When it comes to the 2013 Philadelphia Eagles roster, Chip Kelly really does appear to be serious about the open competition that will determine how it shapes up.
Of course, much of the open competition talked about has to do with who will be where on the depth chart come opening day. Predicting the starters is something I’ll get into in a separate post.
For now, I just wanted to take a look at who will make the 53-man roster and how many spots could be there for the taking.
In perusing the current roster, I see a total of 33 players who I consider a “lock” to make the final cut, provided none of them end up as trade fodder or get injured. They are as follows…
- Michael Vick
- Nick Foles
- Matt Barkley
- LeSean McCoy
- Bryce Brown
- Brent Celek
- Zach Ertz
- James Casey
- DeSean Jackson
- Jeremy Maclin
- Jason Peters
- Evan Mathis
- Jason Kelce
- Todd Herremans
- Lane Johnson
- Dennis Kelly
- Danny Watkins
- Isaac Sopoaga
- Fletcher Cox
- Bennie Logan
- Trent Cole
- Brandon Graham
- Connor Barwin
- DeMeco Ryans
- Mychal Kendricks
- Kelly Phillips
- Patrick Chung
- Earl Wolff
- Bradley Fletcher
- Cary Williams
- Brandon Boykin
- Alex Henery
- Jon Dorenbos
A few notes about my “locks”…
There have been a few reports that Cole and Graham might be struggling with the transition from DE to OLB in the Eagles’ new defense, but they are the best pass rushers on the roster so therefore they almost have to be a lock.
Why Dennis Kelly and Danny Watkins? Kelly is currently running with the first team and will most likely be the top backup at the tackle position. Watkins is purely a hunch on my part. I’m not ready to give up on him just yet and feel he’ll be the top backup at the guard position.
The others should be self explanatory and I’d be surprised if someone disagreed.
Jamar Chaney, Cedric Thornton, Antonio Dixon, Nate Allen, Jason Avant and Vinny Curry.
The five defensive guys I would label as “likely” to make the roster, but I have to stop short of calling them a lock. There are both logical and need reasons as to why to keep them, but I don’t feel as though any of them are irreplaceable and/or unbeatable in open competition.
As for Avant, I certainly won’t call him a lock this year. I’m not even sure I’d say he’s likely to make the roster. At this point, I see him as a guy that will really need to play well this summer and hope other guys falter.
I don’t have anything against Avant, he’s been an extremely reliable receiver here. But, he could be the odd man out when battling against Damaris Johnson, Riley Cooper, Arrelious Benn and my favorite sleeper to make the roster, Ifeanyi Momah.
In terms of roster shaping, the real key will be the annual numbers game all head coaches play as they make their final cuts to get down to their best 53 players. In other words, how many players will Chip Kelly keep at each position group?
Under Andy Reid, it was usually the same: 9 OL, 3 QB, 3 RB, 1 FB, 5 WR, 3 TE, 10 DL, 7 LB, 9 DB and 3 ST.
How Chip Kelly plays the numbers is anyone’s guess at this point. However, we do know that he won’t be keeping a fullback so the question becomes if whether or not that slot goes to an extra running back or tight end.
Or, maybe he cuts down on the DL or LB group so he can keep four RBs and four TEs. As a matter of fact, that might be exactly what he does.
But again, we don’t know. However, at this point, I’m going to say his numbers will look like this:
3 QB, 9 OL, 4 RB, 4 TE, 5 WR, 9 DB, 16 DL/LB and 3 ST.
At this point, it’s a little tough to discern how you want to label DL, LB and then OLB since the Eagles will be running a hybrid scheme. Therefore, I’m saying that they’ll keep a total of 16 players who can play along the line and at any linebacker position.
If the Eagles run as much as Kelly’s teams did at Oregon, they will need four running backs for sure. And we know by now he loves his tight ends too so he’ll keep four of them as well. It’s possible he goes a little short at DB, but that wouldn’t be wise considering the injury history of multiple players in that group.
Now that we have that figured out, let’s fill in the locks…
QB (3) – Vick, Foles, Barkley
RB (4) – McCoy, Brown
WR (5) – Jackson, Maclin
TE (4) – Celek, Ertz, Casey
OL (9) – Peters, Mathis, Kelce, Herremans, Johnson, Kelly, Watkins
DL/LB (16) – Cox, Sopoaga, Logan, Cole, Graham, Barwin, Ryans, Kendricks
DB (9) – Phillips, Chung, Fletcher, Williams, Boykin, Wolff
ST – Henery, Dorenbos
That leaves open roster spots for 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 2 OL, 8 DL/LB, 3 DB and a punter.
If we go by logical and/or popular thinking, we can say that Felix Jones and Chris Polk will fill out the RB group, Harbor will get the last TE spot, Chaney/Thornton/Dixon/Curry will fill four of the eight remaining DL/LB spots, Marsh and Allen will take two of the three DB spots and…a punter.
However, like I said, I don’t see any of them as pure locks. They will have to beat-out their competition. But, assuming that’s the case, that would leave this for openings…
3 WR, 2 OL, 4 DL/LB, 1 DB…and a punter.
Here are the main competitors battling for those spots…
WR – Benn, Johnson, Momah, Avant, Cooper (2 will not make it)
OL – Kyle Quinn, Matt Tennant, Dallas Reynolds, Nate Menkin, Nic Purcell, Ed Wang (my early favorites to fill the two slots are Quinn and Purcell)
DL/LB – Jason Phillips, Casey Matthews, Jake Knott, Emmanuel Acho, Chris McCoy, Joe Kruger, Phillip Hunt, Clifton Geathers, David King and Everette Brown (the four of them I’d bet on are Matthews, Phillips, Kruger and Geathers)
DB – Poyer, Coleman, Anderson, Hughes and Sims (I’d hate to lose Anderson, but the final spot may have to go to Poyer. Unless, they keep Anderson over Allen)
Punter – Jones, Wing (maybe Chip will Wing it here)
This summer will be the most competitive for an Eagles roster spot since Andy Reid’s first year as head coach. A new regime usually means big roster turnover because there are less veteran favorites.
Furthermore, Howie Roseman dropped quite a bomb yesterday when he stated that there will be players who “fall by the wayside” because of the new schemes. Here is the full quote, courtesy of Jeff McLane…
“That’s the unknown when you hire a new staff and change schemes is that you think certain players can fit … but until you see them in action it’s hard to exactly know,” Roseman said. “One of the things that’s hard for us, and you’ve seen some of it this offseason, is we’ve had players that were good players in different schemes and that we’ve invested in, and it’s not going to turnover.
“For me, that’s different because we’ve been with one head coach. But when you talk to people around the league, they tell you, when you change coaches, when you change schemes there are going to be good players that fall by the wayside.”
That’s an interesting quote. However, the context in which it was given was in response to a question regarding if ‘changes in scheme would delay the Eagles wanting to extend the contracts for certain starters.’
So, that could mean the Eagles simply not extending a few players next year (i.e., Jeremy Maclin), but it could also mean there will be a few surprise cuts (or trades) this summer.
With 20 non-locked roster spots available (or, if you’ve been following my math, at the minimum 11 spots), all kinds of crazy things could happen in training camp. It’s going to make for interesting position battles to watch as every player will be fighting for the right to make an NFL roster.
The starting job battles will be what everyone clamors about, myself included, but I also like watching depth players compete to fill out the entire roster. Every single player on a 53-man NFL squad is important.
We want the best 53 possible.