THE EAGLES HAVE to trim down from 80 to 75 players this coming Tuesday, then they must cut down to the regular-season limit of 53 by Saturday, Sept. 5.
Two preseason games, including tonight's heavily emphasized matchup with the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars, will be played before that final number must be reached. But we are willing to take a stab at predicting the roster right now. As is the case most years, there really isn't as much uncertainty as you would think - the real uncertainty tends to revolve around how healthy the starters are and how good the key subs are, rather than who's on the team.
Commissioner Roger Goodell can have an impact on what happens. If the Eagles know before the final cutdown that Michael Vick will not have to serve a regular-season suspension (which could last up to five games), they almost certainly would carry the normal quota of three quarterbacks. Most likely, those are Donovan McNabb, Vick and Kevin Kolb, with A.J. Feeley hitting the marketplace.
If Vick is suspended for the start of the season, or his status remains unclear, a couple of things could happen. If Andy Reid feels it is crucial that Vick remain able to practice, he could carry four QBs, and go light elsewhere. Or if it's a brief suspension, Reid could gamble on getting through a game or two with McNabb and Kolb as his only QBs. If Reid doesn't think Vick has to be practicing while he's suspended, he could put Vick on the exempt list and keep the other three on the roster until Vick is eligible. This scenario would be even worse for Feeley, who then would be looking for work after the start of the season. I'm saying Vick to the exempt list, the other three on the season-opening roster, for now.
(4, including 1 fullback)
Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy are 1 and 2, with McCoy probably looking at a greater role than any rookie runner in the
Reid Era. If it's my team (and for this assessment, it is), Eldra Buckley is a clear No. 3. Given fullback Leonard Weaver's versatility, I don't need a No. 4 running back, which is bad news for Kyle Eckel and Lorenzo Booker, but we have some numbers crunches at other positions.
Tight ends (3)
Brent Celek, Rob Myers and Tony Curtis. And if somebody better comes along in another team's final cutdown, he could take the place of Curtis, or push Myers to the practice squad.
Offensive linemen (10)
Let's assume all the projected starters are at least on the roster together, even if they haven't made it to the field that way in the preseason. That's Jason Peters, Todd Herremans, Jamaal Jackson, Stacy Andrews and Shawn Andrews. Nick Cole is the backup center and a serviceable guard; I don't think he's going anywhere. I think Winston Justice had a good enough training camp to stick around, although I thought the same about Jerome McDougle last year and I was wrong. I think Mike McGlynn stays. Maybe King Dunlap, just because he got more time with the first team than any of the other prospective tackles this camp. Max Jean-Gilles? I thought the coaches were way down on Max' work habits and conditioning toward the end of his stint starting for Shawn Andrews last year. For now, I'll assume they like him better than a youngster they could just as easily stick on the practice squad.
Wide receivers (6)
This is one of the tougher areas to predict. DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Kevin Curtis, Jason Avant. That's four. Hank Baskett? Probably. I have Brandon Gibson as my sixth, because he's going to do more for you on special teams than former starter Reggie Brown. Brown started out training camp looking as if he were going to make himself uncuttable, but he didn't sustain that level - story of his career. Danny Amendola would be a great guy to have around if you had room for him, which the Eagles don't.
The usual suspects - punter Sav Rocca, kicker David Akers, long snapper Jon Dorenbos. I was really surprised Rocca didn't have to compete all camp with Ken Parrish.
Defensive line (9)
Trent Cole, Brodrick Bunkley, Mike Patterson, Trevor Laws, Darren Howard, Victor Abiamiri. Those are the locks. You would think Juqua Parker would be a lock, but going into tonight, he hasn't had much of a preseason, and you can be sure the brain trust didn't like that pot bust at Lehigh. For now, we'll include him. Chris Clemons? Probably. I think Jason Babin is making a strong late bid, and should be on the team. I would certainly want Dan Klecko on my team, but I'm not sure the Eagles do, now that Jim Johnson is gone.
The starters are Chris Gocong, Akeem Jordan and Joe Mays. Omar Gaither makes the team. I think Moise Fokou, the seventh-round rookie from Maryland, is a find. Tracy White is important for special teams. Matt Wilhelm? A week ago, I would have said yes. Not sure now. His spot could go to Curtis Gatewood, or somebody who's on another roster at the moment. I think veteran special-teamer Tank Daniels might be moving on.
Defensive backs (8)
Asante Samuel, Sheldon Brown, Ellis Hobbs, Joselio Hanson. Those are the corners. Jack Ikegwuonu has worked hard to come back, but I'm not sure he has done anything that would absolutely put him on the roster. Practice squad, while he continues to work on gaining confidence in his rebuilt knee? That would be my choice. The safeties are Quintin Mikell, Quintin Demps, Sean Jones and Macho Harris. Harris can play in the nickel as a quasi-corner.
Of course, there is no chance whatsover this is an absolutely accurate assessment. There's always a surprise cut, and a guy who makes it who you didn't think had done much. Reid loves to stockpile offensive linemen, often devoting roster spots to guys who aren't going to play and probably could be stashed on the practice squad.
And there are all those players getting cut from other teams, which, again, very well could figure into scenarios at tight end, defensive line and linebacker, particularly. There's also Jon
Runyan, rehabbing from microfracture surgery in South Jersey, but I really doubt Big Jon is on the Eagles' Opening Day roster. Week 8? Well, that might be different.
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