Examining the Final 53

The roster may be far from final, but for the time being, Chip Kelly has 53 to roll with headed into the regular season.


Nick Foles (S), Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley

Foles has never played a full season, which sounds like a misnomer. He did miss the final game in 2012 with a broken finger, and missed the second Giants game last season with that concussion, but it's not as though he's injury-prone. Health is definitely important, even if optimum condition won't recreate 27 touchdowns and two picks from a year ago (37 and nine seems reasonable). Sanchez has looked dynamite behind the second-team line, so if Foles goes down, there's reason to be confident with the veteran behind Jeff Stoutland's best. As for Barkley, a trade remains a real possibility, as odds are unlikely the depth chart will work down to him this year.


LeSean McCoy (S), Darren Sproles, Chris Polk

Still a little surprising that Kelly's only going into the year with three, given the performances of Matthew Tucker and Henry Josey. Of course, McCoy and his primary back-up (last year Bryce Brown, this year Sproles) will eat up the carries, leaving Polk to perform his special teams duties, and get the odd hand-off here and there. Tucker and Josey would have been underutilized in this offense, though I still think Tucker could have ousted Polk on performance and health together. McCoy's 2000-yard goal isn't unrealistic behind his line, but Foles' propensity for throwing long TDs will stunt his opportunities, a la last year. Sproles is a smarter back than Brown was, and that figures to take some carries away from 'Shady' as well.


Jeremy Maclin (S), Riley Cooper (S), Jordan Matthews (S), Josh Huff, Brad Smith, Jeff Maehl

Here they are, the group that has to ensure that DeSean Jackson's March release was the right call. If Foles can run the offense the way he did against the Steelers on August 21, it won't matter who's catching what. Cooper was spotty in that game, but he was coming off injury. Matthews and Huff are both works in progress, but the former's work in the slot showed promise against the Patriots. Smith and Maehl will primarily work special teams, their bread-and-butter, and Maehl's golden ticket onto the team. Maclin's health is the biggest concern of the group, especially after almost hyper-extending his knee in the Steelers exhibition. If Cooper can remain the breakout deep threat he was last season, that will go a long way in maintaining the offense's danger factor.


Brent Celek (S), Zach Ertz, James Casey, Trey Burton

The Burton inclusion is interesting for two reasons, one being that he was largely an unknown before the Steelers game, and the other being that the Eagles sparingly used Casey in a tight end role last year. Carrying four seems like overkill, unless Kelly's got a helluva scheme in mind (and he just might). Celek and Casey will both turn 30 before the Super Bowl, so perhaps Burton's youth was a selling point. He and Ertz can be the consummate tight end combo for years to come, not to take away from Celek, who'll lose his helmet in exchange for any hard-fought 20-yard grab, it seems.


Jason Peters (S), Evan Mathis (S), Jason Kelce (S), Todd Herremans (S), Allen Barbre (S), Andrew Gardner, Dennis Kelly, David Molk, Matt Tobin

Gardner or Kelly seems to be the more likely cut once Lane Johnson removes the dunce cap in a month. Molk's here for the long haul as the back-up center (see: Julian Vandervelde always being active last season). Barbre was starting to get his rhythm in that Steelers game, and the line as a whole had found its 2013 working form. Health will remain important for this group, as they're the heart of the Eagles' up-tempo success. 2013 showed what happens when they're at their shiningest, while 2012 was a valley so deep, you could bungee into it.


Cody Parkey (K), Donnie Jones (P), Jon Dorenbos (LS)

What will happen if Parkey misses a 38-yarder against the Jags? The phone calls Angelo Cataldi takes Monday morning would provide some chuckles, certainly. Hey, you can't cut the guy who makes a pair of 50-plus yarders after stepping into the NFL frame. If he's as legit as Dorenbos and "Donnie Longball" have proven to be, then this is as fine a trio as you'll find in the league.


Cedric Thornton (S), Fletcher Cox (S), Vinny Curry, Brandon Bair, Taylor Hart

Eight of the Eagles' 37 sacks came from ends last season: four from situational Curry, three from Cox, one from Thornton. The inclusion of the disruptive Bair, and the use of Bill Davis' new toy, the 4-1-6 dime package that was custom-made for Curry's explosiveness, should add more pop to one of the weakest parts of the Eagles' game a year ago. Cox and Thornton do a fine job of setting edges in the run, but the next step of bolstering the overall pass rush is a must-take.


Bennie Logan (S), Beau Allen

I wouldn't be shocked if Allen's starting before the year's over. That's far from a knock on Logan, who's a good clog in the run, but doesn't have the hammer-strength of Allen when it comes to manhandling the center. Allen's power gave Kelly the nod to do away with Damion Square, who's versatile enough to play end or nose. The fact that Logan suited up in the preseason finale tells me that Kelly wanted one more snapshot of the two noses back-to-back to see how they compare. That's a lot of eyebrow-raising caused by a seventh-round pick that wasn't even invited to the Combine.


Trent Cole (S), Connor Barwin (S), Brandon Graham, Marcus Smith, Bryan Braman

Smith's not spectacular, but the thinking seems to be that heavy rotations of him and a highly-motivated Graham will keep Barwin and Cole fresh for fourth-quarter headhunting (and keep a tired Eagles D from letting gaps in their leads narrow). The up-tempo offense necessitates having a defensive rotation deeper than the Pacific, and the back-ups here are better than even starters on some teams. Braman's sure to rack up some personal fouls, but they'll be fun to watch much in the same way that a viewing of Hostel can be oddly cathartic.


DeMeco Ryans (S), Mychal Kendricks (S), Najee Goode, Casey Matthews

If Ryans played too many snaps last season, so claims Kelly, then Goode's a, well, good option to sub in and keep the veteran's legs loose. Kendricks stood out in the preseason as other defenders looked shaky; his play-recognition and displays of confident speed show a leap from where he was even late last season. The aforementioned 4-1-6 scheme calls for Kendricks to be the lone linebacker, which is some reward of faith. As for Matthews, if Les Bowen's claim that the Eagles are still looking for ILB help is true, then his days could be numbered yet.


Cary Williams (S), Bradley Fletcher (S), Brandon Boykin, Nolan Carroll, Jaylen Watkins

One of the few position groups that was easy to figure out more than a month ago, the corners are a far cry from the Juan Castillo run of confusion and apathy. Williams, Fletcher, and Boykin's general reliability aside, Carroll's stood out to me since his breakout with the Dolphins last season. On the subject of defensive rotations, letting Carroll take some series away from the starters will keep Williams and Fletcher sharp for those fourth quarters, when the opponent is down ten or fourteen, and must throw. Sproles, Sanchez, and Jenkins drew headlines in March, and Carroll's signing was unjustly lost among the stories.


Malcolm Jenkins (S), Nate Allen (S), Earl Wolff, Chris Maragos

The Eagles went from having no safeties since Brian Dawkins' exit in 2009, to having their deepest safety corps in a number of years. Jenkins wasted no time finding a groove in preseason, while Allen's looking to follow a startlingly-good 2013 with a better 2014; he could be due a contract extension mid-year. Wolff off the bench and Maragos on special teams show no holes in this group, which was unthinkable even a year ago.

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