Frank: 10 Eagles sitting on the roster bubble


Frank: 10 Eagles sitting on the roster bubble

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Were still nearly three weeks from final roster cuts down to the regular-season limit of 53.

Before then, players will come and players will go. Guys will get hurt and guys will heal. Some who are performing at a high level now will be forgotten by then. Others who havent really found their niche yet might be making a big impact by then.

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said he doesnt even look at the roster numbers this early in the preseason, simply because so much can and will change between now and 4 p.m. Sept. 3, when he has to reduce the roster -- which now has 92 players on it, including three on the Reserve-Physically Unable to Perform list -- by a whopping 39 players.

Still, its not too early to take a look at 10 players who are sitting precariously on the roster bubble 2 weeks into training camp.

Out of the 92 guys in camp, about 30 are locks to make the team and about 30 are locks to not make it. These are 10 guys in the middle.
Phillip Hunt, DE
The numbers are tough at defensive end, but Hunt has been showing up lately, using his first step and quickness to beat offensive tackles fairly regularly. Hunt had some good rushes in the game Thursday night against the Ravens and has had a good stretch of practice as well. The thing with Hunt is that at 245 or 250 pounds, hes only a situational, third-down pass rusher, so he has to continue showing up as a pass rusher to have a chance. The only defensive ends who are really roster locks right now are Trent Cole and Jason Babin. Daniel Teo-Nesheim was a third-round pick last year, so hell likely stick. After that, its a free for all.

Chad Hall, WR
The former Air Force star is the kind of guy everybody counts out when training camp begins, but then he just keeps making big play after big play and by the time camp is over, hes elbowed his way back into the roster picture. As good as Hall was last summer, hes having an even better camp this year. With Jeremy Maclin a PUP candidate, Sinorice Moss banged up lately and Johnnie Lee Higgins not doing a whole lot, Hall could stick as a fifth receiver behind DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper and Steve Smith, who the Eagles continue to believe has a good chance to be available by the opener. If Smith starts out on PUP, Halls chances go up.

Derek Landri, DL
He really showed up in the game against the Ravens, getting work with the first, second and third defenses. Landri isnt just some guy off the street. He started 16 games for the Panthers last year and was fairly productive, with 63 tackles and three sacks. Again, there arent many spots available behind Cullen Jenkins, Antonio Dixon and Anthony Hargrove and -- it appears -- Mike Patterson. If Trevor Laws cant get healthy, it will sure help Landri. Right now, hes fighting the numbers, but hes making it tough for the Eagles.

Eldra Buckley, RB
Buckley is one of those guys Andy Reid just likes having around. Smart player, knows the offense, tough kid, outstanding special teams player. But with the new kickoff rule, a guy like Buckley might not be as valuable as he was in the past. Right now, Dion Lewis is in the lead for that third running back spot, but Buckley always seems to find a way onto the roster.

Mike McGlynn, OL
Last years starting center is fighting for his job these days. McGlynn has been demoted behind Jamaal Jackson and rookie Jason Kelce at center and is now essentially a deep backup guard and emergency center. McGlynn could be a victim of new offensive line coach Howard Mudds scheme, which values smaller, faster, more athletic linemen (Kelce is 6-3, 282 and Evan Mathis is 6-5, 300) over hulking linemen like McGlynn (6-4, 315) or Max Jean-Gilles (6-4, 355), a three-year starter the Eagles didnt try to re-sign. McGlynn did a pretty good job last year as a first-time starter, but he just doesnt seem to fit what the Eagles are doing now.

Jarrad Page, Safety
With Marlin Jackson out with another injury, this time a sports hernia, the recently acquired Page has quickly worked his way into the safety picture. His acrobatic goal-line interception against the Ravens didnt hurt, but Page has been very quick to learn the defense, and on a team without any real experience at safety -- Coleman, Nate Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett are all 23 or younger -- a smart, athletic six-year veteran like Page is a valuable commodity. He doesnt have the team made yet, but its going to be tough to cut him.

Colt Anderson, DB
Another tremendous special teams player that all the coaches like because hes smart, tough and versatile. There are just so many talented defensive backs on this roster, they cant keep all of them. If the Eagles keep six corners, that means four safeties at most, and it might come down to Anderson or Page. If the Eagles trade Joselio Hanson -- which certainly makes sense -- they could keep five corners (Nnamdi, Asante, DRC, Marsh, Lindley) and four pure safeties, plus Anderson. You just kind of get the feeling Anderson does enough good things that he has a good chance to stick around.

