Happy Trails?

As teams around the league trim their rosters during the preseason to meet the 53-man limit each year, they are often forced to let go of some familiar faces. Here is a look at three players who could see their days of playing for the Eagles end in the near future.

Ryan Moats-

Moats had to earn his spot on the roster in training camp last season after the Eagles drafted Tony Hunt, but this might be the year that he is the odd running back out on the depth chart.

While Moats flashed some potential during his rookie season in 2005, averaging 5.1 yards-per-carry in seven games, he barely saw any action in 2006 and spent all of last year on the Injured Reserve list with an ankle injury. The former third-round pick has worked hard to make a comeback, but he will have to be outstanding in training camp and show more consistency to get a chance to contribute in the Eagles backfield.

With Brian Westbrook posting the best season of his career and Correll Buckhalter showing that he can still be an effective backup, the Eagles offense finished the 2007 season with the eighth-best rushing attack in the NFL, and when the team brought in Lorenzo Booker from Miami, the expectations only got higher for next season.

Westbrook will return as the feature-back in the offense, with Buckhalter providing a change of pace with his more physical style of running. Booker will add more speed to the offense and he could see significant playing time as well. The coaching staff used him in many different ways during off-season mini-camps, and he could line up with Westbrook in the backfield, split out as a wide receiver, or even run routes from the slot because of his knack for the passing game.

This leaves Hunt and Moats to fight for a spot on the depth chart, and Hunt probably has a slight advantage to win the battle because he is the team's only other power running back.

Both players could wind up getting cut if the Eagles decide not to keep four running backs on the roster, but Moats will likely be the first to go unless he shows vast improvement in the coming weeks.


Jerome McDougle-


Jerome McDougle has tried to overcome many setbacks in his career, but his time with the Eagles might be coming to an end.
(AP Photo)

Entering his fifth NFL season, McDougle is on his way to being the biggest draft-bust of the Andy Reid era. Originally a first-round pick (15th overall) out of Miami in 2003, McDougle has been a major disappointment for the Eagles because of his lack of production and injury history. The 29-year-old has recorded just 35 tackles and three sacks in his career, and with medical problems ranging from an irregular heartbeat in 2004, a gunshot wound that ended his 2005 campaign before it started, and a season-ending triceps injury last year, he is past the point of being considered a work-in-progress.

Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson hoped the 6-foot-2, 264-pound McDougle would provide more depth at defensive end over the last few years, but with the addition of Chris Clemons and the development of second-year player Victor Abiamiri, there might not be a place for him on the roster when the regular season arrives. Trent Cole and Juqua Parker, who combined for 17 sacks last season, are likely to be the starting ends, with Clemons, Abiamiri and Darren Howard working in the rotation.

McDougle has shown great determination by rehabbing through each of his significant injuries and sticking with football, but he has not lived up to the expectations scouts had for him coming out of college and does not have much of a chance to make the 53-man roster.


Matt Schobel-

Since joining the Eagles before the start of the 2006 season, Schobel has done a solid job as a reserve tight end in Philadelphia, but his time with the team could be nearing an end unless he can stand out from the crowd during training camp.

With starter L.J. Smith returning from various injuries that limited his effectiveness last year, the 6-foot-5, 255-pound Schobel will have to hold off promising second-year tight end Brent Celek and ex-Kansas City Chief Kris Wilson to maintain his role on the team. Celek showed that he can be a factor in the passing game by coming up with some clutch catches as a rookie, and Wilson, who also played fullback with the Chiefs, is a versatile player that contribute in more than one facet of a game.

In two seasons with the Eagles, Schobel has registered 25 catches for 322 yards and three touchdowns in 31 contests, including 10 starts. The seven-year veteran out of Texas Christian filled in for Smith often last season, but it was obvious that the offense lacked a pass-catching threat over the middle as the Eagles struggled in the red zone all year. Unless he shows more ability in the passing game to keep up with the other tight ends on the roster, Schobel could be cut before the season starts.



Andrew Pluta can be reached at ajp8231@gmail.com


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