Philadelphia Eagles News

Crowded House In Roster Picture

The weaknesses are discussed the most, and that is understandable. As NFL Network's Brian Baldinger says, "The preseason is for fixing holes and evaluating your roster."

No doubt there is truth in that statement. As the Eagles ready for the trip up the New Jersey Turnpike to play in Thursday's preseason finale (7:30 p.m. kickoff, 6abc in the Philadelphia region) to play the Jets, the question begs: How good is this football team?

We aren't going to know until well into the regular season. As there are questions about the football team -- and every team in the NFL -- there is an undeniable depth of talent on the roster and on the coaching staff. How those pieces come together and the way the talent meshes will determine the height of success this team achieves in 2011.

With that in mind, here is a singular perspective on the Eagles, position by position, as they get ready for the last 60 minutes of this preseason to remember ...

QUARTERBACK

The Eagles have a great situation at quarterback. Michael Vick is signed, sealed and ready to continue to deliver as the starter. He has a wealth of experience in the system and he has the complete package of skills that force defenses to specially design packages to cage Vick's mobility.

Vince Young has made great strides in the last month. He has really taken to the coaching here and has improved a lot as far as his mechanics. Young will start and play at least the first half against the Jets, and he has earned a lot of confidence in the locker room.

Mike Kafka has had a terrific preseason and will get a lot of action against New York. He looks extremely confident and comfortable in the scheme. He is accurate, is throwing the ball with more authority and has become more instinctive and, it seems, quicker with his decisions in his second year here.

HALFBACK

Again, this appears to be a really strong position for the Eagles. LeSean McCoy, Ronnie Brown and Dion Lewis give the offense all kinds of versatility and skill. McCoy led the NFC in total yards from scrimmage last season and is set for a big year ahead. Brown fits in perfectly with his power, pass-catching ability and blocking.

Lewis is having a fine preseason as a fifth-round draft pick. He and Graig Cooper figure to share the load in Thursday's game. Cooper needs a big game to gain some notice.

FULLBACK

The job is all about Owen Schmitt, who is what he is: A good blocker, a reliable pass catcher and a strong runner who went all of last season without a carry. He converted his lone third-and-1 carry in the preseason, a good sign.

With all of the weapons here, fullback is used less and less. When the Eagles do need the position to step up, Schmitt is a good one.

Rookie Stanley Havili will see a lot of action in this game, and veteran Eldra Buckley could see time as a fullback and in one-back sets. Both players are looking forward to getting in some time after not seeing much in the last month.

TIGHT END

There are still some questions here, namely how many do the Eagles keep on the 53-man roster? It appears that Brent Celek and Clay Harbor are 1-2 on the depth chart. Donald Lee is going to have the opportunity to really get into a flow in this game. A strong performance could convince the Eagles to keep a third tight end, if they haven't decided already.

Cornelius Ingram has another chance to get some reps and show that his athletic ability is all the way back and that he can play in the league. Everyone is rooting for Ingram, a great kid.

WIDE RECEIVER

A good group improved by signing Steve Smith as a free agent and welcoming Jeremy Maclin to the practice field. The Eagles are as deep as they've ever been at wide receiver, so they have an interesting numbers game to play to reach the 53-man roster limit.

DeSean Jackson, Maclin, Jason Avant, Smith and Riley Cooper appear to be locks to make the team. Cooper could play against the Jets and will welcome the reps.

Will the team keep more than five receivers? Johnnie Lee Higgins was signed in free agency and needs to make some plays against the Jets to stick here. Sinorce Moss has had a nice summer, Chad Hall is simply a good football player who can help the Eagles in several ways and Rod Harper has played well throughout the summer.

Five or six? How many do the Eagles keep?

OFFENSIVE LINE

The five starters are, it appears, set in semi-dry stone: Jason Peters is the left tackle, Evan Mathis is the left guard, Jason Kelce is at center, Danny Watkins is the right guard and Todd Herremans plays right tackle. Watkins is expected to play against the Jets to become more comfortable at the position.

