Looks like we now have the 53-man roster the Eagles will take into their season opener in a week at Cleveland, or something very close to it. There was one Saturday roster move, offensive lineman Nate Menkin claimed off waivers from the Texans, corner Trevard Lindley released.
Lindley, a 2010 fourth-round pick of the Birds who was out of football last season after being cut this time last year, forged an unlikely comeback story during the preseason and probably has a better chance of finding a job somewhere else this time around. Menkin, from all accounts, is an athletic (6-4, 296) Howard Mudd-style lineman who is good at getting downfield and blocking at the second level. Interesting that the Birds cut some o-linemen they seemed to like – including Julian Vandervelde, who was claimed by Tampa Bay – then claimed Menkin. Not sure what to make of that.
The Eagles ended up with one of the league’s youngest rosters average age of 25.5. (Though it might be worth noting that their most important player, Michael Vick, is tied for oldest on the roster, at 32. Jason Babin, another key starter, also is 32, and Nnamdi Asomugha is 31.) Looks like their kickoff and punt return duties will be handled by rookies, Brandon Boykin and Damaris Johnson, respectively. That isn’t a surprise. Overall, what looks different than what we might have expected a week ago?
It wasn’t clear to most of us that slot corner Joselio Hanson was leaving, even though Boykin was drafted to replace him. Early in camp, coaches seemed very reluctant to move ahead this season without Hanson’s guile in the slot. But in the NFL, close battles often go to the younger guy with the upside. The Eagles must have figured if they were going to give Hanson’s nickel job to Boykin, they didn’t need Hanson in the locker room, unhappy. They kept Brandon Hughes ahead of him (and Lindley , if only for a day.)
Then there was the whole Trent Edwards-Mike Kafka thing at quarterback. People watching practice every day had a hard time believing the Eagles were going to keep Edwards; despite excellent numbers in all four preseason games, he didn’t get practice snaps. I have to think the coaches came very reluctantly and late to the decision to release Kafka, a pet project. Despite all the fanbase disdain, Kafka will find a job and probably will get to pick a spot he likes.
The rest of it really wasn’t shocking, even the decision to keep all four running backs. Chris Polk, No. 4 on the depth chart, was way too good in the last few preseason games for the team to be able to count on sneaking him onto the practice squad. I was never sure why everyone thought this was so unthinkable in the first place – the Eagles lined up Duce Staley, Correll Buckhalter, Brian Westbrook and Reno Mahe in 2003, and that year, they even had a fullback who got some touches, Jon Ritchie.
I was an advocate for keeping 11 defensive linemen, but the Eagles decided to let Antonio Dixon move on. Dixon never fit the Jim Washburn mold, but he’ll play somewhere. (Maybe after Week 1, so the team picking him up won't have to guarantee his salary.) Darryl Tapp had to take a pay cut to stick around, not surprising for a vet who is now a deep sub. When it comes to deep subs, teams like younger and cheaper, as we saw with Hanson, who took a similar pay cut last year.
The Eagles kept five wideouts, parting with both Mardy Gilyard and Chad Hall, despite strong preseasons from both. Hall declined an opportunity to join the practice squad. That was interesting; his agent seemed to be saying Hall, unable to make headway here, would rather take his chances elsewhere, even if all he could get was an equivalent practice squad berth. Hope that works out for him.
The most unsurprising move was the Friday night trade for a safety, Cleveland’s David Sims. Just about everyone who covered the team predicted the Birds would add to the safety corps somehow; Geoff Mosher of Comcast SportsNet even predicted it would be Sims. It’ll be interesting to see how quickly Sims can pick up the defense and contribute at what looks like the Eagles’ weakest position.
Some of the undrafted rookies who impressed in the preseason were rewarded with practice squad berths – notably tight end Chase Ford and linebacker Ryan Rau. Fans are always real plugged into the practice squad moves, even though they very seldom have anything to do with winning and losing. But as of Sunday morning, all but one spot was filled. Here is the list: Ford, Rau, C Chase Beeler, WR B.J. Cunningham, FB Emil Igwenagu, WR Marvin McNutt, and DT Frank Trotter, who had a monster game in the preseason finale against the Jets.