Our eight-day look at who makes the Eagles’ 53-man roster continues today with a look at wide receiver and tight end (Defensive end, offensive line, running back, cornerback and linebacker have already been tackled).
The Eagles are loaded at wide receiver, so there will probably be some tough decisions to make in a week, especially after Jeremy Maclin and Steve Smith practiced for the first time Saturday. The same could also apply – at least the tough decision part – to the Eagles’ tight end, especially if they plan on keeping just two.
Teams must pare rosters down to 80 by Tuesday. Final cuts are on Sept. 3.
Likely to keep: 5-6.
Locks: DeSean Jackson held out and missed the first 11 days of training camp, but the Eagles’ ace receiver is ready for the start for the start of the season, even if the team obviously isn’t ready to rework his contract. Maclin, the other ace in the Eagles’ deck, had the scare of a lifetime when doctors believed an illness could have been lymphoma. But he’s been cleared and is on pace to start the season. Jason Avant is one of the league’s top slot receivers – the best, according to coach Andy Reid – and has increased his reception totals in each of his five seasons. It’s going to be interesting to see how Smith fits into the offense. As stated above, the Eagles already have a pretty good slot receiver. Coming off microfracture knee surgery, he’ll probably be eased into action and will be insurance in case one of the Big 3 get hurt. With Maclin and Smith back Riley Cooper has fallen on the depth chart. The 6-foot-4 receiver is assured a spot on the roster, but playing time may be harder to come by.
Bubble: If the Eagles keep six receivers Chad Hall is the likely pick. Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg like Hall’s flexibility, but he’s lost some of his attractiveness with the return game not as important and Dion Lewis a better change-of-pace in the backfield. Johnnie Lee Higgins has the most experience in terms of kick returner, but he really hasn’t had a chance to show what he’s capable of because there have been so many touchbacks during the preseason. He hasn’t impressed as a ball catcher. Sinorice Moss’s best chance of making the team lies as a punt returner, but his preseason numbers –two returns for 4.5 yards, two fair catches – haven’t sparkled.
Gone: Rod Harper has done some kick returning, but doesn’t offer much else. Gerald Jones has flashed some skill as a receiver and would be a welcomed practice squad member. Terrance Turner was released on Friday.
Likely to keep: 2-3.
Locks: Brent Celek’s receiving statistics took a hit last year for a number of reasons (76 catches for 971 yards and eight TDs to 42 catches for 511 yards and four TDs). He was dinged up early, subsequently dropped several passes in the first few weeks and was asked to block a little more as the season progressed. He’s in better shape this preseason but may not get any more looks than last season because of all the weapons on offense.
Near lock: If it’s down to Clay Harbor or Donald Lee for the second tight end spot, Harbor gets the nod. He really hasn’t done much to make you go, “Wow, he really improved from his first to second year.” But he’s been ahead of Lee in playing time and has been more an integral part of the offense during the preseason.
Bubble: Lee’s experience is going to make it hard for the Eagles to cut him. He’s not necessarily a blocking tight end, but he can do that and would fill that role if the Eagles plan on using a lot of two tight end sets.
Gone: As written before, Cornelius Ingram is one of the nicest athletes a reporter will ever cover. But nice doesn’t get you on the roster. He’s back from his knee woes and hasn’t had a setback this camp, but the explosion that we saw two years ago out of the 2009 fifth-round draft pick just isn’t there. Martell Webb.