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53-Man Roster Looks So Very Good

Posted Aug 30, 2014

It's a young group, with 18 first- and second-year players (including suspended offensive tackle Lane Johnson). Only 10 players are 30 years and older. There is depth and talent all over ...

It's a young group, with 18 first- and second-year players (including suspended offensive tackle Lane Johnson). Only 10 players are 30 years and older. There is depth and talent all over.

Don't pretend the roster is final, because the Eagles are always going to work the bottom third and keep churning to find the exactly right mix. But a team that won the NFC East with an extremely young group in 2013 still added 6 draft picks and 8 rookies total, got a lot younger at quarterback (Michael Vick vs. Mark Sanchez) and at wide receiver (Jason Avant and DeSean Jackson vs. Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff), mixed in some young talent along the defensive line, added a couple of players for depth along the offensive line via the "future contract" route (Andrew Gardner and David Molk), upgraded the secondary in free agency (Malcolm Jenkins, Nolan Carroll II and Chris Maragos) and brought in a dynamic playmaker (running back Darren Sproles in a trade with New Orleans) to help the offense.

And here we have it: The first edition of the 2014 Philadelphia Eagles 53-man roster.

"We're in the business of trying to win games right now and at the same time build for the future and it's always a balance. When we look at this team, I think it strikes the right balance of veterans and youth and experience and inexperience," said general manager Howie Roseman on Saturday as the 4 PM deadline came and went and the Eagles released 19 players and put two more (linebacker Travis Long and wide receiver Arrelious Benn) on Injured Reserve) to reach the 53-man limit (Johnson, suspended for four games, does not count against the 53-man limit).

There is still a lot of work to be done, of course. The Eagles have their eyes on the waiver wire, and trades are always possible, and a 10-man practice squad will be established on Sunday into Monday.

If the Eagles seem a little light at running back with LeSean McCoy, Sproles and Chris Polk, remember that the team opened 2013 with three backs and had Matthew Tucker at the ready on the practice squad.

If you think four tight ends is one too many -- including the impressive Trey Burton, who just did everything right to make the roster -- keep in mind that the Eagles had four tight ends on the roster (Emil Igwenagu was the fourth) at the start of 2013.

Think of the practice squad as a developmental team, which in fact it is. The Eagles in control of their numbers.

And they've got an awfully talented roster, so we take the game-by-game approach to see how the chemistry develops and the players mature as Eagles. This is a team in seach of as many blue-chip players as can be found and added and developed.

Truthfully, though, for as much interest as the fans and the media pay to the immediate 53-man roster, the team has a delicate balance. The regular season starts next Sunday with Jacksonville coming to town and the chore is to create favorable matchups and exploit them and win the game and start the season off the right way.

Are there some surprises? Sure. Some thoughts here on a roster that averages 26.3 years of age ...

  • Brandon Bair is a 29-year-old who didn't make it in Kansas City or Oakland, yet he's got long arms and is perfect for the two-gap style the Eagles play along their defensive line. He may not start, but Bair is going to get some reps. He was a great find for the team. "Money on the street," is the term Roseman used to describe signing a no-risk player like Bair who was on the practice squad last year and then signed a "futures" contract right after the 2013 campaign ended.

  • Burton made a name for himself at the University of Florida for his versatility and he has that same potential here. Right now, though, he's a tight end who has to be ready to help in the offense and on special teams when needed.

  • Gardner is on his sixth NFL team in his fifth NFL season and he's played in eight career games. But he did a nice job in the preseason and can play both tackle positions and he gives the Eagles some good depth. Gardner, David Molk and Bair, along with Allen Barbre from the year before, are all "futures" contract players. You never take for granted any spot on a 90-man roster.

  • Among the draft picks, only fifth-round safety Ed Reynolds II was waived. How many will see immediate time? Matthews, for sure. Nose tackle Beau Allen, likely. Huff, if he's healthy. Marcus Smith II has come a long way in a short summer, and he could see some reps.

  • Both Matthew Tucker and Henry Josey were productive in the preseason, so we will see if they land in a good place, either on the practice squad here or on a 53-man roster elsewhere. Kenjon Barner was waived/injured with a lower leg injury suffered in Thursday's win over the Jets. The Eagles will not risk being shortchanged at the running back position.

  • G.J. Kinne played well against the Jets and throughout preseason and he will be on a roster -- 53-man or practice squad -- in the NFL this season.

  • Tough injury (torn ACL) for linebacker Travis Long. He had done a lot to gain serious consideration for the 53-man roster. Now he's got a long rehab ahead of him after suffering the injury in the Jets game.

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