Thursday, October 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

10 Eagles roster questions

The Eagles are 12 days away from cutting their roster down to 75 players.

10 Eagles roster questions

King Dunlap will start at right tackle in Thursday´s preseason game. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
King Dunlap will start at right tackle in Thursday's preseason game. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

The Eagles are 12 days away from cutting their roster down to 75 players.

Tonight, the process of determining who will be a part of the 2011 squad continues when they take on the Steelers in Pittsburgh at 8 p.m.

As a guide/preview, here are 10 roster questions to keep in mind this evening:

1. Who wants to play right tackle? Anyone? Anyone?

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In the past few weeks, figuring out who was the starting right tackle at Lehigh was a daily chore. Ryan Harris, King Dunlap, Austin Howard and Fenuki Tupou all got chances to protect Michael Vick's blind side with the first team. Winston Justice, meanwhile, continued to rehab on the side field.

With back spasms sidelining Harris, Dunlap will get the start tonight. But don't forget about Evan Mathis. While most of his reps have been at guard during training camp, he lined up at right tackle more recently.

In terms of depth, Dunlap and Howard could end up fighting for one roster spot.

2. Are Mike McGlynn's days numbered?

When training camp started, I thought McGlynn was a sure bet to make the team. He did a decent job at center last season, and as long as he showed he was able to play guard at the same level, I figured his versatility would be of value.

But the coaches clearly like rookie Jason Kelce. With a healthy Jamaal Jackson in the mix, McGlynn's value at center is diminished.

And at guard, he struggled quite a bit in the first preseason game against the Ravens. If he turns in a similar performance against the Steelers, the chances of him making the roster will take even more of a dip.

3. Who's the third tailback?

Three of the four likely spots in the offensive backfield are accounted for with LeSean McCoy and Ronnie Brown, along with fullback Owen Schmitt.

The other running backs on the roster are rookie Dion Lewis, Eldra Buckley, Graig Cooper, Derrick Locke and Stanley Havili.

Lewis played well in the first preseason game and is the clear favorite to win the spot. He's also listed on the depth chart as the second kickoff returner, behind Johnnie Lee Higgins. That's important because Higgins is no lock to make the roster. While acknowledging that there will be a dramatic increase in touchbacks, the Eagles still need someone back there.

Buckley's value is also on special teams, but he could have a hard time making it this year.

4. Are there any WR spots up for grabs?

This is a tough one. The Eagles said yesterday they think Jeremy Maclin will be ready to go by Week 1. And while Steve Smith's status is still up in the air, it sure seems like the Birds want to avoid putting him on the PUP list to start the season.

If both Maclin and Smith make the 53-man roster, that means five wide receiver spots are accounted for (DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant and Riley Cooper).

If Smith and/or Maclin are less than 100 percent, then it probably makes sense to keep a sixth receiver. But if they are at full strength, or at least close to it, the Eagles could decide to go with just five.

Of course, special teams once again plays a role here. Higgins could earn a spot as a return man. Chad Hall could earn a spot as a receiver/running back/return man. But both guys are squarely on the roster bubble right now.

5. How many tight ends will the Eagles keep?

Brent Celek is the starter, and 2010 fourth-round pick Clay Harbor has the inside track to be his backup.

Harbor did not win the No. 2 tight end job until Week 10 last year. He played about 14 snaps per game from that point on.

The Eagles brought veteran Donald Lee into camp to compete for a spot. According to Pro Football Focus, Lee was used as a blocker on two-thirds of his snaps last season with the Packers. He only had 11 catches in 2010, but averaged over 41 receptions the previous three seasons.

It's also worth noting that Lee had three red-zone touchdowns last season (one more than Celek), and eight of Lee's nine touchdowns in the past three seasons were in the red zone.

Given the Eagles' depth at wide receiver, it seems unlikely that they'd go with a third tight end, but Lee, who played well against the Ravens, still has a few weeks to impress.

6. Are Te'o-Nesheim and Hunt fighting for one roster spot?

Four defensive end spots are probably accounted for with Trent Cole, Darryl Tapp, Jason Babin and Juqua Parker.

