In the world of the Not For Long, you get used to changing on the fly. Howie Roseman and his staff have this thing down, that's for sure. From the very first game of the season, the Eagles have tweaked the roster, moved pieces here and there, and have, somehow, made it all work. So when the news came out on Thursday afternoon that kick returner Jorrick Calvin would go to Injured Reserve, the Eagles needed yet another player to fill a role.
They turned to Louis Riddick, the team's director of pro personnel. He keeps a list of players from every league he can find. Players off the street who have been on NFL rosters in the last couple of seasons. Players in the Canadian Football League. Players who stayed in shape in the UFL. If there is a rock, Riddick is looking under it to find talent.
The team works out players throughout the season to keep tabs, to update their emergency list, to make sure they have the most complete list possible should they need to fill a hole in the roster.
And since the opener against Green Bay when the Eagles lost starting center Jamaal Jackson and starting fullback Leonard Weaver, the roster has been in a state of constant motion. When Weaver went down, the Eagles signed Owen Schmitt. When it was apparent that running back Mike Bell wasn't a good fit in this system, the Eagles engineered a trade for Jerome Harrison. As injuries started to thin the ranks at safety, Philadelphia added Colt Anderson from Minnesota's practice squad. Two weeks ago, when Brandon Graham suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament, the Eagles worked out veteran defensive end Derrick Burgess, even though he hadn't played a down this season. He is positioned to up on Sunday night, if the Eagles decide to go in that direction.
On Friday, the Eagles added cornerback/kick returner Gerard Lawson, who played for two seasons in Cleveland, then had an off-the-field issue and then was waived by the Browns in late August. Since that time, Lawson played with Hartford of the UFL and had a workout with at least one NFL team, the New York Jets.
The Eagles, led by Roseman and Riddick in this case, went into their files under the tab, "Return Men, NFL" and watched every bit of film they could find on Lawson one more time. Convinced he was the best available player, the Eagles signed Lawson and here he is.
There was no time to bring Lawson in and sign him. The Eagles are under no long-term obligation to keep him around. The likely scenario is that the team will evaluate him in practice, see if he is ready to suit up on Sunday night and then go from there. If Lawson isn't returning kickoffs against the Vikings, then the Eagles will have Chad Hall and Eldra Buckley and Harrison and a half-dozen other candidates ready for the call to duty.
The Eagles have made roster moves 12 days during the season, and within those days there have been 35 moves made. Many have addressed the practice squad and the constant juggling of that eight-man team. Players like Chad Hall and now Jamar Wall and Jeff Owens are part of the 53-man roster after spending time on the practice squad. Joique Bell has been a member of the 53-man roster here, as well as in Indianapolis, and he has been part of the Buffalo practice squad and is now back on the Eagles' practice squad.
It is a hop-scotch way to keep a roster thriving. And it is a good thing that the Eagles have handled it so adeptly to keep the bottom third of the roster vibrant. Hey, the Eagles need those players down the stretch. They need good players to fill important roles. Owens, for example, has waited all season for his chance at a promotion to the 53-man roster. He has it now, and the next step is stepping onto the field on game day and proving himself.
This is a difference between the playoff teams and the also-rans in the NFL. Every team has stars. Every team has injuries. In many cases, the teams that fill the roster holes best are the teams that play deep into the postseason. The Eagles have had more than their share of roster challenges, but with the help of a smart, aggressive personnel department and some excellent coaching, the team has compensated with new faces in new places.
*NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT *
- The weather should not be a factor on Sunday night. It's going to be cold and it could be a little bit windy, but the latest forecast is for little or no snow during the day or once the game begins.
- What a reunion this game will be for some former Eagles. Cornerback Lito Sheppard, wide receivers Hank Baskett and Greg Lewis, along with running back/kick returner Lorenzo Bookers all return to Lincoln Financial Field wearing Minnesota uniforms.
- The Eagles rank first in the league in offense (based on total offensive yards), and should they finish that way this year it would be the first time in the Andy Reid era.. The highest the Eagles have finished under Reid is second, in 2006.
- Take this to the bank: When the Eagles score on their opening drive this season, they are 7-0. They are 53-13 scoring on their opening drive in the Reid era.
- The Eagles are 18 points away from establishing a franchise record for most points scored in a single season for the third consecutive season. Marty Mornhinweg's group is averaging 29.4 points per game.