Philadelphia Eagles News

Trying To Figure The Ins And Outs Of Reaching 53

By Saturday at 6 p.m., the Eagles will have their roster to the NFL-mandated 53 players. The team waived eight players on Friday afternoon and still have a bunch more to do between now and Saturday evening.

So I'm waiting. And I'm wondering: Who stays? Who goes? I'm going to blog my way through the day(s) as the Eagles trim the roster from 75 players to 53 players by 6 p.m. on Saturday ...

Friday, 12:58 p.m.

Eight moves down and 14 more to go. Waived are the following players: wide receiver Bam Childress, cornerbacks Therrian Fontenot and Nick Graham, wide receiver Jamal Jones, safety Marcus Paschal, offensive lineman Stefan Rodgers and lineabacker Pago Togafau. Running back Ryan Moats was waived/injured. That leaves 67 players on the active roster.

Any surprises from the first wave? No, but there are disappointments. Moats leads the way in that department. He was so promising as a rookie when Brian Westbrook was injured and Moats showed a suddeness and an excitement and he seemed sure to be a player who would continue to get better and better. But Moats had trouble learning the scheme, then he had some injury woes and when he played this summer he was indecisive as a running back. Moats is a great, great young man. He deserves to get healthy and find a job in a one-cut system where he can just get the ball and go.

Graham seemed to have a good line on a roster spot here early in the off-season. He was on the active roster all of last season and the expectation was that Graham would make a run for some playing time. But it didn't happen. Graham never stepped up to claim a fifth cornerback job.

Fontenot did some good things and made a lot of improvement in his time as an Eagle. Still, it wasn't enough to secure a job on the 53-man roster.

The waiving of Togafau pretty much cements, in my eyes, a roster spot for rookie Joe Mays. Mays had clearly distanced himself in the battle for the backup middle linebacker job.

Will there be any more moves today? Maybe not. The Eagles are providing no public update on the health of Max Jean-Gilles, and everyone is still in suspense over some of the roster battles. The news isn't, apparently, going to come out until Saturday.

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Friday, 10:48 a.m.

One of the first things on my mind this morning is the health of Max Jean-Gilles. He went down with a left knee sprain late in Thursday's preseason finale, and it was scary to see. Hopefully, Jean-Gilles is OK and the Eagles can take a deep breath. But if he isn't, it will impact the roster. Certainly, Andy Reid and Tom Heckert are considering all the angles.

Jean-Gilles played well in the preseason and made some excellent strides. He is a quality guard in this league and his presence gives the Eagles some comfort for their offensive line depth. Stay tuned on that one.

I don't know if Jerome McDougle is going to make the 53-man roster, but I would tend to doubt that the Eagles are planning to rush anything. They have until 6 p.m. tomorrow to get down to 53 players. They are going to exhaust all options -- trades, waiver-wire claims, etc. -- as they try to get their roster as good as it can be.

Friday, 11:26 a.m.

Rookie defensive end Bryan Smith stood out on Thursday night and provided a glimpse of what could be coming in his career. Smith was a 217-pound player at McNeese State a couple of years ago. He was about 235 pounds when the Eagles drafted him in April. He is now around 245 pounds, maybe a couple of pounds heavier, and he still has quickness and a great burst off the line of scrimmage.

Smith made several of his 11 tackles against the Jets crashing down the line of scrimmage, an aggressiveness that cost him on the end around that worked so well for the Jets on Thursday. Smith needed to play contain on that play, but he will learn.

He is going to make the team. No question about that. At a crowded defensive end position, Smith has come on strong.

"In college he was a great pass rusher," said head coach Andy Reid after the game against the Jets during which Smith had 1 1/2 sacks, two tackles for loss and three quarterback hurries. "That was at a little bit smaller school, but he was a dominant pass rusher in college. He came here, and he's been almost a better run player than he has a pass rusher, which surprised me. Today he showed that he can do both. He has to continue to improve there both in the pass and in the run. But we can work with that right there. He's done a nice job."

Friday, 11:53 a.m.

Tony Hunt or Jason Davis? That is the question the Eagles are answering now. Do they take a player (Hunt) with virtually no experience at the position and project him, based on his two games at fullback, as a competent or even better player there? Or do they go with Davis, who at least has been a fullback for much of his football career and who has two seasons in the system?

Davis could have made this easy way back when by taking the job, clutching it, and never allowing the Eagles to consider adding the kind of competition they've brought to the position. But Davis didn't hold on to the first-string job, didn't show enough to the coaching staff, and so the Eagles went out and traded for Luke Lawton -- a deal that is null and void with no Eagles compensation due to the Colts -- and then gave viable time to rookie Jed Collins and then moved Hunt to fullback.

I have no way of knowing, but my guess is that Hunt wins the job. He hustled down on special teams against the Jets and made a play. He showed he wanted to learn the position and play the physical role, even if he lacks technique. Truth be told, I'm not sure that Hunt's ability with the ball plays too much into the equation here. Davis is pretty good on short-yardage runs and he catches the ball well. I'm not sure Davis has a 51-yard touchdown run in him, like Hunt had against Carolina, but Davis is OK with the ball in his hands.

The Eagles, of course, could completely surprise and trade for a fullback or pluck one off of waivers, but I don't see that right now. There is too much to learn within the system. I say it is Hunt on the 53-man roster and Collins on the practice squad. Ask me in 20 minutes and I may have another answer, because I admit I have gone back and forth on this daily.

Friday, 12:14 p.m.

Back on draft weekend, head coach Andy Reid predicted that first pick Trevor Laws and second pick DeSean Jackson would have a chance to get on the field and provide an impact as rookies. It was a fairly bold statement from Reid, who rarely goes for that kind of "crystal-ball" stuff.

As it turns out, though, Reid was underestimating his draft class.

Laws is going to play, of course. He had a good preseason and is locked in as a third defensive tackle. The Eagles trust him. They think they can count on him. He is going to give good effort, play with solid technique and be a tough guy inside. I like the way Law carries himself and I like the way he has played in the preseason.

Jackson is the team's punt return man and is going to also see time -- and I think substantial time -- at wide receiver. He was a game-breaking player in the preseason. The next test is to keep doing it when the tempo is faster and the intensity is greater, but Jackson looks like he has a chance at being quite a contributor as a rookie.

Then there is Quintin Demps, whom Reid said adds "zip" in the kickoff return game. Zip and zoom, yes. Demps has good vision, is a strong runner and knows when to turn it up the field. I have every expectation that the Eagles return teams are ready to take a huge leap this year.

Sixth-round draft pick Joe Mays is going to play on special teams after a very strong preseason, and third-round pick Bryan Smith lit it up at defensive end against the Jets and offered a glimpse of his upside.

I can't remember a draft class that showed so much so early. I don't know if the kids are going to keep it up in the regular season, but I think I'm as excited about this draft class as any I can remember.

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