Tom Heckert was already into his next phase of building the Eagles' roster for 2008. He was meeting with head coach Andy Reid, with Vice President of Player Personnel Howie Roseman and with Director of Pro Personnel Jon Sandusky by the time the announcement became public that 12 players had been waived and two more were put on Injured Reserve.
The men were poring over lists of players who had been waived during the NFL's mandatory cutdown day, one that trimmed locker rooms around the league to 53 active players. It was a bittersweet day for everyone -- saying thanks and goodbye to the young men who worked so hard through the spring and summer months and fine-tuning a roster that the Eagles believe allows them to compete for a Super Bowl.
"I think," said Heckert after his conference call with reporters, "that we have a really good team here. We have depth. We have a good mix. I think we're going to be ready to go. We're going to compete."
In the end, the names on the list weren't all that unexpected. The Eagles decided on Tony Hunt at fullback, and think he will be a very competent player at that position from the start of the season, with a lot of growth ahead. The team tried to figure out a way to keep Jerome McDougle, the resurgent defensive end who led the team with 2 1/2 sacks in the preseason, but just couldn't find a way to wedge in a seventh player at that position. With Chris Clemons expected back at practice this week, and with Victor Abiamiri on the mend with the idea that he will return to the field "sooner, rather than later," said Heckert, the Eagles couldn't go with a seventh end.
Fourth-round draft pick Mike McGlynn probably isn't ready to play at a high level right now maybe, but his upside is better than that of Scott Young, so the Eagles kept McGlynn as one of its seven draft picks on the 53-man roster. With guard Max Jean-Gilles recovering optimistically -- Heckert said Jean-Gilles should be ready to practice this week for the Rams -- from the injury he sustained on Thursday night, the Eagles felt they were OK with the youth and upside of McGlynn rather than the experience of Young.
In one instance on defense, the Eagles went with the experience of Rocky Boiman at linebacker over the pure athleticism of Andy Studebaker. And if Studebaker makes it through waivers, he is a good candidate to return to the Eagles on the practice squad.
The numbers came out right: three quarterbacks, three halfbacks, one fullback, six wide receivers, three tight ends and nine offensive linemen for a total fo 25 players on offense. They kept 10 defensive linemen (six ends, four tackles), six linebackers, four cornerbacks and five safeties for a total of 25 on defense. David Akers, Sav Rocca and Jon Dorenbos are the specialists to add up to 53 players.
"We feel real good. We spent a lot of time evaluating these guys and we think we kept the best 53 guys," said Heckert. "We think we have pretty good depth all the way around."
The Eagles head into their opener next Sunday minus wide receiver Kevin Curtis -- out for an undetermined period of time as he recovers from his sports hernia surgery -- and Abiamiri. Wide receiver Reggie Brown, who missed most of the preseason, is expected back at practice this week. Clemons, out for the last couple of weeks with a calf injury, is on track to be ready for the Rams. Ditto Jean-Gilles, who went down with a scary injury against the Rams but is apparently fine.
Will the Eagles be movers and shakers in the post-53 period? Maybe. They are likely to put in a claim or two or three, but whether those players make it to them -- teams with a worse record last season get first dibs on players on the waiver wire -- remains to be seen. The Eagles can establish their practice squad -- up to eight players -- starting at Noon on Sunday. A name or two or three from this weekend's batch of cuts will probably be among the playes on the practice squad, so tune in on Sunday afternoon to get the news.
All in all, there were few fireworks. The Eagles reluctantly said goodbye to some fine young men on Friday and Saturday. McDougle won't be unemployed for long after his strong preseason. Good for him. McDougle, a first-round draft pick in 2003, finally blossomed. He showed the ability that the Eagles saw when they traded up in '03 to take him. But the numbers game -- the additions of Clemons in free agency and Bryan Smith in the third round of April's draft -- caught McDougle.
Next up is the tweaking of the bottom of the roster. And then the coaches will work Sunday and Monday to put together a game plan for the Rams. The players are catching their breaths, getting their workouts in and freshening up their legs. The regular season is here, ladies and gentlemen. It is "go" time in the NFL, and the Eagles feel they have put together a team ready to make a run for it all.