Jeffrey Lurie and Joe Banner are pretty good poker players. For years they’ve been, along with the Steelers and Patriots, the best in the league and knowing when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em when it comes to their own players, and have done as good a job as any team in free agency, even though they are not flashy. Eagles brass has always had a great poker face with the media lately, dropping stunning moves like trading Donovan McNabb, signing Michael Vick, and now signing Nnamdi Asomugha from out of nowhere. I’m bad enough as it is playing poker, I have zero interest in playing Andy Reid, Howie Roseman, Joe Banner or Jeffrey Lurie at it.
Over the weekend, they went all in for the 2011 season. The trading of Kevin Kolb for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was expected, the signing of Jason Babin was no shock. That alone would be a pretty active off-season for the Eagles, but they didn’t stop there. The shocked the NFL by coming out of nowhere on Friday to sign Nnamdi Asomugha, predictably added Vince Young (although there were no guarantees they were going to do that), then again surprised with the addition of Cullen Jenkins. I waited until late in the day to write this in case anyone else was suddenly added. (And as I write this, Danny Watkins signs.) That’s quite a haul, and the revamps of the roster more than we were expecting. Let’s take a look at how the 46 man active roster stands now. Considering that veteran FAs can not practice until Thursday the 4th, we’ll see teams sign a bunch of free agents on the 3rd. So this list is far from complete.
QB: Mike Vick, Vince Young, Mike Kafka
In Vince Young, it’s very possible the Eagles actually upgraded from Kevin Kolb. Young is obviously more physically gifted and has much more experience than Kolb, but we can’t be sure how he’ll fit into the Eagles system quite yet. Kolb’s shown he can win games for the Eagles, Young has shown he can win games period. It’s hard not to like this signing, Young is instantly one of the best backups in the league and if Reid can do to him what he did to Vick and Jeff Garcia, then the Eagles are in great shape should Vick miss significant playing time. Among all playoff contenders, the Eagles have the least drop off from starting QB to backup QB. The new rules on player participation and concussions make the backup spot even more important than before.
RB: Shady McCoy, Dion Lewis, ????
FB: Owen Schmidtt
The third RB spot is completely up for grabs among rookies Craig Cooper, Derrick Locke, Stanley Havili and third year depth guy Eldra Buckley. Noel Devine came, saw and left after 4 days for some reason. Too bad, I liked him. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Eagles bring veteran RB by the 4th. Could we see the Ronnie Brown, Le’Ron McClain, Jerious Norwood, Jason Snelling or even Brian Westbrook in camp on Thursday? It’s tough to rule anything out this off-season, but a guy like Snelling or McClain doesn’t fit the Eagles mold.
WR: DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Chad Hall or Johnnie Lee Higgins.
Jackson will report to camp one way or another, he has to or lose all his salary and have to wait another year to reach free agency. Johnnie Lee Higgins has blazing speed and can come on in the right package as a WR and really stretch the field with Jackson, but if he makes the team it’ll be because of his talent as a returner, in 2008 he returned 36 kicks, and he’s returned punts throughout his career. Chad Hall is the prototypical Andy Reid depth guy, the forgotten Sinorice Moss could be in play here, or whatever UDFAs that haven’t skipped camp. WR is of course, not a position of concern for the Eagles. Whoever makes the cut will do so because of special teams.
OL: Jason Peters, Todd Herremans, Jamaal Jackson, Danny Watkins, Mike McGlynn, Julian Valverde or Jason Kelce or King Dunlap or Austin Howard.
Peters, Herremans and Jackson are entrenched as starters, the rest are up for grabs. RG is probably Watkins, but his hold out did not help him any. Backup centers Mike McGlynn and AQ Shipley have been getting first team reps at RG, but they’re simply not good players. For whatever reason the Eagles like McGlynn, I don’t. Shipley was a good player in college but his tiny arms are a serious drawback, and he couldn’t make it on the Steelers weak o-line in 2009. It’s possible Herremans could move to RT to protect Vick’s blindside, he needs the protection and RT is a big issue. A problematic area to begin with, incumbent starter Winston Justice is currently on the PUP list, giving Dunlap and the rookies a chance to see what they can do (or not do). The line is still a mess, but in Howard Mudd we–and the Eagles–trust.
TE: Brent Celek, Donald Lee, Clay Harbor.
Celek is Celek, Lee’s a solid backup who can provide 30-40 catches if called upon, Harbor might not even be on the active 46. Cornelius Ingram is still listed on the roster, but his knee is shredded lettuce.
DE: Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Juqua Parker, Darryl Tapp.
The signing of Babin was a bit surprising to us, but it clearly signals that Brandon Graham is out for either the whole year or enough of the year to not really matter this season anyway. If Babin can produce 8 sacks, it’s a good signing. Look for Cole to get a little less playing time this season which will keep him fresher. Parker and Tapp are as good of a set of backups as you can expect. Victor Abiamiri and Daniel Te’0-Nesheim look to battle it out for a spot on the 53 man roster.
DT: Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson, Antonio Dixon, Trevor Laws.
The signing of Cullen Jenkins caught a lot of people off guard, Jenkins appears to be best suited as a 3-4 DE, but if Greg Cosell says it’s a good signing then it’s a good signing. Jim Washburn likes a lot of rotation among his defensive line, so expect everyone to play.
LB: Jamar Chaney, Casey Matthews, Moises Fokou, Akeem Jordan, Brian Rolle, somebody, anybody please.
Once again LB is an afterthought to the Eagles. Chaney looks like a lock to start, it’s just a matter of if it’s at strong side or in the middle. Undersized Casey Matthews is being given every opportunity to earn the starting MIKE spot, say what you want about him but he’s the field general who led the Oregon defense that made Cam Newton look just okay in the national championship game. Jordan’s role is primarily special teams. Linebacker is the weakest position on the roster, nothing new here. The Eagles are clearly going for pass rush from the line and coverage as their strengths, hoping to mimic the Colts in their get out to an early lead and protect it mentality. They almost have to bring in a veteran, but options are dropping fast. Kirk Morrison would be a nice pickup but don’t hold your breath. Keenan Clayton, Greg Lloyd Jr. and Rashad Jeantry will battle it out for a 53 man spot.
CB: Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Joselio Hanson, Trevard Lindley or Curtis Marsh.
I’m over the moon to be wrong about the Eagles signing Nnamdi Asomugha. Assuming they keep Samuel, a position of weakness is now the best in the league. Asomugha and Samuel would be not just the best CB duo in the NFL, but potentially one of the best ever. DRC as the 3rd guy on the chart is an embarrassment of riches, and Hanson as the #4 just isn’t fair. Of course, all this hinges on Samuel not being traded. Lindley and Marsh will make the 53 man roster, but there isn’t room for both to be on the active 46.
S: Nate Allen, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Kurt Coleman and hopefully A Mystery Man.
That is a young set of safeties. This could be an area for the Eagles to pick up a veteran, even just a career backup/special teamer. The already thin safety market is pretty bare bones right now, so don’t expect too much. The forgotten Marlin Jackson is still on the roster for now, Cole Anderson and Jamar Adams are also up for the 4th safety spot. Considering the LB and S situation, covering tight ends is going to be a problem yet again. More on that another day though.
K: Alex Henery, P: Chas Henry, LS: Jon Dorenbos.
Kickers are fungible.
There’s a few camp battles for a starting position or a higher pecking order in the rotation, but every legitimate Super Bowl contender has that. And the Eagles are most definitely a legitimate Super Bowl contender.