Who Makes the Roster: Outside Linebackers

Eagles outside linebacker Connor Barwin. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

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: 4

WHO STAYS: Connor Barwin, Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, Chris McCoy

There’s not much intrigue here, especially among the top three. Barwin was signed this offseason to a six-year, $36 million contract to play left outside linebacker. He’ll drop into coverage the most out of any outside linebacker on the roster, and he has experience in a similar defense with the Houston Texans. Barwin recorded 11.5 sacks in 2011 and only three last year, but he’ll be used differently with the Eagles. The key when watching him is how many impactful plays he makes – not how many sacks he records.

However, Cole and Graham will both need to sack the quarterback. They’re converted defensive ends whose most transferable skill to the new position is rushing the passer. Even if they occasionally need to drop into coverage – it’s not the forte of either player – their influence on the game will be getting to the quarterback. Neither player has looked particularly adept in coverage in camp, but it’s still early in transition. Don’t expect the coaching staff to make either player do something on a consistent basis that will hurt the team. It’s clear their skill is rushing the quarterback.

This is a big year for both players. Cole is coming off the worst season since he was a rookie. He needs to prove he's not a declining player, as his big contract can keep him a roster in the short term, but not the term. Graham is a former first-round pick who reworked his game to play in the Wide-9, and now must change it again.

There was more competition for the fourth spot before Phillip Hunt sustained a partially torn anterior ligament. Hunt was in contention, but the injury derailed his season. Everette Brown or Travis Long could make a push – especially if either stands out on special teams – but McCoy (6-4, 261) is an intriguing option with size and pass rush ability.

WHO GOES: Everette Brown, Travis Long, Phillip Hunt (injured reserve)

Brown is a former second-round pick by the Carolina Panthers who has not been able to live up to his draft billing. He was out of football last season and does not have the height the Eagles desire on the outside, but he could push McCoy if he outplays him in the final two games.

Long was signed during training camp, and the Eagles like him. He tore his ACL last season at Washington State, which is why he was not signed immediately after the draft. He can be a special teams contributor of on the roster, but probably profiles as a practice-squad candidate at this point.

 Contact Zach Berman at zberman@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @ZBerm.