8:48 PM EDT, May 3, 2013
The practices and locker room have been closed all year. Players and coaches have been deliberately vague about schemes and position changes.
But that cannot stop us, ladies and gentlemen, from taking a shot at projecting the final Philadelphia Eagles roster composition under rookie coach Chip Kelly and making educated guesses about who will fill those spots.
What we do know about Kelly is that he wants to be as multiple on defense as he will be on offense. That means they won't run a 3-4 exclusively but are obviously bringing in the kind of personnel to make it their base. With that in mind, the final 53-man roster will be constructed differently, with a few less defensive linemen and a few more linebackers.
On offense, Kelly almost certainly will keep more tight ends than his predecessor, Andy Reid, ever did. The most Reid ever kept was three, and usually the Eagles only had two. With Kelly, they could keep as many as five and almost certainly at least four.
This, theoretically, will give the team much more flexibility with special teams on game days.
All of this remains to be seen, of course. But this being the Eagles and all, it's always fun to try to peek around the corner and visualize what will be there in September.
So we present you the first rough draft of the 2013 Philadelphia Eagles:
• Quarterback (3): Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley.
If the injury-prone Vick wins the starting job, Kelly might be forced to protect a fourth quarterback, Dennis Dixon, who otherwise seems destined for the practice squad.
• Running back (3): LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk.
McCoy is still the man, even if he did get smoked by the 32-year-old Vick in a 40-yard duel the other day. Brown gets a mulligan for all the fumbling problems he had last season, his first playing football since the Pleistocene. Polk has legitimate toughness and talent but was sidelined for most of last season with turf toe.
The Eagles probably will not keep a true fullback. Instead, in situations where they require a lead blocker in the backfield, they are expected to insert one of their tight ends, such as versatile James Casey.
• Tight end (4): Zach Ertz, James Casey, Brent Celek, Clay Harbor.
Ertz, a rookie, has a good chance to become their top option, although all will be involved rotationally. Kelly also has big plans for Casey, a free-agent addition, as well.
Celek has proved to be a decent, though not much more, tight end in this league. Harbor was unspectacular as the second of the team's two tight ends last season, but owns a speed and surprisingly competent blocking skill set that could enable him to flourish under Kelly.
• Wide receiver (6): DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Damaris Johnson, Ifeanyi Momah.
Let me state straightaway that Momah is a wild guess. There's a lot of ifs surrounding this freakishly large (6-7, 230) receiver who last played at Boston College in September 2010. But if his left knee is sound enough after keeping him out of the game for two full years and most of another, and if he can pick up what Kelly is trying to implement, then his size will make it almost impossible to cut him loose.
As Kelly has famously said, big people beat up on little people, and Momah is not little.
• Offensive line (9): Jason Peters, Lane Johnson, Todd Herremans, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Dennis Kelly, Danny Watkins, Dallas Reynolds, Nate Menkin.
Watkins regressed last season, after being drafted in the first round the year before, but hard to envision the Eagles giving up on him, even if he can't win back the starting right guard spot he lost. So as it stands, Johnson figures to be the right tackle, with Herremans moving back inside to right guard. Kelce is the center, Mathis the left guard and Peters the left tackle.
• Defensive line (7): Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Isaac Sopoaga, Vinny Curry, David King, Clifton Geathers, Joe Kruger.
Kelly has set up a good amount of competition with this group, as Antonio Dixon, Cedric Thornton and Everette Brown also won't go out without a fight. But if the coach really wants to be as flexible as he says with the guys up front, it's best to go with the guys who can play inside and outside.
• Linebacker (8): DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Casey Matthews, Jamar Chaney, Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Trent Cole, Jason Phillips.
Ryans, Kendricks and Barwin are pretty much locks to start. The rest of the spots are up for grabs.
• Cornerback (5): Cary Williams, Jordan Poyer, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Curtis Marsh.
Williams is the most qualified to start. Poyer is a rookie who isn't going anywhere. Marsh must beat out Brandon Hughes and Trevard Lindley, which is not a given.
• Safety (5): Kenny Phillips, Earl Wolff, Patrick Chung, Kurt Coleman, Nate Allen.
Coleman makes it because of his pure leadership qualities, but Colt Anderson's special teams contributions won't be as invaluable because the team should get overall better play from others. Still, he can't be totally counted out. And Chung can't be counted in, for that matter.
• Kicker (1): Alex Henery.
• Punter (1): Donnie Jones.
Brad Wing, tossed out of LSU after just two seasons, has amazing talent and might be a lot better. But the sense here is that off-field problems will continue.
• Long snapper (1): Jon Dorenbos.
They wouldn't have re-signed him in the offseason if they weren't counting on him this year. He didn't have a great year as far as hitting the punter square, but there also were no disasters. When the snap is a little low or off center, it's more on the punter to react and get off something respectable.
By the time the Eagles hit the field for their first game in September, they almost certainly will feature two or three players who aren't on the roster now. But this is how we see it in early May.
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