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Early Projections for Philadelphia Eagles' Final 53-Man Roster

Cody SwartzSenior Writer IAugust 1, 2014

Early Projections for Philadelphia Eagles' Final 53-Man Roster

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    With training camp officially underway, the Philadelphia Eagles will have just over a month to trim their roster from its current 90 participants down to the final 53-man version. The daily practices and four preseason contests will allow Chip Kelly a look at the fringe players on the team; does he go with three running backs or four? Does Murderleg really have a chance? And who wins that battle for the final quarterback spot?

    Here’s a pre-preseason look at what the Eagles depth chart could look like heading up to that Week 1 matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Injuries will undoubtedly change the projection, and the roster would be adjusted accordingly, but for now, here are the 53 players that should make the 2014 team.

Quarterback

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Nick Foles enters 2014 as the unquestioned starting quarterback for the first time in his career. Veteran Mark Sanchez was brought in to provide depth should Foles get hurt, and he’s turned in a strong training camp thus far.

    Second-year player Matt Barkley could be the odd man out. The former standout USC signal-caller is the first quarterback Chip Kelly ever drafted, but he’s displayed questionable arm strength and may be in danger of losing his job to G.J. Kinne. Kinne is a different mold of quarterback—he’s already spent time in the United Football League and Arena Football League, and he’s much more mobile in the pocket.

    Kinne will need a strong showing in preseason to supplant Barkley; after all, Kelly did draft Barkley, and he’s not going to want to cut him after just one season if at all possible. It’s likely Kinne spends another season on the practice squad.

     

    Projected Depth Chart

    Nick Foles, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley

Running Back

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    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    In LeSean McCoy, the Philadelphia Eagles have an All-Pro back, one capable of taking over a game as he did in the Snow Bowl win over the Detroit Lions.

    Behind McCoy, the depth may be questionable. Bryce Brown was shipped to the Buffalo Bills, which leaves veteran Darren Sproles and third-year back Chris Polk. Sproles is a perfect player for Chip Kelly’s offense, as he can line up at multiple spots on the field. He isn’t so much of a runner, but he will catch 50-60 passes.

    Polk would handle the running back duties if McCoy went down, which would be a big upgrade in Polk’s workload from last year. Polk has just 11 career carries to his name, but his 8.9 yards-per-carry average is pretty impressive. He’s a sure bet to make the roster, considering it’s his third training camp with the team.

    There’s a trio of backs vying for the fourth running back spot—Matthew Tucker, Henry Josey and David Fluellen. Tucker is a second-year player who spent most of 2013 on the practice squad, although he did appear on the active roster for a few games. Josey and Fluellen are undrafted rookies who will need to make a strong impact in camp, although their best bet is on special teams.

    Then again, Kelly may not go with four running backs. Last year, the Eagles broke camp with just three halfbacks. If Kelly does keep more, that fourth back position will probably be dedicated to special teams.

     

    Projected Depth Chart

    LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, Chris Polk, Matthew Tucker

Wide Receiver

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    Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

    Four wide receivers should be considered locks to make the 53-man roster—Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff. Maclin and Cooper are the veteran players set to hit free agency, while Matthews and Huff are the rookie draft picks.

    There’s a logjam of receivers competing for the final spots at this position. Last year, Chip Kelly went with five; he will probably go with five or six this year, although five may be more likely since Darren Sproles has the ability to play slot receiver.

    Considering Brad Smith has lined up with the first team as a slot receiver this offseason, he seems to be a safe bet to make the squad. That means Arrelious Benn, Jeff Maehl and Damaris Johnson are pushing for one spot (if Kelly goes with six receivers). Camp favorite Ifeanyi Momah would need a miracle to make the roster, but he is a good candidate to make the practice squad again.

    Maehl was last year’s final receiver, and he played sparingly for the season—finishing with four catches for 67 yards and a touchdown. He also played under Kelly at the University of Oregon, and thus gets the nod for the final roster spot.

     

    Projected Depth Chart

    Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff, Brad Smith, Jeff Maehl

Tight End

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    The Philadelphia Eagles boast one of the game’s finer tight end duos in Brent Celek and Zach Ertz. Celek is a veteran entering his eighth season with the club; he isn’t flashy but catches well and is a willing blocker. Last year, he quietly led his position in yards gained after the catch per reception (9.0), stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

    Ertz is a breakout candidate who will be featured on a number of underneath routes. Last year, Ertz totaled fine numbers for a rookie, hauling in 36 receptions for 469 yards and four touchdowns. He could lead the team in catches in his second season.

    James Casey barely saw the field in 2013, and he brings another $4 million cap hit for next season. That’s a lot to pay for a third tight end, but Casey can line up as an H-back and fullback too. Emil Igwenagu, a similar player to Casey, snuck his way onto last year’s roster. Undrafted rookie Blake Annen could also push for a spot, given his incredible 40-yard dash time (4.41), but he would likely need an injury to another tight end candidate to get a roster spot.

     

    Projected Depth Chart

    Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, James Casey

Offensive Line

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Left to right, the Philadelphia Eagles will feature a nearly-identical offensive line to the 2013 squad: Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans and Allen Barbre. Last year’s first-round pick, Lane Johnson, will assume his starting role upon returning from a four-game suspension, but he doesn’t count as being on the official 53-man roster for now.

