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Deep Look At State Of Roster

Posted Mar 17, 2013

You can pretty much believe that free agency is all but over for the Eagles after their impressive sweep in Week 1. How did the addition of 9 players impact the roster? ...

The Eagles aren't over over with building the roster prior to the April 25 draft, because you know how these things work. A player stays on the open market for a couple of days longer than anticipated, boom, the dynamic of the situation changes. A team finds itself willing to move someone and the Eagles suddenly feel their ears burning.

A roster always changes, is the point.

But for the most part, the blueprint the Eagles put together has been executed for the major phase of free agency, and now the coaching staff and personnel department will climb the next rung of the off-season ladder, heading toward the draft. There's a mini-camp ahead prior to the draft (date not yet announced) and then the most important weekend of the preseason months comes our way and then, following the draft, another camp.

So what does it look like on the depth chart head coach Chip Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman have put together? I don't know the answer to that, but I can talk a little bit about what the Eagles might be looking for moving forward ...

OFFENSE IN THE TRENCHES

There are a couple of questions about the offensive line that I'm sure the Eagles are considering. One is the expectations they have for the return to good health of left tackle Jason Peters, center Jason Kelce and right tackle Todd Herremans. Everything we heard at the end of the 2012 season was positive on all three, but I guess you never know until those players are on the field and moving around.

So, there is the health question. Then there is the matter of who joins in as the fifth starter with those three plus left guard Evan Mathis. Is Danny Watkins a starter? Is Dennis Kelly ready to move ahead in his second year? Is there another player in the mix?

Truthfully, do we really know what new line coach Jeff Stoutland wants from his group up front? Mobile and athletic with a heaping spoonful of road grader?

You see, there is a lot that we don't know. The coaches have surely considered every angle, but until we know, we truly don't know. However, I think everyone agrees: The Eagles have a good offensive line in place if all of the health pieces and the scheme pieces match. A very good fifth starter could make this line great.

Would the Eagles get in the game for one of the veterans still on the market? Fans are thinking about Jake Long and Eric Winston, among others, but the Eagles haven't reportedly made a move. Will they?

Or do they wait until the draft, when a tackle-rich draft buffeted by some prime guards makes the offensive line a unit that the draftniks say is loaded?

Or do the Eagles think they can find their man internally? Stay tuned.

PLAYMAKERS ON OFFENSE

Two additions during the last week lend the idea that at least Kelly is looking for more weapons for his offense. Tight end James Casey should be a do-it-all-player for the offense moving into many different spots around the formation, and wide receiver Arrelious Benn has some size, promise and a lot of talent.

Maybe the Eagles aren't done. Maybe they have their sights set on the draft to bring onboard more of what Kelly is looking for, although it sure seems like the skill positions -- not including a numbers-rich quarterback spot -- are accounted for.

Running backs? Got a ton of 'em. Check. Wide receivers? Speed in DeSean Jackson, solid playmaker in Jeremy Maclin, slot standout in Jason Avant, rising young vet in Riley Cooper and scatter-quick second-year man Damaris Johnson. And now Benn, who seemed to be moving up until 2012 when Tampa Bay signed Vincent Jackson in free agency and Benn became an afterthought.

Brent Celek, Casey and Clay Harbor will push each other to make for a very competitive situation at tight end.

At quarterback, the Eagles have five on the depth chart, headlined by Michael Vick and Nick Foles, but there is always the possibility that in the draft ...

DIFFERENCE MAKERS ON DEFENSE

The picture now is so much more different than it was a week ago, right? The starting cornerbacks then were Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and now they could be Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher. A shaky safety situation welcomes in veterans Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips.

Conner Barwin is probably your strongest candidate to lead the Eagles in quarterback sacks this year and Isaac Sopoaga is the nose tackle  to anchor when the Eagles play a 3-4 front.

Does that mean the Eagles are done with the defense? No way.

They are on the lookout for defensive players who change games, at any position. Kelly may gain so much of his fame from the Oregon fast-break offense, but he knows how important defense is and how a great defense wins championships.

There don't appear to be those impact players in free agency, so the draft could very well be defense dominated. The Eagles are tearing down and building anew on that side of the ball. Of the eight free agents they just signed, four of five of them could become starters. It could be, actually, as many as six players or even seven if Jason Phillips claims an inside linebacking job.

This roster is a long way from being done, but it just may be a while before the Eagles add any more substantial pieces. There are still some needs and the hierarchy will tell you that, but after one week of free agency the Eagles are off to a flying start to rebuilding the roster in the vision Kelly has.

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