some question marks. The Eagles have a lot more answers than questions. There is talent on every unit. There are stars on defense and offense. There is a good mixture of youth and experience.
There is also a good mixture of stars and role players. Don't undersell the importance of that. Last year, the Eagles went with some veteran backups and they struggled to fit into new roles here. Steve Smith was a great slot receiver for the Giants, but proved ineffective as a backup last season. Ronnie Brown was a terrific running back for the Dolphins, but struggled as he got very few touches in Philly. What he lacks in experience, he'll make up for in hunger. Remember the play against the Cardinals when Smith went down early instead of fighting for the first down? Can you imagine Damaris Johnson doing anything like that? No way. Dion Lewis and Bryce Brown will be happy to play special teams and get limited touches. Ronnie Brown wanted the ball. He wasn't a bad guy. He was just used to a more prominent role. He didn't function well with only occasional carries.
Some may argue that the Eagles are too young in certain places. Is Nick Foles really the guy you want as backup quarterback on a Super Bowl contender? Last year, the Eagles had Vince Young in that role and he didn't do a whole lot. Foles might be a rookie, but he fits the system. He is a passing quarterback. He knows how to get the ball to weapons and run an offense. He did this in college and the preseason. The only way to find out if he can do it in NFL games is to give him a chance. I think his level of play this summer proved that he deserves that chance. Oddly enough, Young is waiting for any team to call him with a job. How the mighty have fallen, huh?
The release of Oshiomogho Atogwe leaves Jaiquawn Jarrett and David Sims as the backup safeties. Colt Anderson is still working his way back from a knee injury and is probably more of a pure special teams player at this point. Jarrett and Sims are young guys. Last year, the Eagles had Jarrad Page in the mix. Anyone remember how that went? He missed tackles unlike anyone I've ever seen before.
When looking at the Eagles roster I'm struck more by the overall talent than the experience side of things. Just look at the defense for a second. I don't think anyone would argue that the Eagles have the best overall defensive line in the NFL. Some may prefer the starting four of another team, but in terms of an overall group, I don't see 10 players like this on any other roster.
The linebackers should be much improved over last year. Rookie Mychal Kendricks looks like a star in the making. While DeMeco Ryans didn't look great in the preseason, he doesn't really need to be that kind of a player. The Eagles need him to be good and provide leadership and stability for the young guys around him. Last year, Jamar Chaney and Casey Matthews held those starting jobs. Neither player is nearly as good as Kendricks and Ryans.
Think about the secondary. Starting corners Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were both Pro Bowl players in 2009. They both should have very good seasons. Some fans might question safety with Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman, but those guys are healthy and have experience. Allen has dealt with some hamstring issues, but that's far different than coming back from knee surgery, which is what affected him last season.
|Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the Editor of IgglesBlitz.com and was a contributor to the Eagles Almanac. |
I'm excited to see how some players will handle expanded roles. Derek Landri should be starting this year. He was great this summer and could have the best year of his NFL career. Phillip Hunt was happy to make the team last year. He was so dominant this summer that he got to sit out the preseason finale and watch the young guys battle it out. Cedric Thornton is so much better than last year that it is hard to believe he's the same guy. I cannot wait to see him in action. He will have some great highlight moments this year. The trick for him is to be consistently good. That will be a challenge. When he is "on," watch out. Thornton has excellent quickness and when he uses good technique, he can just overwhelm blockers. I think we're all excited to see Brandon Graham get back into action. Last year was brutal for him. You can bet he's dying to make up for lost time. Curtis Marsh played very little on defense last year, but just had a good summer and will be a key part of some packages.
I hated to see Joselio Hanson cut, but Brandon Boykin was too good to not play. He showed big time ability this summer. Boykin is a quick learner and he's got excellent athletic ability. He'll get burned a time or two, but will also make some plays Hanson couldn't simply because he's faster and quicker than Hanson. Boykin can get experience, but Hanson couldn't get any faster. Simple as that.
The defense had a great showing in the preseason, leading the league in fewest yards allowed, pass defense and sacks. The group was also highly ranked in stopping the run and fewest points allowed. Preseason stats don't mean anything, but they do help give me some confidence that the defense is headed in the right direction and could be in for a very big year.
The offense is much more proven, but had a highly inconsistent preseason. I do have confidence in Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, but I will admit that it bugs me that we saw so little from them, especially Vick. The offense has produced big numbers for several years. We all know what these guys can do. It just would have been nice to see Vick lead them on at least one scoring drive.
