The Eagles sent out their official game notes for the preseason opener yesterday, complete with the first depth chart of the year.
The Birds host the Ravens Thursday night at the Linc, and with so much roster turnover, combined with the shortened offseason, there will be more areas to focus on than normal.
To preview the game, I'm going to break down the depth chart on offense and defense, going position-by-position.
Today, I'll do the offense, and on Wednesday, I'll do the defense.
This group is set with Michael Vick, Vince Young and Mike Kafka.
Young has taken quite a bit of criticism since he started practicing. But keep in mind that Marty Mornhinweg is essentially breaking Young down and building him back up again.
The other day, I saw Morhninweg and Young working one-on-one on a side practice field. For 15 to 20 minutes, Young barely threw a pass. He just worked on footwork, taking the snap and getting into his drop. So it's not surprising that he misses throws and looks confused during live drills. I'm sure Eagles coaches expect that. He's had four total practices and four walkthroughs in a brand new system. It's all about getting the basics down right now.
The only question here is: If Vick goes down early in the season, does Young definitely go in? Or do they go with Kafka, who has spent more than a year in the system?
I still say it would be Young, but I think the Eagles would have to greatly simplify their offense for him. That's something they've done a good job of in the past - molding the offense to the quarterback.
The only other QB on the roster is Jerrod Johnson. The Inquirer's Bob Ford wrote a good column on Johnson, but he will not be making the 53-man roster.
The locks are LeSean McCoy and Ronnie Brown. McCoy has flown under the radar at Lehigh, with all the other storylines, but he appears poised for another big year.
By the way, hate to be the one to bring this up, but McCoy could very well be in the same contract situation next summer that DeSean Jackson is dealing with now. He's scheduled to make $575,000 in 2012. Oh, and his agent is Drew Rosenhaus.
Behind Brown, four guys are essentially batting for one spot: Dion Lewis, Eldra Buckley, Graig Cooper and Derrick Locke. Lewis was a fifth-round pick so he might have the early edge. Buckley was a good special-teams player last year. And Cooper and Locke were undrafted free agents.
Both Lewis and Locke should get chances to return kicks Thursday night.
None of the four has distinguished himself at Lehigh, so definitely keep an eye on them against the Ravens.
At fullback, rookie Stanley Havili has not stood out so that spot looks like it will go to Owen Schmitt.
I'm assuming here that the Eagles keep four running backs, including Schmitt.
This is a tough one because Jeremy Maclin's status remains a mystery.
Andy Reid said he expects Maclin to be ready for the opener, so let's assume that to be the case.
Four spots are accounted for: DeSean Jackson, Maclin, Jason Avant and Riley Cooper.
Assuming the Eagles keep five receivers, there is competition for that final spot. On the depth chart, the Eagles list Sinorice Moss, Rod Harper, Chad Hall, Brandon Caleb, Johnnie Lee Higgins, Terrance Turner and Gerald Jones.
In reality, that's probably a three-man race between Moss, Higgins and Hall. Those are the three to watch on Thursday. And don't just focus on their offensive output. Special teams will play a major role. Higgins is listed as the No. 1 kickoff returner. Moss is listed as one of the punt returners.
Brent Celek has the top spot nailed down, but there's competition for his backup with Clay Harbor and Donald Lee.
On the depth chart, Harbor is listed at No. 2, and I would agree with that. He's the favorite. Don't think Martell Webb or Cornelius Ingram have a shot at making the roster. I expect the Eagles to keep two tight ends.
The left side is easy, with Jason Peters at tackle and Todd Herremans at guard. Center has become a position for competition between Jamaal Jackson and Jason Kelce.
The preseason will be important for Danny Watkins, but he should be good to go by Week 1 at right guard.
At right tackle, Ryan Harris is the starter for now, but Winston Justice should get a chance to compete, if healthy.
Fighting for backup spots are: Austin Howard, King Dunlap, Mike McGlynn, Evan Mathis, Julian Vandervelde and Fenuki Tupou. I don't see A.Q. Shipley or Dallas Reynolds making it.
At tackle, some have asked if Justice could be cut. I don't see it. If healthy, I think he's a better option than Dunlap and Howard.
Others have asked if Jackson could be cut. Again, I don't think so. He's a valuable veteran. And do the Eagles really want to start two rookies on the offensive line? I'd still say Jackson is the favorite to start.
Here's who I see as locks: Peters, Herremans, Watkins, Harris, Kelce.
I'd say Justice and Jackson are strong choices to make the roster too.
That leaves Howard, Dunlap, McGlynn, Mathis, Vandervelde and Tupou fighting for three (maybe four) spots. I wouldn't be surprised if only one of Dunlap/Howard/Tupou makes it. That would give the Eagles two backup offensive tackles (again, assuming Justice is healthy). Remember, there were games last year where they only kept one tackle active. On the depth chart, Dunlap and Howard are listed ahead of Tupou. Could come down to one of those two.
On the interior, if the Eagles keep 10 linemen, it could come down to two spots for McGlynn, Mathis and Vandervelde. Both McGlynn and Mathis have experience as starters, and McGlynn has added value because he can play center (although that's not so important with Jackson and Kelce on the roster). Vandervelde was a fifth-round pick.
Definitely keep an eye on the backups Thursday night. Lots to still be decided there.
That's the offense. The defensive breakdown comes Wednesday.
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