Eagles 53-man Roster: "Dream Team" Edition

Eagles 53-man Roster: "Dream Team" Edition

The Eagles had until 6 p.m. Saturday evening to trim their roster down to 53 players, which always means making some difficult decisions. The most notable release was Joselio Hanson, who was pushed out of his nickel corner role by the additions of Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Word was the front office might trade the seventh-year veteran, but ultimately there were no takers.

Other than that, there weren't many truly shocking developments--yet. There is always a chance another move is coming as other players become available while teams move to finalize their rosters, but for right now, these 53 are set. After the jump, the full roster and thoughts about a supposed dream team.

QB: Michael Vick
Reserves: Vince Young, Mike Kafka

No surprises here. Vick is the man for at least the next two seasons, Young looked effective before the hammy strain, and Kafka is the developmental project. Once again, the Eagles have quite possibly the deepest stable of QB's in the league.

RB: LeSean McCoy, Ronnie Brown, Dion Lewis
FB: Owen Schmitt

This group has turned into one of the best all around units on the club. McCoy could be on the verge of superstardom. Brown showed in the preseason he can be much more than a complementary piece. In some ways, Lewis has been the most impressive of the three--you won't find many rookie backs who are as refined in every phase of the game. Will he push for playing time?

Schmitt may be the fullback by default. The Eagles reportedly attempted to claim fourth-year veteran Jerome Felton off waivers from the Lions, but Carolina had priority. Schmitt knows the system and isn't afraid to get dirty, so he should be fine in limited action.

WR: DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Steve Smith
TE: Brent Celek, Clay Harbor

Not much to say about this group of receivers that hasn't been covered already. If Maclin and/or Smith get off to a slow start, look for Cooper to step up in his second season and emerge as another threat from this crowded field. Interesting they didn't keep either Chad Hall, Sinorice Moss, or Johnny Lee Higgins. Who returns punts?

Celek is still the top dog at tight end, but Harbor could make a huge impact in his sophomore year. The Eagles declined to keep either blocking specialist Donald Lee or the athletic Cornelius Ingram. A fifth round pick in '09, Ingram was finally healthy in training camp, but upside alone wasn't enough to make the cut. Practice squad, perhaps?

OL: Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Danny Watkins, Todd Herremans
Reserves: King Dunlap, Jamaal Jackson, Julian Vandervelde, Winston Justice

There is plenty of concern to go around on this unit. Let's start with the positives: Peters is a dominant, stabilizing force on the left side, and Herremans is a natural tackle who will only get better with time on the outside. The negatives: Kelce and Watkins are rookies, and played like it during the preseason. The line will be better in Week 17 than in Week 1, but they will also be better in Week 2, Week 3, and so on. We're willing to give this a chance to succeed.

Not many surprises behind them. Thought there was a chance the Eagles would trade Jackson and hold on to Mike McGlynn, but the emphasis on quality depth behind Kelce is definitely no accident.

DE: Jason Babin, Trent Cole, Juqua Parker, Darryl Tapp, Philip Hunt
DT: Mike Patterson, Antonio Dixon, Cullen Jenkins, Trevor Laws, Cedric Thornton

The Eagles opted to pay the salaries of both Parker and Tapp, so they are obviously committed to keeping guys who can rush the passer. That also explains why they cut last year's third round pick Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, who has yet to show coaches anything on a pro football field. They instead went with former CFL'er Hunt, who was tough to contain all summer.

For now, it appears Patterson and Dixon will start and play on running downs, while Jenkins and Laws will see the bulk of their action in passing situations. Laws making the final cut is a minor upset--Anthony Hargrove and Derek Landri really impressed--but he was larger than the competition and showed some promise late last season. Thornton is an undrafted rookie with upside out of Southern Arkansas.

LB: Jamar Chaney, Casey Matthews, Moise Fokou
Reserves: Akeem Jordan, Brian Rolle, Keenan Clayton

Nothing new to report on the starting linebackers. Same alignment, same doubts.

Expect Rolle and Clayton to see plenty of playing time, particularly on passing downs. Both were very active during the preseason, and saw action with the starters in in nickel packages. Rolle was also effective rushing the passer, racking up 2.5 sacks in the final two games. There may be some questions about the frontline starters, but this group might be better when judged as a whole.

CB: Asante Samuel, Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Reserves: Trevard Lindley, Curtis Marsh, Brandon Hughes

This time last year, cornerback was the most glaring problem for the Birds. Today, it's their greatest strength. Samuel and Asomugha are two of the absolute best corners in the game, and DRC has playmaking ability out the wazoo. We look forward to watching quarterbacks attempt to solve this group.