    Either Julian Vandervelde or David Molk will win the battle to be the backup center. The team likes Matt Tobin as a backup offensive tackle, and third-year player Dennis Kelly has experience as both a tackle and guard.

    Chip Kelly has never kept a lot of offensive linemen on his roster, and look for that trend to continue in 2014.

     

    Projected Depth Chart

    Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, Allen Barbre, Julian Vandervelde, Matt Tobin, Dennis Kelly

Defensive Line

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Philadelphia Eagles have a young, underrated defensive line that could be the strength of the 3-4 scheme in 2014. Fletcher Cox is a former first-round pick and rising star as a 5-technique end. Cedric Thornton is a quality run-stopper, who gives way to 2012 second-round pass-rushing specialist Vinny Curry on third downs.

    Nose tackle Bennie Logan played well enough as a rookie that the team traded away veteran Isaac Sopoaga to the New England Patriots. Logan was spelled by undrafted rookie Damion Square, but it’s likely the Eagles keep either Square or seventh-round draft pick Beau Allen as the backup to Logan.

    Fifth-round rookie Taylor Hart has the added advantage of having attended Oregon, although he would probably make the roster anyway. Joe Kruger, a seventh-round pick from a year ago, is in the hunt for a backup end spot.

     

    Projected Depth Chart

    Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Cedric Thornton, Vinny Curry, Damion Square, Taylor Hart, Joe Kruger

Linebacker

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Philadelphia Eagles are dishing out over $6 million to each of their outside linebackers in Trent Cole and Connor Barwin, but each is still a very productive player in the 3-4 defense. First-round pick Marcus Smith may be a year away from contributing heavily, but he will be the heir apparent to Cole’s job as a stand-up edge-rusher.

    Inside ‘backers Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans are the starters, with what should be an interesting camp competition between a number of players for the backup spots. Casey Matthews has experience on his side, but he’s seen his snaps diminish with each passing season. Jake Knott is suspended for the first four games of 2014. Najee Goode is a good bet to win a spot because of special teams.

    Emmanuel Acho, Jason Phillips and Josh Kaddu may be competing for one spot, while Brandon Graham, Travis Long and Bryan Braman are likely in a three-way race for two spots. Graham has the edge as a former first-round pick, but his $3.3 million salary doesn’t help his case. Braman was brought over to be a special teams ace, which will be his ticket onto the roster.

     

    Projected Depth Chart

    Trent Cole, Mychal Kendricks, DeMeco Ryans, Connor Barwin, Marcus Smith, Brandon Graham, Bryan Braman, Najee Goode, Jason Phillips

Cornerback

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Cary Williams is likely entrenched as a starting cornerback for the second consecutive season, but look for Bradley Fletcher (last year’s starter) and Nolan Carroll (a free-agent acquisition) to have a lengthy camp battle to start opposite Williams. Fletcher may have the edge given his role as a starter in 2013, but Carroll did play extremely well in Miami.

    Brandon Boykin is blossoming into one of the finer nickel backs in the league, and his six interceptions trailed just Richard Sherman among cornerbacks. Fourth-round rookie Jaylen Watkins will contribute as a slot corner and safety.

    After that, there’s a huge drop off to Roc Carmichael and Curtis Marsh, each of whom would need an injury to make the 53-man roster.

     

    Projected Depth Chart

    Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Nolan Carroll, Jaylen Watkins

Safety

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Philadelphia Eagles can’t possibly have as horrific a safety corps in 2014 as they did in 2013...can they?

    Management upgraded the unit by releasing Patrick Chung and adding Malcolm Jenkins, formerly of the New Orleans Saints. Jenkins is a former first-round pick, a Super Bowl champion and a versatile player who can line up at slot corner and safety.

    Nate Allen was re-signed to a one-year deal, and he will compete for the other starting spot with fifth-round safety, Earl Wolff. Though Wolff played well as a rookie, expect Allen to win the first-team job because of his experience.

    Fifth-round rookie Ed Reynolds should be a lock to make the 53-man roster, although he may not contribute heavily in year one. Free-agent signee Chris Maragos was brought over from the Seattle Seahawks to be a special teams contributor. Keelan Johnson is a long shot, and his offseason arrest doesn’t help his chances.

     

    Projected Depth Chart

    Malcolm Jenkins, Nate Allen, Earl Wolff, Ed Reynolds, Chris Maragos

Special Teams

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Don’t expect to see any change in the special teams units from 2013 to 2014. Alex Henery will hold off Carey “Murderleg” Spear to win the kicking job, Donnie Jones is a top-10 punter in the league and Jon Dorenbos is a magician of a long snapper.

    It remains to be seen who will win the punt and kickoff return duties; it could be anyone from Brandon Boykin to Damaris Johnson to rookie Jaylen Watkins to someone else. For now, we’ll assume the returner makes the team because of another position, meaning only three roster spots need to be devoted to the special teams players.

     

    Projected Depth Chart

    Alex Henery (K), Donnie Jones (P), Jon Dorenbos (LS)

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