Brian Rolle, LB
The Eagles like Rolle, the rookie sixth-round pick from Ohio State, and have been creative looking for different ways to use his unique talents. Hes small and short but is making a case for a roster spot with his power and energy. One of those guys who plays bigger than he looks. If Rolle can be a force on special teams, he could come out ahead in a battle for a fifth linebacker spot behind the three starters and Keenan Clayton, with Rashad Jeanty, Akeem Jordan and Greg Lloyd also in the mix.
Brandon Hughes, CB
Another talented young corner, but they cant keep everybody. Hughes will play somewhere in the NFL this year, and hes going to make it very tough for the Eagles to run him off. Hughes is smart, athletic, fast, around the ball, just a solid young corner. Without a Hanson trade, Hughes prospects look very slim. Even with a trade, hell have to continue performing at a very high level to have a shot.

Austin Howard, OL
The former undrafted free agent out of Northern Iowa was one of Juan Castillos pet projects when Castillo was O-line coach. Now, Castillos defensive linemen are making this a challenging summer for Howard. Hes another huge guy (6-7, 335), who probably doesnt fit into what Mudd likes to do. The one thing Howard has going for him is that right tackle is kind of a mess right now, with Winston Justice hurt, Fenuki Tupou hurt and Ryan Harris hurt. With King Dunlap starting for the time being, the only other healthy backup tackles right now are Joe Toledo and Spencer Johnson, who both signed on Saturday, so Howards experience gives him a chance.

E-mail Reuben Frank at Follow him on Twitter @RoobCSN.

NBA draft profile: F Dragan Bender


NBA draft profile: F Dragan Bender

Dragan Bender

Position: Power forward
Height: 7-1
Weight: 225
Team: Maccabi Tel Aviv

Croatia’s latest basketball export is just 18 years old. He won’t turn 19 until November. Like a lot of teenagers, he’s hardly a fully finished product. The kid is raw, but his obvious potential figures to make him a high lottery pick in the upcoming draft.

Through 38 games with Maccabi Tel Aviv this season, Bender averaged just 12.9 minutes. He took 3.7 shots per game. He shot 42.3 percent from the floor, 33.8 percent from deep (on 2.0 attempts per game) and 71.9 percent from the line. He didn’t get to the line very often, by the way. In fact, he hardly got there at all, taking less than one attempt per game from the stripe.

But Bender’s appeal isn’t about what he is right now; it’s rooted in what he could become with time. There’s a reason why all 30 NBA teams sent someone to watch him play this year, according to DraftExpress. Investing in him could yield a significant return. Also, dude’s name is Dragan Bender. He was destined to become a pro athlete or conquer King’s Landing. Either way, good things ahead.

Bender has been on the NBA’s projection radar for a while now. He’s worked hard to develop his shooting. Initially thought of as a non-shooter with wonky mechanics, Bender changed his stroke. It’s more compact and efficient now. Despite the small sample size, Bender had a 54.1 true shooting percentage and a 51.4 effective field goal percentage through 38 games this season.

He could pass more, but when he does he’s pretty savvy — particularly with the full-court outlet pass. Defensively, he’s not a rim protector, but he has a long wingspan (7-2) that should help him be a good pick-and-roll defender with time. In the increasingly switch-everything NBA, that’s a plus.

Also, did we mention his name is Dragan Bender? Donald Bender works in Croatian finance. Dave Bender has a nice B&B on Hvar Island. Dragan Bender is a potential NBA star.

He’s reportedly put on some weight recently and worked hard to develop a better base, but he’s 7-1 and 225 pounds. Someone needs to feed him lots of sandwiches and protein shakes. Adding muscle for the long-slog NBA season will be important.

In addition to having a still-developing body and skill set, he hasn’t faced top-level international competition yet on a regular basis. He needs minutes against the best in the world, and in order to get those minutes he’ll have to refine his game – particularly his ball-handling and driving, which are still works in progress.

Unlike some other recent NBA imports (Nikola Mirotic and Kristaps Porzingis among them), it’s probably going to take a while before Bender can be a consistent contributor in the league. Any team that takes him has to acknowledge the inherent time commitment.

How he’d fit with the Sixers 
If we’re talking about how he’d fit with the Sixers, who had a long-term plan and weren’t in a hurry to rush anything, the Sixers who embarked on an open-ended journey with no fixed timetable or end point, you could make a case for Bender (but not with the first overall pick). Five or seven years from now, Bender could be a polished product – an outside shooting threat with, perhaps, an expanded offensive game that allows him to put the ball on the floor and optimize his passing and scoring. You could imagine him growing defensively and creating mismatch problems. You could envision it – over time.

The question is whether these Sixers, who keep talking about transitioning from the rebuild into whatever comes next, are about to scrap the slow-and-low approach to cooking their roster in favor of adding on-court heat and off-court PR sizzle. If that’s the case, Bender wouldn’t fit well at all. Not to mention that taking Bender means adding another body to an already clogged frontcourt.

