An astounding 11 rookies are on the 53-man roster, including 9 players taken in April's draft. For a team that won the NFC East last year and made the playoffs for the ninth time in Andy Reid's 12 seasons, the roster turnover is remarkable.
In fact, 21 of the 53 players on the current roster were not on the team's roster at the end of the 2010 campaign. That's amazing. The Eagles didn't play it conservatively at all in this offseason, as we all know, and the fact that 21 of 53 players are new screams at you.
So what to make of the roster? Well, it's not exactly final. General Manager Howie Roseman is constantly working the roster and that is going to continue throughout the weekend and, likely, the entire season.
I like this roster a lot. Everybody here does. The Eagles have a lot of pieces, a ton of talent, and the question moving forward is how all of the pieces come together. The offensive line starts a rookie at center (Jason Kelce) and at right guard (Danny Watkins) and has a guard, Todd Herremans, playing right tackle. Incumbent Winston Justice is on the active 53-man roster and could practice very, very soon.
From a skills standpoint, the Eagles are loaded. They have a slew of wide receivers and running backs and should be able to get some favorable matchups against defenses scrambling to keep up with all of the speed and all of the talent. If the Eagles give quarterback Michael Vick time to set up and throw, the offense is going to be able to spread defenses and create passing lanes.
And if the Eagles want to turn around and hand off, they can do so with LeSean McCoy, Ronnie Brown and Dion Lewis, a promising rookie from the University of Pittsburgh. There is some tremendous talent and versatility there.
Defensively, the key is how the pieces fit in the scheme. The front four is going to come in waves -- the Eagles kept five tackles and five ends -- and Jim Washburn will try to wear offensive lines down with all of the pressure.
The linebackers are young, and they have a lot to prove. Rookie Casey Matthews starts in the middle. Jamar Chaney mans the strong side, with Moise Fokou on the week side. Playmaker Brian Rolle will be a big part of things as a nickel linebacker and blitzer. He will be part of certain packages. Akeem Jordan made the right decision to come back and stay here as the Eagles keep him to back up at all three linebacker spots and to help on special teams.
I'm glad the Eagles kept Colt Anderson, who makes a difference on special teams. He is the team's stopper on kick coverage, so the special teams are a lot more secure.
Here are some of the questions I've heard, with some of my answers as they stand now ...
- Why did the Eagles release veteran defensive tackles Anthony Hargrove and Derek Landri?
A. Because Trevor Laws won a job with his strong performance on Thursday and he fits into the scheme as a pass-rushing tackle in the nickel. Both Hargrove and Landri, as vested veterans, would have had their contracts guaranteed for 2011 as of next Saturday at 4 p.m. The Eagles, theoretically, could bring either or both of those players back after the first game of the season on a week-to-week basis.
- Why didn't the Eagles trade cornerback Joselio Hanson?
A. It was tough for the Eagles to find a team that wanted to give up a draft pick to acquire Hanson and his salary, reportedly $2.4 million for 2011. Hanson will be signed soon as an unrestricted free agent.
- Who returns kicks here?
A. Dion Lewis gets the first shot on kickoff returns and DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are experienced in the punt return game. Lewis had a 40-yard return against the Jets. That's all the Eagles needed to see. The kid is electric. He needs to get some touches.
- Will the Eagles make more moves?
A. Of course. They always do.
- Are the Eagles going to sign DeSean Jackson?
A. I think they will. When and how, I don't know. But this is an issue hanging over the team right now, and the Eagles don't want any issues. The team has some wiggle room within the salary cap. They have managed the salary cap brilliantly, as usual.
- What are the biggest surprises on the 53-man roster?
A. I would say defensive tackle Cedric Thornton making it is a surprise. He has great effort and a lot of talent, but he's raw. He is a project, the kind Washburn has made a career developing. The Eagles kept six cornerbacks, including young players Brandon Hughes, Trevard Lindley and Curtis Marsh. Jamaal Jackson remaining wasn't a surprise. Once he didn't play on Thursday night against the Jets, I knew he would be here. The Eagles see him providing valuable veteran depth at both guard spots and center.