To review, in case you are unfamiliar with Roster 101, the Eagles have 75 players, and must release 22 prior to Friday at 9 p.m. to reach the NFL limit of 53 players. It's a tense time around the locker room for so many of these young men who are on the "bubble."
So how they are going to jam the talent here, and I think there is a whole lot of it, in the 53-man bag? There are some interesting developments to discuss ...
- That the Eagles put both defensive tackle Mike Patterson and offensive tackle Jason Peters on reserve lists lends hope that both will play this season. For Patterson, on the Reserve/Non-Football Illness list, he has a couple of months to allow his brain to heal, to gain clearance from his doctor, and to get back on the field. Patterson has been doing a lot of conditioning work and when he receives clearance, and is eligible to practice between weeks 6 and 9 of the regular season, it shouldn't take him too long to get back on the field. For Peters, the Reserve/Non-Football Injury means he has a chance, however slim it may be, to play this season. His rules are the same as Patterson: The window to get on the practice field is between weeks 6 and 9, after which time the Eagles must make a decision to add him to the 53-man roster or put him on Injured Reserve. We wait, and we hope for the best for both players.
- As for reaching the 53-man limit, there are some serious questions. Like, can the Eagles keep all four of their halfbacks, each of whom has been so impressive this summer? Chris Polk is the bruiser and Bryce Brown is the all-around talent, and Dion Lewis and LeSean McCoy are the ones with experience at the NFL level. The Eagles will keep a fullback, and that's going to be Stanley Havili. I believe that. If they plan on keeping all four halfbacks, they have to go light elsewhere on the roster. Offensive line? Safety? Not sure where.
- I've come to the conclusion that it is going to be incredibly difficult to keep all of these outstanding defensive linemen. We'll see how it plays out, because anything can happen in Thursday night's preseason finale, but it's going to easily be the most difficult decision for head coach Andy Reid and general manager Howie Roseman. Is there any way in the world that the Eagles can keep 11 defensive linemen -- six ends and five tackles -- on this roster?
- Next up, the quarterback dilemma. It is a good place to be for the coaches, who think they have a good situation, no matter who the three quarterbacks turn out to be. Michael Vick is healthy and on the field. Nick Foles, who should start on Thursday night, has developed wonderfully. Trent Edwards has played admirably in the summer. And Mike Kafka has been cleared to take snaps and maybe gets some time in on Thursday to further spice up the competition. Who stays, Edwards or Kafka? Maybe a better question is this: If Edwards goes, would he be claimed by another team? If Kafka goes, would another team sign him as a developmental quarterback?
- To me, wide receiver is fairly clear cut. Five are going to make it. There just isn't room for a sixth receiver. The five would appear to be, based on game reps and production and the simple understanding of the veterans who are in line to return: DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper and Damaris Johnson. Chad Hall? Tough cut. Fine player. Does a lot of things. The kind of person you want around a good football team. But Johnson has moved ahead on the depth chart because he makes big plays and has that kind of explosiveness. Hall is good enough to play in the NFL. He hasn't dropped a pass or missed an assignment or, really, made a mistake. We'll see what happens. Marvin McNutt and Mardy Gilyard are also quality young players at this position where the Eagles just happen to have a lot of talent.
- I can't quite get a handle on cornerback. In for sure are starters Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, second-year man Curtis Marsh and rookie Brandon Boykin. I think Joselio Hanson also makes it. That's five. Maybe that's it. Maybe the Eagles have something up their sleeves here. I don't know. Tough spot to call.
- So is safety. Beyond starters Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman, what do we know? Jaiquawn Jarrett seems to have made some improvements from his tough opener against Pittsburgh. Maybe his progress is encouraging the coaches. It appears that Oshiomogho Atogwe is going to play on Thursday night, which is important to see. Rookie Phillip Thomas? Maybe, but he's going to have to really shine against the Jets. Do the Eagles keep three safeties here and use Asomugha in an emergency situation during the regular season?
- As expected, the battle for the punting job is going down to the final days and it's very difficult to separate Mat McBriar and Chas Henry. Both have done an excellent job in the kicking game and in the holding game. Tough call. I wonder what the thinking is at the top of the Eagles' food chain.
- Do I think the Eagles are going to make a trade or two? Of course. They always seem to make a trade or two at this time of the year. What is different about this situation? Reid and Roseman are working the phones and seeing what makes sense. As busy as it's going to be between now and 9 p.m. on Friday, it's going to just as crazy over the weekend as the waiver wire is combed and the practice squad is put together.
- Finally, injuries. Keep your good-luck charms out ... Cooper is recovering well from his broken collarbone and, from the sound of what Reid says, is unlikely to be ready for the Browns on September 9, but will be good to go shortly thereafter. Allen suffered a "tweak" in his hamstring during Eagles Flight Night, but he says he's fine and won't miss any game time. Linebacker Casey Matthews needs to get back on the field with his high ankle sprain, but it's unclear whether he's going to be there on Thursday night. If not, does Matthews make it here? Colt Anderson is still a bit away and could be a candidate for the Physically Unable to Perform list, which would put him the same situation as both Patterson and Peters. Vick is practicing and he looks good.