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Roster At 53: Young, Promising

Posted Aug 31, 2013

They knew going into the spring and the summer that there would be change. A team that went 4-12 in 2012 changed the coaching staff and then went about changing the roster, as a look at the 53-man roster suggests ...

There are 20 members of this roster who weren't here at the end of the 2012 campaign. Of the 53 players listed now, 23 are either first- or second-year players. There are nine rookies on the roster.

Some of the numbers suggest that there could be some movement down the line, but that's entirely a guess and only general manager Howie Roseman and head coach Chip Kelly know the conversations going on behind closed doors. There are, for example, 11 defensive backs on the 53-man roster. Two of them, cornerbacks Brandon Hughes and Curtis Marsh, have hand injuries, which may or may factor into the big picture here.

"We're always going to keep looking for ways to improve the roster," said Roseman on Saturday, meeting the media. "That's not going to stop."

What's happened here is that bad drafts and poor organizational decision making and job fits in 2010 and 2011 forced the Eagles to revamp. Now they've got a new personnel department with defined roles and responsibilities, a new head coach, a new president of the team.

A new direction.

New energy.

And a roster that is very young and dramatically different from 2012 and certainly from 2011, and one that is capable of changing on a day-to-day basis.

Are there surprises on this initial 53-man roster? Sure. Jeff Maehl was acquired in a trade a couple of weeks ago from Houston and he ended up making the roster over Greg Salas and Russell Shepard because Maehl can play both inside and outside at wide receiver, because he knows the system and because he is a fine special teams player. Three non-drafted players made the roster -- offensive lineman Matt Tobin, defensive lineman Damion Square and linebacker Jake Knott -- as the Eagles continue to find good fortune after the seven rounds of the draft are complete.

Something has to give with all of those defensive backs, but the injuries factor in there, so that is going to be a developing story.

The player who is the poster child for the new direction the Eagles are taking is offensive guard Danny Watkins, the first-round draft pick for the Eagles in 2011. He began his Eagles career slowly that season after the work stoppage, and then was in the starting lineup by the end of the year. In 2012, Watkins regressed and his relationship with line coach Howard Mudd was most prominently mentioned.

It turns out that the change to new line coach Jeff Stoutland wasn't the answer for Watkins. And instead of holding on to Watkins -- taken before the Eagles re-defined the personnel department's responsibilities -- the Eagles let him go and wished him good luck should he get another opportunity to get his career on track.

Watkins represented the previous regime and the way the chores were divided and the personnel decisions made. Now, it's a collaboration of Roseman and his staff with Kelly, with the head coach making the final call.

These Eagles want athletes and they want versatility. They want to play faster than the opponent. They want to win by being more explosive and more physical. The offense appears to have more continuity at this point and enters the season with a lot of momentum from the summer. The special teams have been dominating. The defense is a work in progress with so many new faces and a new scheme in place.

The work, then, is not done. Don't jump out of your seat wondering why so-and-so player made it while another didn't. The Eagles aren't yet finished. They have a practice squad to fill. They have the fourth slot for waiver claims. A trade isn't likely to happen, as the Eagles don't want to deal away draft pick unless they get a sure thing in return.

"We want to do this the right way," said Roseman, talking about re-building the roster.

Young and promising. That's the theme of the first look at the 53-man roster, a group that is likely to have moving pieces for much of the 2013 season. The Eagles have a core group in place comprised of players drafted and signed in 2012 and in this past spring. That's what they hope to build around, and at the same time win football games and compete in the NFC East starting with a Monday night game in Washington.

This is a new era for the Eagles on the field and off. Nothing screams that more than all of the changes you see throughout the organization, and it extends to a roster that has been turned upside down these last couple of years.

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