The Eagles will narrow their roster from 90 to 75 by Aug. 26 and to 53 for the regular season by Aug. 30. The Inquirer’s beat reporters will spend the next eight days predicting who stays and who goes. Here’s the lineup:
Aug. 18: Defensive line
Aug. 19: Linebacker
Aug. 20: Wide receiver/tight end
Aug. 21: Offensive line
Aug. 22: Cornerback
Aug. 23: Safety
Aug. 24: Running back
Aug. 25: Quarterback/specialist
LIKELY TO KEEP: 8-9
Who is the best Duck on the Eagles?
Zach Berman: Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, Allen Barbre, Matt Tobin, David Molk, Andrew Gardner; (Reserve/suspension: Lane Johnson)
Jeff McLane: Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, Allen Barbre, Matt Tobin, David Molk, Andrew Gardner, Dennis Kelly (Reserve/suspension: Lane Johnson)
The Eagles started the same five offensive linemen last season for the first time since 2006, which was one of the reasons the offense was so proficient. That will not happen this season after Lane Johnson was suspended four games for a performance-enhancing drug. With Johnson out, Allen Barbre steps into right tackle for the first four games. The Eagles are confident in Barbre, but the veteran remains a question mark. His first two games were inconsistent, with a third-down sack allowed that halted a drive.
"I think Allen's done a nice job," coach Chip Kelly said. "He could stick to blocks a little better. He's got a good feel and sense of what we're doing. He's a physical player at the tackle spot. So he doesn't get overmatched by anybody in there. Really happy that we have him, and that obviously with Lane being out for four games that Allen's in there, but Allen's done a really solid job for us in the left tackle spot."
It also means four of the Eagles’ five starters – all except Jason Kelce – are age 30 or older. That could cause concern, although Jason Peters and Evan Mathis are both coming off Pro Bowl seasons and are among the players in the league at their positions. Todd Herremans needs to play better than he did in 2013. Kelce is one of the team’s most valuable players, and they rewarded him with a lucrative contract during the offseason.
Beyond the starters, there are serious questions about depth. Barbre was the important depth piece for the Eagles, and Vandervelde was returning as the backup center. That means the two reserves that were active last season will not be the backups this season – until after Week 4, at least, when Johnson is eligible to return.
The top backup at guard and tackle will be Matt Tobin. A 2013 undrafted free agent out of Iowa, Tobin spent last season on the active roster. He played tackle in practice and did not play on the offensive line in games, but has been at guard during camp. That’s because the Eagles want him to be the guard/tackle option on gamedays. The Eagles are impressed with Tobin, although he lacks experience.
David Molk will be the backup center with Julian Vandervelde injured. Molk was out of football last season, although he was an accomplished college center who fits in the Eagles offense. Molk has exclusively been a center. Kelly said Molk must be able to play guard in a pinch. Molk says he can, but he does not have the same background at that spot as Vandervelde, whose back injury leaves his future with team uncertain.
Andrew Gardner has been the backup left tackle throughout camp, which helps his case to make the roster. He is a veteran who has caught the eyes of the staff this summer. I think he makes it, and the question after Gardner is whether the Eagles keep eight or nine linemen.
Berman: Dennis Kelly, Josh Andrews, Karim Barton, Donald Hawkins, Michael Bamiro, Kevin Graf
McLane: Josh Andrews, Karim Barton, Donald Hawkins, Michael Bamiro, Kevin Graf; (Injury settlement: Julian Vandervelde)
The hardest one to pick here is Dennis Kelly. I don't have him making the cut. McLane has him staying. It comes down to numbers – do the Eagles want eight or nine at that spot? They only dress seven on Sundays. The team kept Kelly around last season despite a back injury, but they have other spots where there are developmental players who cannot be put on practice squad. They should keep nine if there’s a young player they’re particularly fond of who cannot pass through to practice squad or is not eligible for practice squad. Kelly is a fine player, but the question should be whether he makes it over Gardner – not whether he makes it addition to Gardner.
The Eagles can keep a young, developmental lineman like Michael Bamiro on practice squad, and call him up in case of emergency. Bamiro has potential, but is still not ready to play on Sundays. The other players getting cut here are undrafted players. Maybe one of Andrews, Barton, Hawkins, or Graf can stay on the roster on practice squad. Andrews has guard/center versatility.