And you have to be a little excited for the promising young players backing them up. Asomugha and DRC are here for the foreseeable future, but Samuel is likely gone in 2012, which means either Lindley, Marsh, or maybe even Hughes will have the opportunity to step into the nickel job.

S: Jarrad Page, Kurt Coleman
Reserves: Nate Allen, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Colt Anderson

When the Eagles drafted Jarrett back in April, the common assumption was he and Allen would be the starters Week 1. Coleman has been playing like he wants it though, and Allen has not fully recovered from a ruptured patellar tendon, so your actual starters look a little different. It probably doesn't say anything about either second rounder's future--if anything, it speaks highly to Coleman's. Just funny the way things work out sometimes.

Anderson stays for his special teams prowess.

Specialists: Alex Henery, Chas Henry, Jon Dorenbos

The "shaky" kicking game received a lot of attention after Thursday's final preseason tilt against the Jets. Other than Henry's mishandled snap, I would say that was a little unfair. For his career, Davi
d Akers was only 11-for-22 on field goals at old Giants Stadium--though he went 3-for-3 in one post-season game--and is 1-for-1 at new MetLife Stadium. The Meadowlands are a tough place for even the most veteran kicker, so we can probably give Henery a break after his first trip.

PUP: DE Brandon Graham, RT Winston Justice

Players who begin the regular season on the Physically Unable to Perform list are not eligible to rejoin the squad until after Week 6.

The Eagles were prepared to enter this season without Graham, who underwent microfracture surgery in December. Ideally the 13th pick in the 2010 draft would be on the field gaining experience, but the reality is Graham has a long road back. At this point, if he contributes in any meaningful way this season, that would have to be considered a bonus. Whatever the case, the defensive line looks fine.

The Birds were decidedly less prepared to be without Justice, who is still recovering from what was described as a routine cleanout surgery on his left knee in February. By the time he is good to go, it could be too late for the former second round pick. As long as Herremans can successfully transition to the outside, and the play on the interior does not suffer as a result, it's hard to envision the coaches making another major change to the offensive line midway through the season. Justice agreed to a paycut to remain in midnight green, which tells us all we need to know.

IR: Victor Abiamiri

Surprise, surprise.


- This offense is built to run the football. Every year, we hold out hope Andy Reid will utilize the running game just a tad more, and every year, we are shut down. With a strong class of backs, and two rookies starting on the offensive line, it may be more important than ever the coaches tinker with their strategy. Wasted words? Almost certainly. But establishing a three-headed monster in the backfield early on could take the pressure off the patchwork O-line, plus might even have the added bonus of altering the way defenses gameplan for the Eagles.

- Underrated weapon-waiting-to-happen for the offense? Clay Harbor. The 2010 fourth rounder saw his snaps increase down the stretch last season, and he should only see more this year. The 6-3, 252 lbs. tight end has tremendous athletic ability, and with Brent Celek seemingly falling out of favor as a target last season--probably at least in part due to increased blocking duties--it could be Harbor Vick searches for in the middle of the field.

- Daniel Te'o-Nesheim could still wind up on the practice squad, but it may not be too soon to use the B-word. It's not often you see a front office release a highly drafted player after one season, but it's fair to say he has shown nothing. They had better players in Hunt and Thornton, it's as simple as that. On that note, should Graham come back, who is the odd-man out in this defensive line equation?

- The fact that the kicker and punter are first-year players officially has been blown way out of proportion. What does being a rookie have to do with kicking a ball? There is a chance the Hen-ries simply will not be very good, but historically that has not typically the case. Some of the soundest kickers in the game today were productive in the NFL from day one, such as Nate Kaeding, Stephen Gostkowski, and Mason Crosby. Sure, there are some Mike Nugents and Matt Dodges in there, but generally speaking, if a guy can kick, he can kick.

- For the record, I hate the Dream Team label too. The fact is, such teams don't exist in the NFL. The closest I've seen in the past decade were the '07 Patriots, and they lost in Super Bowl XLII against the Giants. Every organization has holes somewhere, and the Eagles are no exception. It's all about having the right combination of stars and solid starters on both sides of the ball, backed by strong depth at as many positions possible. Their potential problem areas might be a little easier to spot, but this is unquestionably a deep roster with plenty of top shelf talent.

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

The crowd erupted as Joel Embiid stepped to the free throw line. They chanted a phrase Embiid has been repeating for the past two years, a fitting welcome to his NBA debut.

“That was great,” Embiid said after the Sixers' 103-97 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday in the season opener (see Instant Replay). “That’s my motto, 'Trust the process.'”

