Unheralded Players With Best Chance to Make the Eagles' 53-Man Roster | Eagles Addict

Upon initially examining the current Philadelphia Eagles roster, I see eight potential openings to be earned through the battles of training camp and preseason.  Of 53 spots on the final roster, I see 45 players as locks to make the team.

Much will depend on how Chip Kelly decides to allocate the numbers at each position, but we have a rough idea if we go by last year.  There should be a tweak or two…mainly keeping at least one more OLB…but here is how the numbers looked at each position upon the initial 53-man roster in 2013:

QB – 3
WR – 5
RB – 3
OL – 9
TE – 4
DL – 7
OLB – 3
ILB – 5
CB – 6
S – 5
ST – 3

Here are my locks for the final roster this year:

QB – Foles, Sanchez, Barkley (3)
RB – McCoy, Sproles, Polk – (3)
WR – Maclin, Cooper, Matthews, Huff – (4)
TE – Celek, Ertz, Casey – (3)
OL – The starters plus Barbre and Tobin – (7)
DL – Cox, Logan, Thornton, Hart, Allen, Curry – (6)
OLB – Cole, Barwin, Smith, Braman – (4)
ILB – Ryans, Kendricks, Goode – (3)
CB – Williams, Fletcher, Carroll, Boykin, Watkins – (5)
S – Jenkins, Allen, Maragos, Reynolds, Wolff – (5)
ST – Jones, Dorenbos – (2)

Obviously, things are subject to change based on injuries, but all of the above guys should make it.  I could put an asterisk next to guys like Tobin, Casey and even Curry, but the chances they make it are good enough for me to call them a lock right now.

To get to the quick of it, I see QB, RB, CB and S as positions that are set and will be the above guys on the final roster.

The eight open spots are WR (1), OL (2), ILB (2), TE (1), and Kicker (1).  The last spot is tough to figure because it’ll be between a seventh DL or a fifth OLB.  Last year they kept seven DL and just three OLBs.

I already have them keeping four OLBs, which is one more than last year.  Will they keep a fifth?  That’s a question I recently asked when considering if Brandon Graham will make the roster.

For now, we’ll just keep that option open.

So, we have eight spots up for grabs.  Which new players or second year guys have the best shot at stepping up and making the final cut?

For the fifth and likely final WR spot, we should have a pretty good battle between Arrelious Benn, Damaris Johnson, Brad Smith, Ifeanyi Momah and Jeff Maehl.  Smith would appear to be the early favorite due to his veteran experience and special teams prowess.

However, UDFA Kadron Boone could surprise this summer.  Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly quoted an AFC Personnel man as having this to say about Boone after the Eagles signed him…

“He’s not a bad receiver; he’s a pretty good receiver,” the scout added. “He just got caught up in a place that has two pretty good receivers. He’s going to be fine. I honestly believe he can play either way (outside and slot), and that’s what’s going to benefit him.”

“He can run. He has good hands. Very competitive guy,” the personnel executive said. “You’ll see. He’s definitely gonna show up. It wouldn’t surprise me if he makes the team and actually contributes. I wouldn’t be surprised if he outplays Huff. It wouldn’t surprise me.”

The Eagles list Boone at 6′, 202 lbs.  He ran a 4.44 40 at the LSU Pro Day and drummed up a lot of interest.  He was believed to be a priority rookie free agent after the draft.

My only reservation about him making the roster is that it would mean the Eagles would have three rookies behind Maclin and Cooper.  In the big picture, I can’t see that happening.

On the other hand, if he has a strong camp and preseason, Kelly might not want to risk cutting him in hopes of adding him to the practice squad because he could get snatched up.

Boone’s biggest competition will be Smith and Benn.  They aren’t exactly juggernauts to overcome, so it really could come down to whether or not Kelly is comfortable with three rookies behind his starters.

The ever intriguing Ifeanyi Momah could be a darkhorse possibility as well.  He has received some positive buzz from beat reporters who have covered the OTAs and are saying he looks much improved over last year.

The backup OL battles are probably the most boring of all position battles, but perhaps one of the most important.  A season can derail extremely quickly if the big guys up front start missing a lot of time.

That’s why it’s important to have adequate backups.  Look no further back than the 2012 season when they had to start guys like Demetress Bell and Jake Scott, a guy whom they signed off the street in the middle of the season.

