After returning home Wednesday, I took a few moments to look at the Eagles' current roster.
The Birds don't have to get down to 75 players until August 31 (after the third preseason game against the Chiefs).
They have to get down to 53 by September 4 (the Saturday of Labor Day weekend).
The way I've sorted things out, the Eagles have 59 players battling for 53 spots. In other words, the initial cuts before Aug. 31 won't be too difficult.
Below I've listed six questions/factors that will affect how that 53-man roster will look. Keep in mind that a lot can change between now and Sept. 4, but here are some thoughts as of right now:
1. How many wide receivers will the Eagles keep?
This is one we've discussed at length over the last three weeks. Four spots are accounted for: DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant and Riley Cooper. Hank Baskett, Chad Hall and Kelley Washington, meanwhile, are fighting to hang on. Will the Eagles keep five or six receivers? Last year, they kept seven. If I had to guess right now, I'd say they keep Baskett and Hall. But I flip-flop on this one on a daily basis. You can tell that the coaching staff sees Hall as a toy they can use in a variety of ways - special teams, halfback, wide receiver. We'll see if they use him against the Bengals as much as they did against the Jaguars, but it's looking like he has a good shot.
Which brings us to Baskett vs. Washington. At first, I felt like Baskett had lost a lot of ground when he was injured and Washington was getting his reps. But then I thought about it more, and the Eagles know what they have in Baskett. The two players are very similar. I think the fact that Baskett has been here before and brings a familiarity to the offense and special teams gives him the edge. But really, everything's still up for grabs.
2. How will the tight end situation shake out?
Consider that last year, the Eagles had two tight ends on their initial 53-man roster: Brent Celek and Tony Curtis. Curtis didn't make it to the regular season, and the Eagles added Alex Smith. Also consider that according to Football Outsiders, only two teams ran two tight-end sets less than the Eagles in 2009.
I think Clay Harbor makes the roster. And I think Cornelius Ingram needs to show something in the next two preseason games and practices. I wouldn't be shocked to see the Eagles add a tight end once other teams make cuts, either. But I'm not as convinced as others that they need to keep three on the roster, especially if the Eagles feel they have better special-teams players at other positions.
3. Who will the backup offensive linemen be?
I've got nine offensive linemen accounted for: Jason Peters, Winston Justice, Todd Herremans, Nick Cole, Mike McGlynn, Jamaal Jackson, Max Jean-Gilles, Stacy Andrews and Austin Howard. Could that be it? Maybe. The other two possibilities are King Dunlap and Fenuki Tupou. Dunlap was a seventh-round pick in 2008 and has been lining up at right tackle with the second team. Tupou was a fifth-round pick in 2008 and has been playing guard with the second team.
There are so many factors to this one: Are the Eagles confident enough in Herremans' foot that they'd slide him over to tackle if Peters or Justice were to go down? How far along is Howard? Unlike last year, would they trust Dunlap in a regular-season game? And what kind of progress has Tupou made? Can he play guard and tackle?
I'll admit to not having answers to those questions. Maybe we'll learn more in the next two weeks.
4. How many defensive linemen will the Eagkes keep?
I've got nine guys penciled in, including Trevor Laws, Darryl Tapp and Antonio Dixon - three guys some of you have asked me about. An X-factor here is Moise Fokou. He's been seeing time as a defensive end in pass-rushing situations and could count as the 10th linemen.
If the Eagles want another interior defensive lineman, seventh-round pick Jeff Owens could be an option. I have a hard time seeing Ricky Sapp fitting in here, given the Eagles other pass-rushing options.
5. What will the linebacker situation look like?
This is probably the most difficult area to figure out. The Fokou factor applies here too. Might they keep seven if Fokou is one of them? I think that's a possibility.
The way I see it, three guys are fighting it out for two spots: Omar Gaither, Tracy White and JaMar Chaney. Gaither has versatility going for him. He can back up in the middle or on the weak side, and has the most experience of the three in this defense.
Chaney brings youth, and if the Eagles think he can do a good enough job on special teams, he could make the cut. Chaney spent several practices as the backup middle linebacker when Gaither or Bradley was out.
White is a veteran who had to play quite a bit at the end of last season because of injuries. If the coaches determine he is a huge upgrade on special teams, he could be the guy.
The Eagles know what they have in Gaither and White. Keep an eye on Fokou Friday night, specifically how he performs when used at defensive end. Also focus in on Chaney when he comes in with the reserves in the second half.
6. Where does Macho Harris fit in?
If the Eagles keep five cornerbacks, it's tough to see Harris being one of them (Asante Samuel, Ellis Hobbs, Joselio Hanson, Dimitri Patterson and Trevard Lindley). And he hasn't had a single rep at safety this season, although he played there all of last season. Harris is only in his second season, and I have a hard time believing the Eagles would cut ties with him, especially considering how much faith they showed in him a year ago. His versatility should help him, and I think Harris makes the roster. I'm just not sure exactly where at this point.
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