There wasn't as much change on the offensive side of the ball. Why change a good thing? I already mentioned that I'm happy the Eagles went young at running back. Lewis and Brown should be good backups. I questioned the wisdom of this move back in the spring, but the young guys played great and proved Roseman/Reid to be right. Chris Polk played his way onto the final roster. As of two weeks ago, I thought he should be cut. He showed better speed and quickness in the final two games. I was also blown away in the Browns game when he went down inbounds late in the game to keep the clock running. That is a veteran move. Stanley Havili earned his spot at fullback. I was most impressed by his special teams play this preseason. He blocked and covered kicks/punts well.
I thought the Eagles made the right moves on the offensive line. I studied the Jets game and Demetress Bell struggled to be sure, but did show some good things as well. I think keeping him around for Howard Mudd to work with is a good risk. The light may never go on for Bell, but if Mudd can get him straightened out, the Eagles will be better off for it. Dallas Reynolds played his way onto the roster. Last week, I wanted Steve Vallos to get that spot since he's more athletic, but after seeing the Jets game, Reynolds clearly out-played him. I was highly disappointed in D.J. Jones and what he showed at right tackle. He impressed me on the left side, but a backup must be able to play both sides. I can't blame the Eagles for letting him go.
Dennis Kelly played right tackle most of the preseason, but did get snaps on the left side in the Jets game. He wasn't great, but showed enough that I'm optimistic about his future there and at right tackle. Kelly has good feet and he's a natural athlete. He needs experience and lots of technique work. Kelly also played at guard in three of the games. I get the feeling that he'll be the first lineman off the bench for anywhere but center.
Trent Edwards surprised us all with his level of play in the preseason. I don't think even Nostradamus predicted Edwards making the team. I'll have to check and see if the Mayans wrote about him. This wasn't a case of the Eagles rejecting Mike Kafka. Edwards played his way onto the roster. He showed up big time in the games. The players responded to him and Edwards handled some tough situations well. He led a comeback in the Steelers game. He took a beating in the Jets game, but stood tall in the pocket. Edwards surgically picked apart the Browns. I listened to Bernie Kosar during the telecast and that was one depressed analyst. Edwards completed short throw after short throw. He moved the chains and ate up clock. Kosar basically said he looks forward to a day when the Browns can do that. It was kind of funny and kind of sad.
Is this the best Eagles roster ever? Who knows. Things like that are fun to discuss, but can't really be judged until after the fact. I think this roster has the potential to be special. Players don't need to overachieve. They simply need to stay healthy and play up to their potential. Jon Gruden picked the Eagles as a Super Bowl team. Brian Billick said on Twitter that he's considering the Eagles for the top spot in his power rankings. Clearly everyone can see the talent and potential. Now it is up to the Eagles to go turn potential into results.
Scouting Reports On New Eagles
T/G Nate Menkin - 6-4, 296 - I watched him play against the Vikings and came away very impressed. He was at left tackle in the game. Menkin looked outstanding as a run blocker. He is tenacious. He will block until the whistle blows. Menkin is fast on the run and looks natural blocking in space. He can go get defensive backs on the run or take on linebackers. Menkin was a sloppy pass blocker in Houston's system. The good news is that he should fit Howard Mudd's system much better. For now, I would be more comfortable with him at guard than tackle. He's got good NFL potential.
S David Sims - 5-9, 204 - I watched the Eagles-Browns game to take a look at Sims. He is a good tackler and aggressive player. He comes up quickly in run support. He tackles well in the open field. He made a really good takedown of McKay Jacobson after a short pass over the middle. Sims had a couple of picks this summer and lost at least one more to a penalty. He returned kickoffs at Iowa State and is a good special teams player.
WR B.J. Cunningham - 6-2, 215 - Cunningham will join the Eagles practice squad. I am a big fan of his. In my final mock draft, I had the Eagles taking him. Here's what I wrote back in April – “Cunningham is one of my favorite receivers in the draft. He isn't huge, but has good size. Cunningham is great at moving the chains, but also is effective on deep balls. He lacks ideal speed, but would give the Eagles a receiver with some size and physicality. He can play in the slot or outside. Cunningham is very good at working the middle of the field. He can play through contact. He caught 21 touchdown passes over the last two seasons combined and is a good red zone threat. If he's good enough to make the team, fine. If not, you could put him on the practice squad for a year. The only reason a guy like Cunningham is available this late is due to a very deep class of receivers.”
C Chase Beeler - 6-3, 285 - Beeler is the other outsider to join the practice squad. He is a Howard Mudd-type of offensive lineman. He lacks ideal size, but is a tough, tenacious blocker. He was a great run blocker for Stanford when their power run game was dominant. He spent last year as part of the 49ers organization. Beeler doesn't fit every scheme, but should do well here.