The Eagles need to get from 90 players to 53 on their roster by 6 p.m. Aug. 31. They’ll get to 75 by Aug. 27. Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman still have a lot of work left to do as they whittle their roster down. The Inquirer’s Eagles beat reporters will spend the next two weeks predicting who stay and who goes. Here’s the lineup:
Wed, Aug. 14: Defensive linemen
Thur., Aug. 15: Offensive linemen
Fri., Aug. 16: Quarterbacks / Specialists
Mon., Aug. 19: Outside linebackers
Tues., Aug. 20: Running backs
Wed., Aug. 21: Inside linebackers
Thur., Aug. 22: Wide receivers
Fri., Aug. 23: Cornerbacks
Mon., Aug. 26: Tight ends
Tues., Aug. 27: Safeties
LIKELY TO KEEP: 5-6.
WHO STAYS: DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Damaris Johnson, Greg Salas, Jeff Maehl.
The season-ending knee injuries to Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn likely opened up two roster spots. Benn wasn’t assured a spot, but there was a good chance his special teams skills would have landed him on the 53. There was always the chance Kelly was going to keep only five wide receivers, especially if he opted to hold onto four tight ends. But there should be enough room to keep six, especially if the last guy can help out on special teams.
I have Jeff Maehl currently as the sixth man. It’s a total guess. Maehl, who was acquired in a trade with Houston for tackle Nate Menkin last week, has yet to play in a game and the media has been shut out of practices since Sunday. It’s probable the Eagles will add another wide receiver after teams trim to 53 on Aug. 31. Maehl has played in only three NFL games over the last two seasons. He still has practice squad eligibility, so Kelly could store his former Oregon receiver there.
Greg Salas was low on many a radar heading into camp, but injuries and steady play have vaulted him onto my roster. He has some limitations. He isn’t explosive, but he has good hands, isn’t afraid to block and can contribute on special teams. If the Eagles were on HBO’s Hard Knocks this season, Salas would be that character on the roster bubble with the hot girlfriend.
Damaris Johnson is a nifty toy to have on any team. He’s a rich man’s Chad Hall. There was a lot written about how DeSean Jackson should once again be the lead punt returner, but Johnson has looked so good that I wouldn’t expend the Eagles’ No. 1 receiver on special teams. Johnson isn’t a 75-90-percent-of-the-snaps guy, but he can be utilized as a change of pace to Riley Cooper on the outside. He’s limited as a blocker, but he isn’t afraid to mix it up and is a good yards-after-catch receiver.
Once the Eagles survived a week of backlash over the way they bungled Cooper’s racial-slur punishment, he was likely to make the squad. He’s their second best option on the outside and underrated as a receiver in my estimation. He’s tough, a good downfield blocker and should help in the red zone. Jason Avant is Jason Avant. He doesn’t get much separation, but he catches nearly every pass thrown in his general direction.
Jackson has had a wonderful camp and preseason. It’s tough to predict what kind of numbers he’ll put up this year, but I imagine he’ll end up somewhere around his career average. He loves Kelly’s offense and has a little extra motivation because the next year on his contract has no guaranteed dollars. So I think he’ll be productive and catch all the necessary passes. But Kelly’s scheme and the number of skill-position options could cut down on Jackson’s opportunities. Sixty catches for 1,000 yards and 8 touchdowns sounds about right.
WHO GOES: Russell Shepard, Ifeanyi Momah, Nick Miller, Will Murphy.
There are probably a couple of practice squad spots reserved for wideouts. If Maehl doesn’t occupy one, Russell Shepard and Ifeanyi Momah would be the most likely candidates off the current roster to fill the spots. Shepard had a nice start to camp, but has tailed off. He’s done all the right things – attached himself to a veteran like Avant, stayed after practice to work on his catching – but he faces an uphill climb to the 53. He isn’t averse to playing on special teams which could help his cause.
Momah seemed destined to land on the practice squad, but I’m not sure the 6-foot-7 project is worth the investment. He looks lost half the time. There’s some skill there, and the size is great, but he can’t get much separation and he doesn’t have anywhere near Harold Carmichael hands. Kelly may see something there.
Nick Miller has pretty good burst, but not much else. Will Murphy can tell his grandkids about the time he played in an NFL camp.