I have Allen Barbre and Matt Tobin making the team, but there will be two other spots open for competition.  Dennis Kelly and Julian Vandervelde filled the other two backup slots last year but they will be pushed by others and are by no means guaranteed a spot this year.

There are three players I expect to push Kelly and Vandervelde for their roster spots this year: David Molk, whom the Eagles signed back in January, Michael Bamiro, the mammoth lineman who spent last year on the practice squad, and Kevin Graf, a UDFA tackle out of USC.

Both Barbre and Tobin can play tackle and guard and we all know how Chip loves versatility.  Molk is Vandervelde’s main competition to be the backup Center, but Vandervelde can also play Guard whereas Molk seems more of a pure Center.

The problem is, Molk could be a much better Center than Vandervelde.  Therefore, if Chip is comfortable with his other three backups being able to swing between Tackle and Guard, he might be okay with Molk’s one-dimensionality at Center.

Kevin Graf played primarily RT at USC and was a three year starter.  He has good size and decent athleticism and has the potential to play either Guard or Tackle.

I liked him as a potential fit prior to the draft and thought he could be a seventh-round target.  Better yet, they were able to land him as an undrafted free agent.  Graf certainly has quality backup potential if not future starting potential.

The Eagles also have continued infatuation with Michael Bamiro.  He’s 6′ 8″, 340 lbs with very long arms, big hands and is said to have “basketball like” athleticism.  Problem is, he’s just raw.

He is the biggest threat to Dennis Kelly’s roster spot and could very well overtake him in competition.  Keep an eye on he and Molk during training camp as they could be two new faces amongst the backups along the line.

The backup ILB positions should be another interesting camp battle as there should be at least two openings.  In addition to my three locks above, it was Casey Matthews and Jake Knott as the other two backups last season.

The Eagles didn’t add any new blood at this position this year…not even an undrafted free agent.  If we go by the fact that Jason Phillips is currently running exclusively with the second team in OTA’s (opposite Goode), it makes him a good bet for the fourth roster spot at ILB.

The fifth spot will be a battle between the following players: Jake Knott, Casey Matthews, and Emmanuel Acho.  Knott made it over Acho last year and Matthews was also used as occasional depth at OLB behind Barwin.

However, with Bryan Braman and Marcus Smith in the fold, Matthews’ services as a backup OLB are no longer needed.  Although he’s a former Duck, the runt of the Matthews litter may find himself out of a job this summer.

Blake Annen

Will Blake Annen outplay Burton and overtake Emil Igwenagu’s spot? Photo: Al Behrman/AP file photo

The Eagles kept four Tight Ends last year with Emil Igwenagu as the No. 4.  This year, there are two intriguing new guys who could take Igwenagu’s spot: UDFA’s Trey Burton and Blake Annen.

Of these two guys, Annen has the better chance of sticking though Burton is getting more buzz.

Burton is 6′ 2″, 224 lbs, which is small for a TE.  He is one of those players who comes to a team described as an “athlete”, which is code for “the guy has some skills but not a true position.”  He was a WR in college but did a little bit of everything, including some kick returning.

He ran a 4.62 40, a 7.14 three-cone and a 4.32 20-yard shuttle at the Combine.  While those were pretty good numbers, check out Annen’s numbers from his Pro Day:

40 – 4.41
Vertical Jump – 34”
Broad Jump – 120”
3-Cone Drill – 6.99
20 YD Shuttle – 4.30
25 reps on the bench press

And at 6′ 4″, 247 lbs, he’s two inches taller and 23 lbs heavier than Burton.

Neither player lit the college world on fire, hence their undrafted status.  Burton is a little more flashy and has experience with lining up at various spots while Annen was a three year backup before becoming a starter last season (and still not getting much action).

But, I’m much more intrigued with Annen.  He has better size with just as much athleticism and as per a few scouting reports I’ve read on him, he is a good blocker and plays with a nasty disposition.

The battle at Kicker started off with a lot of fanfare for Carey Spear because of his unique nickname of “Murderleg” and his penchant for making big hits on kick returners.  However, after reading this OTA update from Jeff McLane, he seems like a longshot to beat-out Alex Henery:

Spear’s field goal was from about 30 yards out. He hooked it at least ten yards wide left, missed the building that’s behind that field goal and sailed the ball into the parking lot.