After two years of rehabbing foot injuries, Embiid has his first regular-season game behind him. Embiid scored a team-high 20 points, shooting 6 for 16 from the field, 1 for 3 from long range and 7 for 8 from the line. He also recorded seven rebounds, two blocks, four turnovers and four fouls in over 22 minutes. 

“The beginning I was nervous, but once you make that first shot, it just goes away,” he said. “The fans were so into the game that it was fun. I love having fun.”

Sixers head coach Brett Brown enjoyed watching Embiid on the court as much as the big man liked being on it. Brown has seen the 7-foot-2 center grow and develop during his rehab. Finally, he was able to utilize his versatile skills in a real game setting.

“I can't say this loud enough,” Brown said. “For the city to be rewarded with a player that we all understand has unique gifts, special gifts, for him to go through all the things he has been through and play like he did on opening night, the city deserves it. Most importantly, he deserves it.”

Now that Embiid has been cleared to play, he would like to do so for longer periods of time. He began the preseason at 12 minutes and was increased to 20 in segmented spurts for opening night. Even though he exceeded that limit by over two minutes, Embiid is itching to be cleared to play more extensively. 

“It sucks,” Embiid said. “I feel like I could have played more but you know you’ve got to trust the process, got to trust those guys. If I have my minute restriction at 20 minutes, I guess I’m going to go with that. But obviously I want to play more and more and I think it can help the team better. But they have a plan for me and I’ve got to follow it.”

Embiid has maintained he wants to be a clutch player. Brown looked to him toward the end of the game as the Thunder pulled ahead late in the final quarter. He drained a fadeaway jumper to tie the game at 97 apiece with 50.7 to go. 

Later trailing by four with 10 seconds left, the Sixers went to Embiid. While he was whistled for an offensive foul, Brown was glad to have a go-to unlike in years past. 

“You have a target,” Brown said. “We tried to get the ball to him a lot. … By and large, to have somebody like Joel, where the mystery is solved like, 'What do you do?' You get him the ball as much as you can.”

The more the Sixers found Embiid, the more the Thunder had to try to defend him. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan knew what his team was going up against. He watched Embiid as a high schooler and coached against him during his tenure at Florida. 

“He’s gifted and skilled,” Donovan said. “It was probably our guys' first time seeing him … I knew the talent, the gifts. The one thing with him is, he’s got great footwork. He’s hard to guard because he’s herky-jerky. He moves. He’s got a lot of [Hakeem] Olajuwon to him.”

Opening night had been two years in the making. Even though the Sixers didn't win, the significance of the evening didn't disappoint. 

"I thought this moment was going to be special," Embiid said, "and it was just great."

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

NEW ORLEANS -- Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points, Will Barton added 22, and the Denver Nuggets survived a dominant performance by Anthony Davis to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in both teams' regular season opener Wednesday night.

Davis had 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. His production helped New Orleans trim a deficit as large as 14 late in the second quarter down to two points in the waning minutes. He simply didn't have enough help.

The rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21 of 58. Tim Frazier scored 15 for the Pelicans. E'Twaun Moore added 10 points, but missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with 24 seconds left.

Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Denver and Wilson Chandler added 12 points (see full recap).

Celtics top Nets in Horford's home debut
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas had 25 points and nine assists, Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford pitched in 11 in his Boston debut on Wednesday night as the Celtics survived a late scare to beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-117 in their season opener.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 for Brooklyn, including a 3-pointer to make it 120-117 with 47 seconds left after the Nets erased most of a 23-point deficit against the Boston bench. But he missed one with a chance to tie it after Joe Harris intercepted Thomas' cross-court pass, and the Celtics were able to hold on.

Justin Hamilton came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds for the Nets in coach Kenny Atkinson's debut (see full recap).

Turner's opening act leads Pacers past Mavs in OT
INDIANAPOLIS -- Myles Turner scored 30 points, tied his career high with 16 rebounds and made a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in overtime to start an 8-0 run that allowed the Indiana Pacers to close out a 130-121 victory Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks.

Three-time All-Star Paul George added 25 points, including another 3 with 55 seconds left to seal Indiana's fifth season-opening win in six years.

Deron Williams scored 25 points, while J.J. Barea and Dirk Nowitzki each added 22 as the Mavs lost their fifth straight in the series. They still haven't won in Indianapolis since February 2014.

Dallas didn't tie the score or take a lead until the fourth quarter, yet still forced overtime when Harrison Barnes' open 3-pointer made it 115-all with 2.3 seconds left.

Turner could have won it with a long buzzer-beating 3, but it bounced off the back of the rim (see full recap).