NBA comparison
Lots of people have drawn a parallel between Bender and Porzingis. That’s the easy, reflexive comparison. Both are tall, lanky stretch fours from a not dissimilar region of the world. But really that’s unfair to Bender. Porzingis declared for the NBA draft back in 2014, only to withdraw his name and wait until last year. The wait helped elevate him to more of a known commodity. At that point, he had played three seasons for Sevilla of Liga ACB in Spain, one of the best leagues in Europe that features some of the premiere international talent. Bender isn’t there yet in terms of experience, and their games aren’t one-to-one equivelants anyway. Bender might ultimately shake out as something closer to Andrei Kirilenko (if he can improve his handle) or Nikola Mirotic.

Draft projection
Top five. If he lasts any longer, it will be a surprise.

Eagles mailbag: Jordan Matthews; injury concern, leading rusher


Eagles mailbag: Jordan Matthews; injury concern, leading rusher

Another day, another mailbag. 

I hope you're enjoying your Memorial Day Weekend. If you're reading this on the beach or at a BBQ, well done. 

Yesterday, I answered the first round of your questions about Doug Pederson, Brandon Spikes and the possibility of adding another running back. 

Today, I'll answer some more: 

At times, Jordan Matthews will still be in the slot this season. But he won't be there all the time. 

In Doug Pederson's offense, the receivers will move around quite a bit, which means we'll see Matthews lining up out wide on both sides and in the slot. He has the ability to do both. Either way, he's going to be on the field. He's clearly the Eagles best receiver and they're not going to take him off the field. 

I think there's a good chance we'll see some Josh Huff in the slot this year, which would make a ton of sense to me. Huff is at his best when he gets the ball in his hands and can make something happen. He's shifty enough to play in the middle. 

The idea that slot receivers are just small, shifty guys is outdated. It's all about matchups and Pederson won't be afraid to move his receivers around to find the best ones. 

Good question. I'll give you two names. One on offense and one on defense. 

Now, I didn't just pick the best players, I picked the best players with the biggest drop off to their backups. So on offense, it's Jason Peters and on defense it's Jordan Hicks. 

The scary thing: it wouldn't be shocking if either of these two go down in 2016. 

If Peters goes down, the Eagles will be fine at left tackle, because Lane Johnson will shift over. But that means either Dennis Kelly or Halapoulivaati Vaitai will come in. We all know what's happened in the past when Kelly comes in, and Vaitai is just a rookie. Not a ton of great depth at tackle. 

As for Hicks, we saw what happened to the defense when he went out last season. And this year, the team has virtually no depth at linebacker. If Hicks went down, either veteran special teams player Najee Goode or rookie Joe Walker would need to fill in. Yikes. 

I understand it's kind of a cop-out to just pick the top running back on the depth chart, but that's what I'm doing. I know Ryan Mathews has a lengthy injury history, but I can't see Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood or Kenjon Barner being the team's leading rusher. 

And when healthy, Mathews was the team's best running back in 2015, going for 539 yards on 106 carries, an average of 5.1 yards per attempt. If he manages to play 12 games this year, I think he'll be the team's leading rusher. 

Phillies pitching prospect Mark Appel hits DL with shoulder strain


Phillies pitching prospect Mark Appel hits DL with shoulder strain

Mark Appel, whose fastball velocity was down considerably in the first inning of his last start, was placed on the disabled list Friday with a shoulder strain.

Appel, 24, is 3-3 with a 4.46 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in eight starts for Triple A Lehigh Valley in his first year in the Phillies' system. He's struggled his last four times out, allowing 18 runs (15 earned) in 16⅓ innings on 20 hits and 11 walks.

The No. 1 overall pick in 2013 out of Stanford, Appel has had a disappointing pro career to this point. In 62 minor-league games (61 starts), he has a 5.04 ERA. The Phillies acquired him from Houston as part of the Ken Giles trade this past winter.

Appel's trip to the DL creates an opportunity for right-hander Ben Lively, who was promoted from Double A Reading to Triple A to take Appel's place in the IronPigs' rotation. Lively, acquired from the Reds for Marlon Byrd prior to the 2015 season, is 7-0 with a 1.87 ERA this season.

Rehab updates
Leftfielder Cody Asche and left-handed reliever Mario Hollands had their rehab assignments transferred to Triple A Lehigh Valley. 

Asche is 5 for 34 (.147) with two home runs and 12 strikeouts during his stints with Clearwater and Reading. 

Hollands has been sharp, posting a 1.04 ERA in 8⅔ innings with 12 strikeouts and one walk.