Puzzle on defense

The Eagles clearly have some decisions to make in the coming days about the roster on both offense and defense. Here we take a look at the defensive situation:

Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson provided a bit of a surprise when he announced Monday that Dan Klecko would make the 53-man roster as the fourth defensive tackle. Klecko and rookie Trevor Laws will be the backups to starters Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley. That makes for a pretty interesting group when you consider Patterson and Bunkley are first-round draft picks and Laws was taken high in the second this year. Klecko is now entering his sixth year in the league as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Temple and has three Super Bowl rings. John Smallwood has more on Klecko in today's Daily News.

At defensive end, the Eagles have seven candidates for six spots, it seems. Starters Trent Cole and Juqua Parker obviously are locks. So is Victor Abiamiri, whose surgically repaired wrist appears to be healing well enough to keep him off injured reserve. Darren Howard probably will make the team because of his ability to play both end positions as well as move inside in Johnson's nickel package. Rookie third-round pick Bryan Smith likely will make the final 53-man roster since it would be too risky to put a pick that high on the practice squad.

That leaves free agent Chris Clemons and Jerome McDougle battling for that sixth defensive-end spot. McDougle, the former first-round pick who appeared to have no shot of making the team when training camp opened, has had a strong camp and preseason. Most important, he has stayed healthy, unlike Clemons, who has been on the shelf for nearly 2 weeks with a calf strain. He didn't practice yesterday and wasn't even on the field with the team during its 2-hour workout.

"We want him to be out there," Johnson said before practice. "It is important to Chris. We'll have to see day by day. I don't know how hard he can go, but he needs to get out there and he needs to practice."

"Mac has had a good preseason and Chris has not been out there, so that's a factor."

At linebacker, Johnson indicated that the Eagles are looking to see which of the young linebackers they will keep behind starters Chris Gocong, Omar Gaither and Stewart Bradley, already a young group. He mentioned Rocky Boiman and rookie Joe Mays among that group, and Akeem Jordan seems to have a spot. Rookie Andy Studebaker could get squeezed out in the numbers game.

In the secondary, Johnson said he was not sure whether the team would keep four or five corners. The four are locks in Asante Samuel, Sheldon Brown, Lito Sheppard and Joselio Hanson. The numbers game also comes into play at safety, especially with Quintin Demps solidifying his roster spot as the kickoff returner. Demps is projected as a safety, but Johnson said the Eagles are seeing whether he could play corner. With Demps and starters Quintin Mikell and Brian Dawkins, there could be a battle between J.R. Reed and Sean Considine for the last spot, or the Eagles could keep them both. Reed's ability to return to kicks in a pinch could help him make the team, but when Dawkins went out with an ankle injury against New England, it was Considine who replaced him.


The Eagles need to get down to 75 players by 4 p.m. Tuesday, meaning two players need to be cut. We already know one of them will be defensive tackle Montae Reagor, whose locker was cleaned out when reporters were allowed into the locker room Sunday.

In case you missed this, here is Donovan McNabb's latest entry on his blog on Yardbarker.com, posted before the preseason game against New England.