There might just be one spot open behind them, and it could come down to 2010 third-round pick Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and CFL product Phillip Hunt. As a rookie, not counting Week 17 against Dallas, Te'o-Nesheim played just 47 snaps in six games (including the playoffs).

Both players have had ups and down at Lehigh, working with Jim Washburn. Te'o-Nesheim is more likely to be given the benefit of the doubt since the Eagles spent a third-round pick on him last season, but with a strong showing in the next few weeks, Hunt could beat him out.

7. Who gets left out at defensive tackle?

The Eagles suddenly have an overflow of bodies at defensive tackle, and barring injuries, this is where their toughest roster decisions will be made.

They signed Cullen Jenkins, and Antonio Dixon is coming off a season in which he was one of the team's best defensive players.

Mike Patterson's status is up in the air, and the Eagles signed veterans Anthony Hargrove and Derek Landri a few weeks ago.

Trevor Laws came on last season and reportedly put in a lot of work to add muscle in the offseason. If Patterson's unavailable, the Eagles might be able to find a way to get the other five tackles on the 53-man roster.

If Patterson gets back on the field, they'll have to make decisions on Laws, Hargrove and Landri.

8. Which linebackers will step up?

I can't remember a single first-team rep at training camp that didn't have Casey Matthews, Jamar Chaney and Moise Fokou on the field together.

But will things stay that way?

If I had to single out one player to watch tonight, it would be Matthews. At some point soon, the Eagles will have to determine whether he's going to be the guy. Their other options include moving Chaney back inside or adding a veteran.

Regardless, Matthews, Chaney and Fokou figure to be on the roster. I'd say second-year player Keenan Clayton is a virtual lock too.

Behind them, rookies Brian Rolle and Greg Lloyd will compete with veterans Rashad Jeanty and Akeem Jordan. Lloyd could be placed on IR. And Jeanty really hasn't stood out at all.

Jordan has value because he's played all three positions and contributed on special teams. If the Eagles keep six (which has been the standard), both he and Rolle could end up making it.

9. What happens to Joselio Hanson?

Hanson has been a steady nickel corner for the Eagles, but his opportunities to get on the field could be limited with the additions of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha.

This one could play out in a few different ways. The Eagles may want to wait to make a decision on Hanson's future. If someone blows them away with an offer for Asante Samuel (which seems unlikely), Hanson can return to his role playing inside. The same thing applies if one of the top three guys suffers an injury.

But if all three are on the roster and healthy, the Eagles might move to deal Hanson. SI.com's Peter King suggested a third- or fourth-round pick in his column earlier this week, but such compensation seems high to me. I wouldn't be surprised if the Eagles were able to pick up a late-round pick though.

They have second-year player Trevard Lindley and rookie Curtis Marsh in the fold too. Lindley saw some playing time last year and seems capable of being the fourth corner. Marsh has been impressive in camp.

Brandon Hughes has a chance to figure in the mix as well. If the Eagles deal Hanson and keep six corners, he could sneak onto the roster. If they hold onto Hanson, Hughes could be the odd man out.

10. Page, Anderson, both or neither?

The Eagles have three safety spots accounted for with Nate Allen, Jaiquawn Jarrett and Kurt Coleman.

The first question here is: Will they keep a fourth?

Last year, before the first round of cuts, we wondered whether they'd keep Macho Harris or Quintin Demps. They ended up dumping both and went with just three safeties. Keeping six cornerbacks could make them go that route again.

But if the Eagles keep four, it likely comes down to Jarrad Page and Colt Anderson.

Page, a five-year veteran, has 40 career starts under his belt. Anderson was a special teams standout last year, but he probably loses some value with the new kickoff rule.


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Sheil Kapadia Philly.com
About this blog
Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for philly.com. His earliest memories as a sports fan include several trips to Veterans Stadium with his Dad. He's not a beat writer or an Insider, but is here to discuss the NFL 365 days a year. E-mail him at skapadia@philly.com or by clicking here

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