If you liked not having preseason phenom Henry Josey on the Eagles' 53-man roster announced Saturday, you're going to love not having him among the eight names announced for the practice squad Sunday.
The Birds still have two slots to fill, under the new rules, that can go to players who wouldn't normally qualify -- who have been on an active roster for more than nine career games, up to two full accrued NFL seasons. But ESPN's Adam Caplan reported Sunday evening that Josey will sign onto the Jacksonville practice squad -- where he can help the Jags get ready for Chip Kelly's offense in the season opener next Sunday.
Josey, an undrafted rookie from Missouri, was the NFL's No. 2 rusher in the preseason, 225 yards on 34 carries, an amazing 6.6 yards per carry -- granted, much of that coming against guys who, like Josey, were looking for work after the roster cuts.
But Eagles fans clearly bonded with Josey, a darting, 5-8, 194-pound back who rebounded from a complex, terrible knee injury in 2011 at Missouri. They were surprised when the team omitted him from its regular-season roster, especially given that the Birds carried only three running backs, including Chris Polk, who was sidelined all through the preseason with a hamstring injury. They figured if Josey made it through waivers, he'd come back for the practice squad.
Josey made it through waivers, agent Andy Ross confirmed, but the Eagles then signed Matthew Tucker to the practice squad. Tucker, 6-1, 227, was the biggest back in camp. He suffered a shoulder injury of undetermined seriousness in Thursday's preseason finale against the Jets. Tucker started last season on the practice squad and was promoted to the roster in October, appearing in two games. This preseason he ran 24 times for 125 yards, a very nice 5.2 yards per carry, but he didn't show Josey's breakaway ability. On the other hand, Tucker is bigger, a better blocker, who has more special teams experience.
Still sitting waiting for a call yesterday evening was Ifeanyi Momah, the 6-7 receiving project to whom the Eagles have now devoted two training camps. Momah caught 6 passes for 55 yards in the preseason, and coaches raved about his improvement from a year ago.
"He's improved every day," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said last week, when asked about Momah. "And again, I think his improvement shows up on the practice field. I still say he's one of the most improved guys that we have, and he's shown up well."
Not well enough to stick on the practice squad, apparently, though there still are those two open spots, with the Eagles reconvening tomorrow at NovaCare to prepare for Jacksonville.
Who made the practice squad, other than Tucker? Offensive lineman Josh Andrews, who mainly plays center now; offensive lineman Kevin Graf, nose tackle Wade Keliikipi, safety Ed Reynolds, the Eagles' fifth-round draft choice this year; holdover linebacker Emmanuel Acho, holdover wideout Will Murphy, Rutgers and another wideout, Quron Pratt, a rookie from Rutgers and Palmyra.
We'll never know if the Birds would have used those two practice squad exemptions on nose tackle Damion Square or wideout/returner Damaris Johnson, because they were claimed off waivers by Kansas City and Houston, respectively. Both players had good preseasons, but both played positions where the Eagles were deeper than they were a year ago.
All eight players named to the practice squad spent training camp with the Eagles. They signed no outsiders.
It's possible to second-guess Tucker over Josey, and it's even more possible to second-guess Murphy over Momah, who would seem to have a good bit more upside than a former Oregon walkon who didn't start until he was a senior.
Ah, yes, the Oregon thing. General manager Howie Roseman vociferously defended Kelly for his Duck preference, when Roseman spoke with reporters Saturday. Five Ducks made the active roster, plus Murphy and Keliikipi on the practice squad. Murphy and Keliikipi were not obvious preseason standouts.
ESPN's Caplan also reported that ex-Oregon running back Kenjon Barner, who was waived/injured Saturday, was placed on IR by the Eagles on Sunday.