The Eagles need to trim their roster to 53 players by 6 p.m. Aug. 31. They’ll go from 90 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 stays 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: 8-9.
Starters: Jason Peters, Lane Johnson, Todd Herremans, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce
Reserves: Danny Watkins, Allen Barbre, Julian Vandervelde, Dennis Kelly
The starters are set, and if healthy, could form one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. The “healthy” part is a variable, because there are three starters north of 30, two of whom are coming off significant injuries. (Plus Kelce, who is also coming off a major injury.)
Peters has been limited during camp, although not directly because of the twice-ruptured Achilles tendon. There does not seem to be significant concern about Peters’ long-term health this season. If he returns to form, Peters is the best player on the team and one of the elite left tackles in the NFL.
On the other side, Johnson was selected with the No. 4 overall pick with the intention to immediately contribute. The coaches have been pleased with his progress at right tackle so far. Chip Kelly even said Johnson was the team’s most consistent offensive lineman in the preseason opener. There might be growing pains and some technical improvements required, but he has all the tools to be a bona fide NFL tackle.
On the interior, Mathis was one of the NFL’s top offensive linemen last season despite played on a porous line. In fact, Pro Football Focus rated him as the No. 1 guard. He should maintain that production. Herremans is bouncing from tackle to guard, although he’s probably a better guard than tackle. He’s coming off a major injury, so he’s one to watch. Kelce will center the line, and he’s made a favorable impression on Kelly during the past seven months. Kelce also played in an up-tempo style in college, so the scheme change likely won’t be an issue.
At the backup spots, these are wide open. I put Barbre on there because of his versatility between guard and tackle, and he already started one preseason game at left tackle and will start another one on Thursday. Add in his experience, and he’s a good swing player to keep. Watkins is a former first-round pick who has not distinguished himself yet, but I’m not certain the organization is ready to part ways with a former first-round after only two years – even if he wasn’t Kelly’s pick, and he’s already 28. They’ll try to squeeze out whatever talent is there.
Vandervelde is likely the backup center if it’s between he and Reynolds. I was curious to see how Matt Tennant would do in that role, although Tennant has played a lot of guard this summer. That could actually work in his favor because the team knows he can play center, but Vandervelde also has experience at both.
Dennis Kelly is the player that’s hard to figure out here. He started 10 games last season and proved he can be at least serviceable NFL right tackle, so he would be an ideal backup. But he’s out the entire preseason with a back injury, so it’s up to the coaching staff to determine how effectively he’ll recover from surgery this season, and how valuable he is based off of last year’s film and the work in the spring. I think they keep him because of his talent and play as a rookie, but it might not be as much of a guarantee as it would be if he were playing.
WHO GOES: Michael Bamiro, Matt Kopa, Nic Purcell, Matt Tobin, Ed Wang, Dallas Reynolds, Matt Tennant
Bamiro seems the ideal practice squad candidate. He’s a developmental player whom the Eagles invested in, but he’s clearly not ready yet. One year on practice squad can help. Purcell is also a developmental prospective, but he’s already 27. Wang might have had a shot at the roster if he didn’t suffer a knee injury that has kept him sidelined.
Tobin and Kopa need to hope the team doesn’t keep Dennis Kelly, or could move into the tackle mix if another injury occurs. Reynolds and Tennant could conceivably beat out Vandervelde for the backup center spot. If the Eagles moved on from Watkins, Tennant would also be in the guard mix.
Contact Zach Berman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @ZBerm.