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Roster Building In Right Direction

NFL teams are never really finished tinkering with their rosters and the Eagles are no exception. They've turned over roughly half the roster since the end of last season, and when it's all said and done and the roster is trimmed to 53 players, the Eagles are going to have a far different look in the locker room.

Recognizing the need to bolster the talent level on the roster, the Eagles were aggressive in free agency, but they didn't tie themselves up with big contracts and the potential for "dead" money against the salary cap. Instead, they invested in younger players -- defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga is the exception -- and brought those players to Philadelphia with fair deals for both sides.

Now the Eagles have a roster that includes a bunch of players on the rise. What will James Casey provide given an opportunity to use his tremendous athletic ability in the passing game? How wiill cornerback Cary Williams respond in his role here as a starter? Is Bradley Fletcher ready to take advantage of an opportunity to win a starting job? Can safeties Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips become fixtures in a secondary that is suddenly far more competitive than it's been in years?

How will the Eagles use Connor Barwin at linebacker? He played in just about every capacity in Houston and seems equipped to take a leading role for the front seven in this defense.


What becomes of a wide receiver group that added a young veteran in Arrelious Benn, a player out to prove himself after some ups and downs in Tampa Bay? Benn and rookie signee Ifeanyi Momah provide some real competition for the entire group. How many "guaranteed" jobs are there at wide receiver now? It's not quite as easy to pencil in the five or six receivers who seemed like such shoo-ins a few months ago.

The offensive line had its help come in the draft with the arrival of first-round draft pick Lane Johnson, whose profile defines this roster: Young, talented, rising, with a lot of room to develop. Johnson figures to compete for a starting tackle job, but he's not going to be handed anything.

On the defensive side of the line of scrimmage, third-round draft pick Bennie Logan stands as a fine example of the kind of player this defense wants to have. He is a humble kid, a hard worker, a leader in college who knows he has to fly around the field to make it at this level.

This is the kind of defense the Eagles want to have: One that plays with passion and pride and aggressiveness and one that has a great chemistry built on trust and hard work.

The question everyone asks now is, "How was the draft?" The answer is that the Eagles are pleased that they followed their board with discipline and that they drafted for value, not need. It is a muted answer for those who want to hear "IT WAS GREAT!!!" because the truth is that nobody knows how great it truly was until we see the players in uniform, on the field and working in the schemes the coaching staff puts forth.

The Eagles have changed the roster around, overturned the mentality and now have a team that knows it has to fight to win a roster spot. There are no givens. Head coach Chip Kelly comes in with a clean slate for everyone and his program has clearly energized the team and the fan base.

There is a lot of work to be done, but it's moving in the right direction here. Nobody thinks every part of the team is fixed, perfect, ready to go. Question marks remain. The theme of change is clearly evident, particularly on defense, as the Eagles take the right steps, one after the other, to build the roster to where it needs to be.

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