It’s early, but that sounds pretty bad.

The last roster spot I’m discussing here will be either the seventh DL or fifth OLB.  That’s two position groups potentially vying for one spot on the roster.  Since we have no way of knowing what position the coaches would rather be deeper at, we’re going to view everything as equal and just pick the best player.

The main competitors will be Brandon Graham, Travis Long, Joe Kruger, Damion Square and Brandon Bair.  If it truly comes down to these guys, I’m sure most people will immediately go with Graham.

However, I’m just not so sure the Eagles would.

Square won a roster spot and earned some playing time last year so that gives him a leg-up over the others except for Graham.  Square was a nice story last year, but now I can’t help but think of this every time I hear his name…

DeMarco Murray Damion Square

GIF courtesy of www.complex.com

I know it was just one play, but damn, I’m not thrilled that our defensive lineman was destroyed by a running back!  You just know he took some good natured grief from his teammates on that one!

I think this last spot will ultimately come down to Long or Kruger…aka, the fifth OLB or seventh DL.

Long has been running with the second and third teams at OLB during the OTAs so far while Kruger has been mixed in with the first, second and third teams at DE.  This doesn’t really mean much at this time of year, but it does show that the team wants to see what these guys can do.

Both guys have excellent size for their respective positions with Long at 6′ 4″, 255 lbs and Kruger bulked up to a healthy 290 lbs on his 6′ 6″ frame.

Here are a few quick scouting reports on them…

Travis Long (DraftInsider.net):
Bio: Four-year starter awarded all-Conference honors after his junior season. Senior totals included 61 tackles/13 tackles for loss/9.5 sacks as well as 1 interception and 4 more passes broken up. Suffered a serious knee injury late in his senior season and missed the final game of the year. Junior numbers included 42/12/4.
Positive: Hard-working defensive front seven player who gets the most from his ability. Moves well laterally, chases the action hard, and works his hands to protect himself. Remains disciplined with assignments, plays within himself, but also aggressively attacks ballcarrierss. Smart, effectively reads the action, and relentless in pursuit of the ball handler.
Negative: Possesses a marginal burst and limited pursuit speed. Out positioned by opponents and slow shedding blocks. Ineffective in space.
Analysis: Long is a high effort, try-hard defender who consistently put himself in a position to make plays. He’s a limited athlete lacking the size for defensive end and speed for outside linebacker. He must recover from the serious knee injury suffered late last season but Long offers possibilities as a 3-4 outside linebacker if he’s able to get back to prior playing form.
Joe Kruger (DraftInsider.net):
Bio: Part-time starter the past two seasons posting 40 tackles/8 tackles for loss/6 sacks as a junior after 35/5/3 the prior year.
Positive: Athletic college defensive end with an underdeveloped game. Explodes off the snap with a terrific first step, shows good strength, and is fluid moving in every direction. Works his hands throughout the play, keeps his feet moving, and fights hard. Collapses down the line of scrimmage in pursuit of the action and shows speed off the edge as a pass rusher.
Negative: Lacks bulk at the point of attack and handled by a single blocker. Minimally productive the past two seasons and never grabbed hold of the starting job on a consistent basis.
Analysis: Kruger is an explosive defender with size limitations but a developing pass rusher with the ability to line up in a three-point stance and occasionally stand up over tackle.
It may just come down to which one of these guys proves to be more versatile in either lining up at different positions or proves to be valuable on Special Teams (or both). Kruger holds the edge in position versatility as he lined up at DE, DT and OLB in college.

Ultimately, none of these guys could pan out and we could be left with the same holdovers from last year’s roster (Vandervelde/Kelly at OL, Igwenagu at TE, Smith at WR, Matthews/Knott at ILB, and Graham at OLB).

However, chances are at least one of two of these guys will win spots over the incumbents.

Since we’re all just guessing at this point with no training camp or preseason to base opinions on, here are my guesses as to which guys who weren’t on the 53-man roster last year, will make it this year…

ILB Jason Phillips (probably a no-brainer?)

TE Blake Annen (over Igwenagu…let me hear it from the Burton supporters!)

DE Joe Kruger (as the seventh DL over a fifth OLB)

OL Michael Bamiro (over Dennis Kelly)

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