Who makes the team as reserves? Jamaal Jackson can play both center and guard and is a good veteran presence. King Dunlap played well last season and came on strong in this preseason and can back up at both tackle spots. Winston Justice hasn't practiced and is on the PUP list, but he continues to say that he thinks he can be ready for the opener in St. Louis. The Eagles are high on draft pick Julian Vandervelde as a guard on both sides.

Who else makes it? Will Reggie Wells, who could start at right tackle, stick as a veteran backup? How about Mike McGlynn, who can play all three interior positions? Austin Howard opened eyes as a non-drafted rookie last summer and has been improving this year. Dallas Reynolds is a versatile player inside, as is A.Q. Shipley. Fenuki Tupou is healthy and will play a lot at tackle in this game.

The Eagles are going to keep nine or 10 linemen. The question isn't necessarily how many, though. It's who they keep as a reserve that is intriguing.

DEFENSIVE LINE

There is strength in numbers for the Eagles up front on defense. They'll start, at this point, Jason Babin and Trent Cole at end, with Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson inside.

After that, there are some interesting what-ifs. What if, for example, Juqua Parker isn't healthy enough to open the season? He hasn't practiced since early in training camp after suffering a strained calf. What if, in this game against the Jets, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim goes off and makes the competition at end even more heated? Same with tackle Trevor Laws, who has battled an injury throughout the summer.

Here is a guess at how it looks right now: Darryl Tapp and Parker are the third and fourth ends, with Te'o-Nesheim and Phillip Hunt battling it out for the fifth spot. Then again, Chris Wilson has shown a pretty nice burst off the edge, and a strong game on Thursday night would thrust him into the mix.

At tackle, Anthony Hargrove, who can also play end, is going to get some playing time this year. The promising Antonio Dixon is rounding into game shape after missing time with injuries. He was a strong starter last season. Derek Landri has played well in this preseason, and rookie Cedric Thornton has some raw talent that Jim Washburn can develop.

It's a deep and talented group. The Eagles are going to have some tough decisions here.

LINEBACKER

One of the most heavily scrutinized groups on the team is rounding into shape with young talent coming together. Casey Matthews is the starter in the middle, with Moise Fokou playing the weak side and Jamar Chaney standing out on the strong side.

Brian Rolle has made a huge leap in the preseason and is now a key piece here. He is part of the team's starting nickel defense and is set to play some key snaps. Keenan Clayton has made a bunch of plays in the preseason in space with his speed and his closing speed. Akeem Jordan can play all three positions and help on special teams. Rashad Jeanty has a chance against the Jets to stand out and make this team. And rookie Greg Lloyd could start at middle linebacker and gain valuable game experience.

The Eagles usually keep six linebackers. Look for this position to, potentially, experience some movement in the next week.

CORNERBACK

We know that the Big Three – Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie -- are going to make this team. After that, there are major question marks, and that is a good thing.

The Eagles have built up major depth at cornerback. They have veteran Joselio Hanson, who is reportedly gaining some attention on the trade market. They have a couple of draft picks in the last two Aprils, Trevard Lindley (fourth round, 2010) and Curtis Marsh (third round, 2011) who have a lot of talent. They have Brandon Hughes, originally a draft pick by the Chargers who spent a year there on Injured Reserve and then spent most of last season with the Giants' practice squad before the Eagles added him to the active roster. He saw action last week against Cleveland as the nickel cornerback.

Also in the mix is Jorrick Calvin, who helped a lot last season in the return game. He has a chance to earn some notice in this contest.

SAFETY

Do the Eagles keep four or five safeties? That's the big question. The starters as it looks now are Kurt Coleman and Jarrod Page, with Nate Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett in reserve. Colt Anderson is a stud on special teams and is a pretty good safety to boot, but will he make it here?

Jamar Adams is also a good prospect who opened some eyes in the regular-season finale last year against Dallas. He has a chance to step up here.

SPECIALISTS

There is no suspense here. Jon Dorenbos is the long snapper and rookies Alex Henery (kicker) and Chas Henry (holder, punter) handle the kicking duties. Well, there could be suspense if something goes terribly wrong against the Jets, but that is not anticipated.

The Eagles are going young in the kicking game. Face the truth and embrace it. A new era is here.

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