The Eagles set their 53-man roster today – at least for now.
Here are some quick thoughts before we get to a position-by-position analysis below:
-- There are 10 defensive linemen, giving Jim Washburn plenty of horses to rotate into his aggressive scheme.
-- There are only 9 offensive linemen, including three rookies (Danny Watkins, Jason Kelce and Julian Vandervelde). On top of that you have one veteran, Todd Herremans, in a new position, another, Evan Mathis, on a new team and Winston Justice coming off of a knee injury. There’s not a lot of depth or experience here. Perhaps that's why Jamaal Jackson is still on the team.
-- Eleven defensive backs is a lot, even though one (Colt Anderson) is really around for special teams. Expect lots of nickel and dime packages. The Eagles really like their young corners, helping explain why they kept six at that position.
-- It seems like Dion Lewis will get a shot returning kicks, but it’s not clear who the punt returner is, now that Chad Hall and Sinorice Moss are gone.
-- The roster is not yet final. Teams will keep making moves over the next couple days. Don’t be surprised if a punt returner or linebacker pushes out someone who is on the roster today.
-- There are 11 rookies total, two undrafted (DT Cedric Thornton, P Chas Henry).
-- Two seventh round picks, Greg Lloyd and Stanley Havili, were cut.
Here are some initial reactions to what the Eagles have at each position, starting with the more interesting positions and working down to the ones where the cuts were fairly obvious.
Defensive tackle (5): Cedric Thornton, an undrafted free agent from Southern Arkansas, is the surprise of the roster, making the team in a year when undrafted players faced an uphill battle. Thornton makes the team over veterans such as Anthony Hargrove and Derek Landri. Many fans (at least on Twitter) were stunned by the release of both Landri and Hargrove. But the fifth defensive tackle on the roster is unlikely to even be active on game days, so the Eagles chose to go with a guy they could develop rather than a veteran with a guaranteed salary who might have spent most of the year on the sidelines.
Cullen Jenkins is the pass rusher and looks like a starter alongside Mike Patterson, who will help against the run. Antonio Dixon makes it as another run stuffer, while Trevor Laws will likely play in passing situations. Laws has hardly played or practiced since training camp opened, but the team obviously felt good enough about his progress last year to keep him.
Landri had his moments in the preseason, but Laws is a known commodity and 14 pounds bigger. Hargrove brought energy and has played both end and tackle but never really stood out in preseason games.
Defensive end (5): Trent Cole, Jason Babin and Darryl Tapp were always going to make it. Juqua Parker survived despite hardly practicing. He had to restructure his contract, though. He’ll have to hit some performance incentives to earn his full salary. Philip Hunt, an import from Canada (by way of the University of Houston) makes it after an impressive preseason.
Daniel Te’o-Nesheim was released in a mild surprise, though it’s warranted. The third round pick never showed much in the NFL. Credit the Eagles for admitting the mistake. Criticize them for making the pick in the first place.
Offensive line (9): Lots of questions here. Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Danny Watkins and Todd Herremans are starters. Only Peters has significant starting experience at his position. Most of Mathis’ 22 starts were several years ago.
Jamaal Jackson sticks around – and the Eagles may need the veteran. If Watkins doesn’t round into shape at guard, Jackson could fill in, or Kelce could slide over and Jackson could return to the first team at center.
Winston Justice was activated from the PUP list and is expected to return to practice this week, but it’s not clear how soon he’ll be ready to play. His contract was redone, tying pay to playing time. King Dunlap and rookie Julian Vandervelde are the other backups.
Cut were Mike McGlynn and Austin Howard, who never fit in to the new blocking scheme. Each was buried on the depth chart from early in camp and neither looked good in the preseason. Reggie Wells and Fenuki Tupou were also cut. Ryan Harris and the team reached an injury settlement. His time as right tackle savior was short lived.
Cornerback (6): Asante Samuel, Nnamdi Asomugh and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie make up an excellent trio. Curtis Marsh, a third round pick in April, was always going to make it and the Eagles still like youngsters Brandon Hughes and Trevard Lindley. (Hughes has looked better than Lindley). That’s a lot of corners, but, as we said above, the Eagles seem likely to play nickel and dime plenty this year. They’ll want to develop the young guys, because it’s not clear how long the team can afford to keep the big three.
Joselio Hanson’s $2.4 million salary cap number was obviously too much for a fourth cornerback, especially when the Eagles like the young crop coming up behind him. He was cut.
Safety (5): That’s a lot of safeties, but Colt Anderson was too valuable on special teams to release. Kurt Coleman is smart and tough, a great seventh round find, and Jarrad Page had to stay because of Nate Allen’s lingering knee issues. The Eagles still have hopes for Allen, last year’s number two pick.
Jamar Adams and Marlin Jackson were cut. No surprise.
Wide receiver (5): The top five were obvious. DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper and Steve Smith. Chad Hall got chances, but never stood out. He’s still eligible for the practice squad. Johnnie Lee-Higgins didn’t show very much and was released. Sinorice Moss’ release was a mild surprise. If there’s one guy cut today that seems to have a shot at returning, it’s Moss, because of his punt return ability. Moss is a vested veteran, meaning his salary would have been guaranteed if he stuck on the roster today. If he is still available after week 1, the Eagles can sign him (or any other veteran) without guaranteeing their salary.
Linebacker (6): Casey Matthews, Jamar Chaney, Moise Fokou, Keenan Clayton and Brian Rolle were expected to stick around. Akeem Jordan makes it to provide special teams play and a veteran presence – though expect the Eagles to search the waiver wire for someone else at this position. If they find a linebacker they like, Jordan could be gone.
Quarterback (3): No news here. Mike Vick is the franchise quarterback, Vince Young is the backup, Mike Kafka continues to develop and remains the third QB. The Eagles and Young say his hamstring injury isn’t serious, but it bears watching early in the season.
Running back (4): Dion Lewis had one of the best preseason showings of any Eagle. He showed elusiveness and versatility – running and catching – so he’s easily on the team, but it’s hard to see how Andy Reid will get him touches. LeSean McCoy is the number one back and a potential star. Ronnie Brown is the backup. Owen Schmitt sticks around. Eldra Buckley was done once Lewis showed what he could do. There was only enough room for one special teams specialist, and it goes to Colt Anderson.
Tight end (2): Brent Celek is the number one guy. Clay Harbor number two. Not much to see here. Harbor has improved as a blocker and the Eagles like using him on some running plays. Donald Lee didn’t do anything to warrant cutting the younger Harbor. The Eagles play too many three and four wide receiver sets – and too few two tight end formations -- to make it worthwhile to keep three tight ends.
Specialists (3): There was never any competition here. Rookies Alex Henery (kicker) and Chas Henry (punter) had the jobs from the opening of training camp. Jon Dorenbos is still the long snapper.