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How Do New Eagles Fit Roster?

Posted Mar 14, 2014

We are so early in the process and, of course, the picture will change as the roster grows and, certainly, when the pads go on, but why not project a bit on how the newest Eagles project for 2014? ...

Moving quickly to add to the roster, the Eagles entered free agency aggressively, taking care of some internal business first -- releasing safety Patrick Chung and re-signing punter Donnie Jones to a three-year contract -- before delving into the pool of unrestricted free agents.

Four signings and one trade later, the Eagles have five players on the roster now that they didn't have last season. How do the new players fit in the big picture here? We're going to find out when the team begins its post-draft training sessions and through training camp and the preseason games, but here is an early peek from this perspective.

DARREN SPROLES, KR/RB

Acquired on Thursday in a trade from New Orleans, Darren Sproles has been one of the most versatile and explosive weapons in the NFL in the last decade. He's going to help the Eagles in a variety of ways in the return game on special teams and as a move-around-the-formation weapon from the line of scrimmage.

How, exactly, Chip Kelly plans to employ Sproles in the offense has yet to be clarified. You can just imagine the coaching staff having all kinds of fun drawing up ideas and exchanging concepts to use Sproles. It's probably unfair to label Sproles as a "running back," because he has been more productive as a receiver than any back in the league.

So maybe Kelly sees Sproles as a "weapon," and will invent ways to get him the ball. As you know, the essence of this offense is to spread the field and create one-on-one matchups in space, give quarterback Nick Foles enough time to make his reads and then rely on Foles to find the matchup that favors the Eagles. Sproles is here because the Eagles are backing on him winning one-on-one routes in short-area spaces.

Sproles certainly has the burst to make a difference on special teams and in the offense. How the Eagles use him from week to week is one of the fascinating pieces to watch. Defenses will have to account for Sproles on every snap. Huge.

MALCOLM JENKINS, S

Signed as an unrestricted free agent after he played five seasons in New Orleans, Malcolm Jenkins has coverage skills playing at the safety position, and that's essential in today's NFL. He was the 14th pick in the 2009 NFL draft by the Saints and began his career as a cornerback before sliding to safety.

Jenkins brings athletic ability and good instincts to the defense, and his coverage ability will allow the Eagles to have some more options up front as they rush the quarterback. The Eagles figure to explore a lot of things with Jenkins as they line him up in coverage, use him in run support and perhaps even bring him in the blitz game.

In the old thinking in the NFL, the safety spots were differentiated by free safety and strong safety. That's not the way it is now. The positions are interchangeable. The Eagles could very well use Jenkins as a moving piece in the defense.

NOLAN CARROLL, CB

Nolan Carroll has a chance to earn playing time at a cornerback position that welcomes competition. Carroll started 22 games in 2012-2013 for Miami and he's got good size and has made some plays as his career has matured.

The rap on Carroll is that he's been inconsistent. The Eagles think they can make him a better player and that he can have success in this scheme, which requires some press conference and physical play, as well as "off" coverage and speed to the ball.

Carroll doesn't necessarily join the Eagles as a projected starter, but he will have the chance to earn that job. He adds experience and depth and a good upside.

Carroll will also get a look as a gunner in kick coverage as the Eagles continue to add pieces to their special teams.

CHRIS MARAGOS, S/SPECIAL TEAMS

Teams need "glue" players and Chris Maragos fits that description. He will compete for playing time at safety, and the Eagles can always use more depth there, but Maragos is expected to come in and make an immediate difference on special teams.

Maragos was a leader in Seattle on special teams in coverage, as the upback on punts and in field goal protection and kick return blocking. He is projected as one of the core players for Dave Fipp's special teams units.

The Eagles moved quickly to sign Maragos in free agency because he was a player high on their list and he was a player that many teams were interested in signing. Look for him to be, if all things work out, an impact player in every phase of special teams.

BRYAN BRAMAN, LB/SPECIAL TEAMS

Much the same as Maragos, Bryan Braman offers some depth for the defense and potential impact on special teams. He's an outside linebacker with range and speed. Braman saw limited action from the line of scrimmage in three seasons with the Texans, but he starred on special teams.

Braman is a tough, physical player who loves mixing it up. With Braman and Maragos, the Eagles think they've become a lot more physical in kick coverage. Faster, too.

What's intriguing about Braman is how he potentially projects into the defense at some point. Can he develop enough to offer some punch rushing the passer? Could coordinator Bill Davis find some snaps for the 6-feet-5, 241-pound Braman in some capacity from the line of scrimmage?

Braman knows the 3-4 scheme and should not have much of a problem understanding the differences between what he played in Houston and the scheme here. In the meantime, Braman needs to be a stopper on special teams as he works his way into the defensive picture.

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