With free agency and the draft now in the rear-view mirror, the Eagles offseason roster is for the most part set. The Eagles currently have 88 players on the roster and can carry up to 90 into training camp.
General manager Howie Roseman held a roundtable session with reporters for almost an hour on Monday. One of the things that Roseman has emphasized consistently throughout the offseason thus far is that two years of draft classes (2010 and 2011) will have their first full offseason. If you recall, the 2010 draft class did not get to reap the rewards of a full offseason last year due to the lockout.
The Eagles invested a lot of resources into improving the defense this offseason. The defense under first-year coordinator Juan Castillo made great strides throughout the course of the season. In the final four games, all wins, the Eagles were second in the league in points allowed and yards allowed. In free agency, the Eagles extended defensive end Trent Cole and re-signed defensive tackles Antonio Dixon and Derek Landri. The Eagles traded for a two-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker in DeMeco Ryans. In the draft, the Eagles used their first three picks and four of their first five to enhance the defense.
"Our defense will take on a different look because of that and we just have to get these guys to camp and get the pads on and see how it goes from there," Roseman said.
Here is a look at some other positions of note going into the offseason camps ...
The Eagles used a third-round pick on Arizona quarterback Nick Foles. The Eagles boast a quartet that includes Michael Vick, Mike Kafka, Trent Edwards and Foles.
Roseman said that there are only a handful of quarterbacks that the team likes in each year's draft. When the third round arrived on Saturday, Roseman said that the Eagles wanted to take a chance on a player that is at a premium position. Roseman acknowledged only about 25 percent of third-round picks pan out, so why not try and strike gold with a quarterback?
This pick was not meant as a slight to Kafka, whom Roseman cited having a number of quality traits that one looks for in a quarterback.
"He's got really good size. He's really smart. He throws with anticipation. He's accurate. He's a good athlete," Roseman said. "We've always been excited about Mike Kafka. We continue to be excited about Mike Kafka."
If the Eagles like Foles and Kafka, does that mean Edwards would be the odd man out as the Eagles typically keep three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster? Not necessarily.
"We would have no problem," Roseman said when asked if the Eagles could keep all four on the roster.
The Eagles have one of the league's elite running backs in LeSean McCoy. There's no question there. However, the Eagles went into the draft with only one other back with experience and that's last year's fifth-round pick Dion Lewis. The Eagles added a seventh-round pick in Bryce Brown and signed rookie free agent Chris Polk, whom the Eagles had a fourth-round grade on according to head coach Andy Reid.
Will that be enough depth, especially for a team that demands a lot out of its running backs - the ability to run, catch and pass block?
"We feel very good about that spot," Roseman said. "That doesn't mean that if something was there that made sense, like at any other position, we still wouldn't look to add there."
The one speed bump that the Eagles encountered this offseason was the ruptured Achilles suffered by All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters. The Eagles, thanks to their smart salary cap management, swiftly took action by re-signing veteran swing tackle King Dunlap and inking free agent Demetress Bell to a five-contract.
Bell will be the Week 1 starter at left tackle. Bell presents some upside thanks to the marriage of his athleticism and offensive line coach Howard Mudd. Injuries have impacted his career, limiting him to seven games last season. The Eagles used a fifth-round pick on Purdue's Dennis Kelly, but is the team concerned about the depth after Bell?
"How many teams go four deep at offensive tackle?" Roseman asked rhetorically. "I think if you take Jason out of the equation and you just compare our situation to the league; we're in solid shape there."
Roseman would not reveal the team's depth chart at linebacker only saying that second-round pick Mychal Kendricks, who will play on the strong side, would get an "opportunity to play pretty quickly."
With Ryans slotted in the middle and potentially Kendricks on the strong side, who will line up on the weak side? Brian Rolle played in all 16 games and started 13 games at the weakside linebacker spot as a rookie in 2011. With a full offseason, is it out of the question to see Casey Matthews get in the mix? Matthews, a fourth-round pick last year, was the starter in the middle for training camp, preseason and the first two games of the year. He moved to the weak side for the third game before finding his niche as a subpackage and special teams player as the season progressed.
The Eagles have Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the left side and Nnamdi Asomugha on the right side. The slot corner position will be one to watch.
Joselio Hanson is a veteran, who can also play on the outside in a pinch. The Eagles drafted Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin in the fourth round and Boykin thrived in the slot in college. Boykin also brings a dynamic presence as a return specialist to the table. One of the gems of the rookie free agent class could very well be former Oregon cornerback Cliff Harris, who also has experience in the slot.
The additions of Boykin and Harris could be beneficial for Curtis Marsh, a third-round pick last year. Roseman raved about Marsh's physique and with the slot corner solidified, Marsh can focus on developing on the outside.
"I think when we look at Curtis we see his body type and for what we want to do for an outside corner there's a really good fit for that," Roseman said.
One of the positions under the microscope this offseason has been the safety spot. The Eagles have invested two second-round picks in recent years - Nate Allen in 2010 and Jaiquawn Jarrett in 2011. Allen had a promising rookie year cut short by a knee injury that affected him in 2011. Jarrett did not get on the field much his rookie year as Kurt Coleman, a seventh-round pick in 2010, held the spot.
The Eagles did not draft a safety this year, although rookie free agent Phillip Thomas out of Syracuse is a promising prospect. Roseman does not feel the need to add a veteran to the mix for the sake of depth.
"I don't think we need someone with more experience. We feel very comfortable with our group," Roseman said. "We feel confident that these guys can come in and play at a high level."
In regards to Allen, Roseman said that the team knew it would take some time for him to be 100 percent again after the knee injury.
"He also didn't have the benefit of, again, having an offseason on the field and in rehab," Roseman said. "He's got all of the skills you look for in a safety - incredible athlete; he's a smart kid; he's got really good ball skills; he can tackle; he can blitz. He's just got to put it all together."
Roseman noted that Jarrett was thinking too much last year.
"When your biggest plus is his ability to see it and go make an explosive play, if you've got to think that takes you a step back," Roseman said. "In this league, it's just too fast to do that."
When the Eagles drafted Jarrett, it appeared as if Coleman would be the one to take a back seat. However, Coleman is a guy who "defies all odds," Roseman said.
"He's played at a high level every time everyone doubts him because of his size. He's got good timed speed for a safety," Roseman said of the 5-11, 195-pound Coleman. "He's been productive every time he's played for us. He makes plays. He's a smart guy. He can play either spot. He's been effective on special teams. He's just a good player."
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