When it’s all said and done and the Eagles trim their roster to 53 on Friday there will end up being only a few players on the bubble that won’t make the team. But that won’t stop us from guessing who stays and who goes. Here are the most likely players to be teetering on that bubble with arguments for and against. I’ll have my final 53-man projection in Thursday’s Inquirer (or here at philly.com).
Argument for: If I’m making the pick there is no argument for keeping Kafka. Nick Foles has turned him into a moot point. But the Eagles have made a more-than-two-year investment of time in Kafka. They like him. He does know the offense inside and out.
Argument against: He can’t make all the necessary throws to be even a successful backup quarterback in the NFL. He looked skittish in the pocket in the preseason opener. He appears to have tightened up – judging by his interview demeanor – as the pressure has mounted.
Who is the better backup quarterback?
Argument for: He has 33 career NFL starts, and has shown during the preseason that he can effectively manage a game.
Argument against: Edwards’ arm isn’t much stronger than Kafka’s. If he gets cut there’s a chance he stays on the street and if the Eagles really need him, he knows the offense and they can just bring him back.
Argument for: Of the two rookie running backs on the roster, Polk is the most versatile. Bryce Brown, though, is the better runner and has the greater upside. So he’s almost assured a roster spot. Polk, though, is a better blocker and pass catcher than Brown, and thus, a better immediate fit for the Eagles’ offense. If the Eagles cut him he would probably be snatched up right away by some other team.
Argument against: He’s not what you would call explosive. There were concerns pre-draft that he had logged too many miles at the University of Washington. He recently said his labrum wasn’t completely healed and still needs corrective surgery, so it’s possible the Eagles could stow him on IR for the year.
Argument for: He catches nearly everything thrown in his direction, and can perform a multitude of tasks. Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg have a soft spot for gadget players like Hall.
Argument against: Damaris Johnson, who is essentially on the roster, makes Hall expendable. Hall also has -- believe it or not -- practice squad eligibility.
Argument for: He’s got good size (6-foot-3, 216 pounds) and could be a developmental receiver worth keeping on the roster.
Argument against: Other than a few early plays in camp, the Eagles’ sixth-round draft pick has been pretty much invisible. McNutt has had trouble getting separation, hasn’t stood out on special teams and looks destined to land on the practice squad.
Argument for: He played at Andy Reid’s alma mater. That was a joke, although his college affiliation seemed to have played a part in Reynolds' three-year stint on the practice squad. That being said, he’s made some ground in the past year. Howard Mudd supposedly likes him. And he can play both center and guard.
Argument against: But how effective can he be if the Eagles were to need him to step in and, say, fill in for Jason Kelce at center? Vallos or Vandervelde may be better options, but the best of the two will be the only one activated on game days. Keeping a second interior linemen seems like wasting a roster spot to me.
Argument for: He has the most experience of the three vying for the remaining interior line spot(s). He’s more of a natural center than the other two.
Argument against: After starting in eight games from 2008-09 for Seattle, Vallos saw hardly any action for the Browns the last two years. That may not be a fair way to judge the 28-year old, and he could flourish under Mudd, but he hasn’t stood out in the preseason.
Argument for: There really isn’t much to go on when evaluating Vandervelde. He has not looked especially sharp in this preseason, though. They’ve tried him at center, but he he’s had some issues with the snap. When they moved him back to guard he missed several blocks. This was supposed to be the argument for. How about the fact that he’s a 2011 fifth round draft pick?
Argument against: See above.
Argument for: Dixon was perhaps the Eagles’ best run-stopping defensive lineman two years ago. He may still be, but it’s been difficult for him to be that guy in Jim Washburn’s system. With Mike Patterson likely out of the season, Dixon remains the only true, big-bodied, hole-plugging tackle on team.
Argument against: He just hasn't been the player he was two years ago. It used to seem like he got off the ball quickly for a man of his size. Now he just looks like a man with size. With the emergence of Cedric Thornton I think it’s going to be difficult for Dixon to make the team.
Argument for: He’s looked very good this preseason, minus a few ill-advised personal foul penalties. He’s a great locker room presence and this is the last year on his contract. He’ll be extra motivated.
Argument against: The Eagles are stocked at defensive end. I could see them keeping six – Jason Babin, Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, Phillip Hunt, Vinny Curry and Tapp – but there would be little point since they typically dress only four a game. Tapp is also due $2.6 million this year, significantly more than Hunt, his closest competitor.
Argument for: Clayton has certain attributes that some of the other linebackers on the team don’t have. He played some safety in college before being converted into a linebacker and he played a little hybrid safety-linebacker in the pros. He’s also a solid special teams player.
Argument against: I just can’t see the Eagles keeping seven linebackers. Akeem Jordan was supposed to be competing with Clayton for that last spot, but he was named the starting weak-side linebacker on Sunday. Clayton’s issue has always been that he doesn’t practice well.
Argument for: He’s been the first team nickel cornerback through all of camp and he’s not slated to play in the preseason finale on Thursday, so Hanson is probably on the team. And yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Eagles let him go. They did cut him last year only to bring him back a few days later. But the Eagles didn’t necessarily need Hanson because Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was the nickel. They realized their mistake by bringing Hanson back and by drafting his eventual replacement, Brandon Boykin.
Argument against: He’s 31 and didn’t really perform well last season as the dime defensive back. He’s looked just OK in the preseason. Boykin has a greater ceiling. He’s going to return kicks this season. Why not kill two birds with one stone and save a roster spot?
Argument for: He can play a bunch of spots and play them well enough. Hughes has played outside, inside at nickel and dime and is a strong special teams performer. If the Eagles wanted to cut Hanson – who really isn’t an option on the outside -- he could be insurance in case Boykin struggles at nickel.
Argument against: He’s not flashy. If the Eagles keep Hanson they may not see the need to keep six cornerbacks.
Argument for: He’s a veteran that once played at a high level in the NFL. The Eagles need a reserve safety with some experience in case Nate Allen or Kurt Coleman gets injured.
Argument against: Atogwe has hardly played this preseason. He had a groin injury during training camp and has recently been slowed by a hamstring injury. So I’m not really sure how he’s playing. I think I counted one play that stood out at Lehigh. Playing safety in this scheme is different than in other places because of the run-gap responsibilities for both. The jury is still out on whether Atogwe fits in.
Argument for: The party line of late is that Jarrett has turned it around and is playing better. I haven’t seen it. So, what, he hasn’t totally whiffed on tackles and that makes him all of sudden an NFL-caliber safety? I don’t buy it. But the Eagles are light at safety and he’s a second round draft pick, so he may survive.
Argument against: See above.
Argument for: I like what I’ve seen out of Henry since the Eagles brought McBriar aboard. Most assumed that when McBriar, a former Pro Bowl punter, was signed that it was curtains for Henry. I think he still has a shot. He’s been much better directionally.
Argument against: He had consistency issues last season and was near the bottom in most punting statistics.
Argument for: He has a bigger foot that Henry, more experience and more success.
Argument against: He’s still not 100 percent from off-season foot surgery. McBriar still walks around with a rather pronounced limp. He once struggled with holding, but looks to have developed a rapport with kicker Alex Henery and long snapper Jon Dorenbos.