August 9, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Isaac Redman (33) runs with the ball past Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Antonio Dixon (90) during the first quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE
The Eagles have finished OTAs, mini-camps and even training camp. One preseason game is in the books. We know a lot about this team, but there are still unsettled positions. What jobs are still open?
While training camp is over and the Eagles have returned to Philadelphia, there is still a lot of time between now and the regular season. The Eagles have three preseason games left. They are practicing every day. Some players are struggling, while others are shining. So...who's in and who's out?
QB - The Mike Kafka injury really complicates things. Michael Vick and Nick Foles are locks. Kafka was a lock, to be the primary backup even. Now there is uncertainty. Can Kafka make it back by the final preseason game? Do the coaches feel they need to see him in action to trust him? Does he simply need game action to get ready for the season? There are already rumors of the Eagles looking into Tarvaris Jackson. Trent Edwards would need to be lights out the rest of the preseason to even factor into the situation. We'll just have to wait and see how things play out.
RB - This is a spot where the Eagles have good problems. LeSean McCoy and Dion Lewis are set as the top two backs. Bryce Brown is playing really well and has secured a spot. Fellow rookie Chris Polk has been solid. The team likes him and would love to find a way to keep him. There just isn't room for four running backs.
FB - Stanley Havili is a player the Eagles would love to step up. They value his ability to run and catch, and make fullback more of an offensive threat. Not too many people were worried about Owen Schmitt and big plays. Havili must stand out on special teams and he must show that he can be a functional lead blocker. He has yet to stand out as a blocker so the final preseason games are huge for him. Rookie Emil Igwenagu has had some good moments, but hasn't stood out so much that he's earned a spot over Havili. Back to Chris Polk for a second. Marty Mornhinweg told reporters that the coaches have considered mixing in Polk as a lead blocker. If Havili and Igwenagu don't pick up the pace, they could lose their spot to someone who isn't even a true fullback.
TE - Another spot with good problems. Brent Celek and Clay Harbor are set as the 1-2 punch. The question is whether the team can keep a third tight end. For that to happen, Brett Brackett has to be lights out. He was terrific at Lehigh. His first game was more uneven. He must wow the coaches to get a spot. At the least, he could be practice squad material. Rookie Chase Ford has played well this summer, but is simply caught in a numbers crunch. He is a good blocker, but lacks the athleticism the Eagles prefer in their tight ends.
WR - The top three spots are set with Jackson, Maclin, and Avant. Some fans question Riley Cooper and the fourth spot. Don't. He has shown enough in his first two seasons to warrant a job. Not only does he help as a receiver, Cooper is a key special teams player. His broken collarbone has set him back this summer, but the coaches were very happy with what they saw this spring. Beyond Cooper, things get trickier. Does the team keep five or six receivers? Damaris Johnson is virtually a lock at this point. I want to see one more game to be sure. The coaches may already have him penciled in. Marvin McNutt would be the sixth guy if the team keeps that many. He could use a couple of big preseason games to help his cause.
OL - Six guys are locks: Mathis, Kelce, Watkins, Herremans, and the two guys battling for the left tackle job, Bell and Dunlap. Rookie Dennis Kelly is a 95 percent lock. That may surprise some fans, but Howard Mudd really likes him. Kelly is getting snaps at tackle and guard. The coaches are trying to figure out if he can help this year and where his best spot would be for now. In the future they see him as a starting tackle. Beyond that, things are wide open. I'm sure Julian Vandervelde is close to a lock. He knows the system. The Eagles have tried to develop him as a backup center this year, but that hasn't looked too good. Vandervelde is a natural guard. There are one or two other spots for guys like Dallas Reynolds, Mike Gibson, Steve Vallos, and D.J. Jones to battle for. No one is really leading in the race to be the backup center. Rookie Brandon Washington has been slowed by a concussion. He makes sense for the practice squad.
DL - There are 10 spots available and 37 guys to fill 'em. Or at least it seems like that. I see the Eagles keeping five ends and five tackles. Good players are going to be cut or traded. I think Darryl Tapp is the odd guy out at end. He's played well (if not very well), but I just can't see the Eagles letting go of the other players. Tapp should be trade material. The team will keep him as insurance in case of injury for a couple of more weeks. Tackle is a bit more confusing. Mike Patterson is still out with a brain/skull injury. That leaves the Eagles with five tackles they like. When Patterson returns, someone must go. I think Antonio Dixon is the odd man out, but losing him would not be easy on the Eagles. He is the biggest of the tackles and is still young enough that the team would like to keep him around. I just can't see anyone else going. Dixon has failed to impress me this summer. We'll find out if the coaches agree. Like Tapp, Dixon could be trade bait.
LB - This is a pretty set part of the team, believe it or not. Brian Rolle and Jamar Chaney are battling for a starting spot, but that's about it for drama. The top six linebackers are pretty clear. Keenan Clayton is one guy hoping to fight his way into that group. He can play special teams and has very good cover skills. Unfortunately, Clayton just isn't a functional run defender. I don't think he ever will be. I'd love to see him moved to safety, but the Eagles coaching staff isn't ready to give up on him as a linebacker yet.
SS/FS - Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman are the starters. O.J. Atogwe will be the third safety. Jaiquawn Jarrett had a disastrous preseason opener and may have played himself out of a job. He will need to be very good in the next couple of games to re-gain the confidence of the coaches. Tom Nelson has recently gotten some work with the number two defense in place of Jarrett. I don't think Nelson has done well enough to be close to a spot, but that could change in the upcoming games. Rookie Phillip Thomas made a couple of nice tackles last week. He could build off that and fight his way into the mix. Colt Anderson would have the fourth spot sewn up, but he's coming off a torn ACL and is still on the PUP list. It isn't certain that he'll be ready by September.
CB - This is the most wide open spot on the defense. Three guys are locks, Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Brandon Boykin. Veteran Joselio Hanson has played really well this spring and summer. He doesn't want to lose his job to Boykin. Curtis Marsh was a third round pick last year. The Eagles still have high hopes for him, but his play has been more up and down that they'd prefer. Chances are that he still makes the team. A good showing in the next two games would likely secure him a spot. That's five corners. Will the team keep six? If they do, Brandon Hughes and rookie Cliff Harris will be battling for that spot. Harris might be an ideal practice squad candidate, but if he plays well in the remaining preseason games other teams may want his services. Hughes might seem expendable, but he played a decent amount last year and is a good special teams player as well. The coaches like him. One final guy worth mentioning is Trevard Lindley. He has quietly played well this summer and put himself in the mix. You have eight guys fighting for five or six jobs.
STs - The only battle here is at punter. Matt McBriar has the lead on Chas Henry. McBriar must stay healthy. Henry can still win the job if he will consistently boom the ball. He has the leg. He is a young punter still fighting to figure things out and be good on every punt.