— Each NFL season beings an assortment of puzzles and surprises.
For the Philadelphia Eagles, the first of each became apparent the minute they officially announced their initial 53-man roster of 2014 on Saturday.
Among the notable names not on it was running back Matthew Tucker. Among the notable names who stuck were tight end Trey Burton and defensive end Taylor Hart.
Those are the surprises.
That they only kept two totally healthy running backs, LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles, is the puzzle.
Along with Tucker, the other cuts were LB Emmanuel Acho, OL Josh Andrews, RB Kenjon Barner (waived/injured), CB Roc Carmichael, T Kevin Graf, K Alex Henery, WR Damaris Johnson, S Keelan Johnson, RB Henry Josey, LB Josh Kaddu, DT Wade Keliikipi, QB G.J. Kinne, CB Curtis Marsh, WR Ifeanyi Momah, WR Will Murphy, WR Quron Pratt, S Ed Reynolds and DT Damion Square.
Wide receiver Arrelious Benn (back) and linebacker Travis Long (ACL) were placed on the injured reserve list and offensive lineman Lane Johnson began serving a four-week suspension to start the regular season. He will not count against the roster limit until that suspension ends.
Tucker, Josey and Barner were let go in favor of Chris Polk, who wasn't able to play at all in the preseason because of a hamstring tear that he suffered early in training camp. But general manager Howie Roseman expressed no concern when he met with reporters on Saturday that they could wind up short at that position to open the season.
"Obviously we have information on that," he said. "Our training staff has done a tremendous job with Chris in rehabbing, so we can go with the information that we have. Chris is a real hard worker and a talented guy, and we feel comfortable with that decision."
One decision that was widely anticipated was the release of three-year kicker Alex Henery in favor of rookie Cody Parkey, who was acquired in a trade a little more than a week earlier and wound up kicking field goals of 53 and 54 yards in a 37-7 preseason victory over the New York Jets on Thursday night.
"When you look at it," Roseman said, "[the decision] was based on all the information we could gather. When you're in practice, you get an opportunity to watch those guys kick in love settings. They get a practice period for a special teams coach where he's tracking them and then looking at the kickoffs and the field goals.
"So I think it was a compilation of information, like all the other positions."
No doubt at least one of the three departed running backs are being targeted for the practice squad, which has been increased this year to allow for a maximum of 10 players instead of eight and allows a pair of exceptions for each team to essentially add players with two full years of experience. Previously, qualifications for the practice squad were much more restrictive in terms of experience on active rosters.
It means, for instance, that third-year wide receiver Johnson, who also was among the final cuts, is now eligible. Under the previous rules, he would not have been.
Teams may not begin assembling practice squads until Sunday.
Roseman admitted the new rules could have played into the team's decision-making.
"With the two exemptions, it's a whole different pool of players that you look at," he said. "And by the same token, there's guys on your roster that you may have felt like if they weren't on your 53, you had no shot getting them back because they [weren't] practice-squad eligible.
"So I think it's part of the whole process in the next 24 hours about how to use [the spots] and, as it goes, what that pool of players is going to look like."
The Eagles roster, which could well be revised a few more times before opening day on Sept. 7, stood like this as of early Saturday evening:
Quarterbacks (3): Matt Barkley, Nick Foles, Mark Sanchez.
Running backs (3): LeSean McCoy, Chris Polk, Darren Sproles.
Wide receivers (6): Riley Cooper, Josh Huff, Jeremy Maclin, Jeff Maehl, Jordan Matthews, Brad Smith.
Tight ends (4): Trey Burton, James Casey, Brent Celek, Zach Ertz.
Offensive line (9): Allen Barbre, Andrew Gardner, Todd Herremans, Jason Kelce, Dennis Kelly, Evan Mathis, David Molk, Jason Peters, Matt Tobin.
Defensive line (7): Beau Allen, Brandon Bair, Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry, Taylor Hart, Bennie Logan, Cedric Thornton.
Linebackers (9): Connor Barwin, Bryan Braman, Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, Najee Goode, Mychal Kendricks, Casey Matthews, DeMeco Ryans, Marcus Smith.
Defensive backs (9): Nate Allen, Brandon Boykin, Nolan Carroll, Bradley Fletcher, Malcolm Jenkins, Chris Maragos, Jaylen Watkins, Cary Williams, Earl Wolff.
Specialists (3): LS Jon Dorenbos, P Donnie Jones, K Cody Parkey.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun