The Final 53: Breaking Down the Eagles' 2012 Roster Updated

The Final 53: Breaking Down the Eagles' 2012 Roster Updated

* Obviously the roster will be tinkered with many times throughout the year, this is merely the final 53 that will enter the regular season following cutdown day.

Quarterbacks: Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Trent Edwards

Fate was cruel to Mike Kafka, who entered training camp as Vick's backup, only to find himself left off the roster entirely. Kafka's fractured left hand opened the door wide for Foles and Edwards, both of whom made the most of their opportunities.

Foles of course became the story of the summer, showing uncanny poise for a rookie while posting a stat line almost identical to that which won fellow first-year quarterback Russell Wilson the starting job in Seattle. Edwards demonstrated great command of the offense as well, but more than anything else, his experience may have been the biggest factor that trumped Kafka. With 33 NFL starts under his belt, Edwards apparently is the safer option if Foles isn't ready for number two duties after all.

Running Backs: LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk
Fullback: Stanley Havili

McCoy and Lewis were locks, and Havili's spot never seemed to be in jeopardy. In the end, both Brown and Polk had too much upside to cast either one out, so the Eagles go unconventional and keep five backs. Brown looks like such a fluid runner, big and powerful with excellent burst. Polk runs as hard as anybody we've seen come through here. Tons of potential in this backfield.

Wide Receivers: DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Damaris Johnson

Jackson and Maclin reprise their roles in one of the league's most dangerous receiving duos, along with steady co-star Avant in the slot. There is some question as to whether Cooper will be back from a broken collarbone in time for Week 1, but he should be ready soon. For those wondering, while he is merely an okay receiver, Coop makes the squad more for his solid special teams play.

Johnson over sixth rounder Marvin McNutt may be something of a surprise, but only if you haven't been paying attention. McNutt showed absolutely nothing in preseason, catching one pass for 13 yards in four games. The undrafted Johnson made one big play after another, hauling in 12 receptions for 195 yards and a score. Believe it or not, he could have an immediate impact -- if not in the passing game, then as the club's punt returner. McNutt is a candidate for the practice squad.

Tight Ends: Brent Celek, Clay Harbor

Little of note here. Celek has Pro-Bowl potential, and after the Eagles flirted with the idea of bringing in a veteran to compete, Harbor wound up having a strong summer.

Offensive Line: King Dunlap, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Danny Watkins, Todd Herremans
Depth: Demetress Bell, Dennis Kelly, Dallas Reynolds, Julian Vandervelde, Nathan Menkin

We've known Dunlap would start ahead of Bell at left tackle for some time now. Bell looked shaky in action, and there was some thinking he could even miss the cut. With a guaranteed salary this season, and no better option in play, the Eagles will be forced to turn to him in an emergency.

The rest of the line is the same as last year, and figures to be improved with continuity and experience. Depth-wise, fifth-round pick Dennis Kelly appears to be the primary backup to Herremans, and Dallas Reynolds -- who has been trying to catch on in the NFL since he first came to the Eagles undrafted in 2009 -- finally lands as a number-two at guard and center. Julian Vandervelde was also on the roster initially, but a short time later released to make room for another safety. He may land on the PS. Update: the team claimed rookie Nathan Menkin off of waivers on Saturday.

Defensive End: Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Brandon Graham, Philip Hunt, Darryl Tapp, Vinny Curry
Defensive Tackle: Cullen Jenkins, Derek Landri, Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton

Your eyes are not fooling you. The front office convinced Tapp to take a pay cut, and the Eagles will keep all six of their defensive ends. Not sure how you get six of them on to the field, although Curry won't necessarily command a ton of snaps in his first year. As expected, Cole and Babin will carry the load, with Hunt and Graham serving as their primary relief.

Antonio Dixon was not so lucky, though he'll undoubtedly catch on with another team, likely someplace that is a better scheme fit anyway. Jenkins and Landri will rotate with impressive rookie Cox and and Thornton, who originally made the squad out of camp last season, but wound up on the practice squad for most of it. The defensive tackles are thin in the event of another injury, but there is a window where Mike Patterson is eligible to return after Week 6, and either Tapp or Graham may be able to help out inside until then.

Linebackers: Mychael Kendricks, DeMeco Ryans, Akeem Jordan
Depth: Jamar Chaney, Casey Matthews, Brian Rolle

Sorry, Brian Rolle, no change in the starting lineup yet, and opening day is only a week away. Kendricks, Ryans, and Jordan remain the starters, and no huge surprise behind them with Rolle, Chaney, and Matthews. However, there are health concerns with Chaney and Matthews, each battling nagging injuries during the preseason. The team could've taken Keenan Clayton instead, as he seemed to carve out a niche in coverage and on special teams, but the upside of the others was higher.

Cornerbacks: Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Curtis Marsh, Brandon Boykin, Brandon Hughes, Trevard Lindley

The Eagles made some waves with one of their first announced cuts, releasing Joselio Hanson after he began the summer as the starter at nickel corner. It seemed as though even if he lost the job to Boykin as he did, Hanson could stick in case the rookie faltered, but obviously the Eagles are comfortable with Hughes behind him.

Asomugha, DRC, and Marsh are your top guys on the outside, followed by Hughes. Trevard Lindley's presence on the roster was a bit of a mystery after his release a season ago, but the team parted with him on Saturday in exchange for Menkin.

Safeties: Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Colt Anderson, David Sims

O.J. Atogwe got hurt again in the preseason finale, and because injuries have plagued him so much in recent years, the team had to cut bait. That left the defense with a huge hole in terms of safety depth, which for the time being they filled with diminutive David Sims, traded from Cleveland for a late draft choice. Allen and Coleman may be capable starters, but Jarrett and Sims don't inspire a great deal of confidence, while Anderson is there purely for special teams.

Specialists: Alex Henery, Chas Henry, Jon Dorenbos

Henry ended up winning the punting competition over Mat McBriar, though it seemingly had little to d
o with punting. McBriar's work as the holder on Henery field goal tries reportedly was the issue here, so even though he doesn't boom it like an Aussie, the Birds stick with the incumbent. And naturally Dorenbos will continue to work his magic as the long snapper.

Non-football Injury/Illness: Jason Peters, Mike Patterson

Both of these guys are eligible to return between Weeks 6 and 9, though neither seems very likely. Patterson probably has a better shot if his skull heals from brain surgery by then. The Eagles might feel compelled to rush Peters back from his Achilles injuries if Dunlap struggles at left tackle, but it's hard to believe he'll be ready to play at any point this season, much less at a high level. At this point, I can't get comfortable with the idea he'll return in 2012.

Eagles 'not comfortable' after historic 3-0 start

Eagles 'not comfortable' after historic 3-0 start

They’re not just beating people. They’re destroying people. They're not just winning. They're doing it in historic fashion. And they're not just 3-0. They're 3-0 with a first-year coach and a rookie quarterback.

This just doesn't happen.

Yet it's happening.

“I know a lot of people said the first two games we didn’t play anybody, stuff like that,” linebacker Nigel Bradham said. “But we just play whoever’s on the schedule, and it’s hard to win every week in the NFL. Definitely encouraging to start out the way we have."

The Eagles are only the second team in NFL history with a new head coach to win its first three games by 15 or more points. The 2007 Steelers, whose head coach Mike Tomlin was across the sideline Sunday afternoon, also did it.

But that team’s quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, was in his fourth season and had already won a Super Bowl.

This team’s quarterback was a third-stringer a month ago.

Unprecedented stuff.

Nobody saw this coming, and if they say they did, they’re lying.

The Eagles improved to 3-0 Sunday afternoon with a 34-3 shellacking of a Steelers team a lot of people expect to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, a team that hadn’t lost by 31 points in 27 years (see Instant Replay).

"We got that full head of steam," rookie tailback Wendell Smallwood said. "I think we're going to keep rolling. We're not going to sit back and get comfortable at all. We're going to keep it going and keep rolling."

The Eagles go into the bye week one of five 3-0 teams in the NFL, and the only one with a rookie coach.

They’ve outscored their three opponents by 19, 15 and 31 points. They have the hottest rookie quarterback in NFL history and a defense that hasn’t allowed a second-half touchdown.

“I’ll bet there’s a lot of new Eagles fans today,” Bradham said. “We have a lot of hardcore fans here, but I’m sure they started coming out of the woodwork all over the country when they saw our score today.”

The Eagles are 3-0 for only the ninth time in their 84-year history. They’re in first place in the NFC East and they’ve played extraordinary football on both sides of the ball (see 10 Observations).

The Browns are the Browns. The Bears are the Bears.

But a win over the Steelers? That’s legit.

“We saw this game as kind of a respect game, an offense of that caliber going against a defense like us?” safety Rodney McLeod said. “It was a matchup to see and we came out victorious. But it doesn’t end here. We’ve got a lot of work to do."

The Steelers hadn’t lost by 31 points since a 41-10 loss to the Bengals in 1989. And they had never lost by 31 points to an NFC team since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.

Unprecedented stuff.

“We still can be better,” defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. “We can grow. We’re not comfortable. That’s what I think of this team.

“Nobody is comfortable or patting themselves on the back. We know we can be better. We will go and watch the film (Monday). I’m sure there were a lot of mistakes, including myself, to correct. Everybody stays focused.”

Considering the Eagles haven’t won a playoff game since 2008, it’s easy to get carried away right now.

It’s been a seven-year drought since Donovan McNabb, Brian Dawkins and Brian Westbrook led that 2008 team to the NFC Championship Game.

Finally, some new names to be excited about. Carson Wentz. Rodney McLeod. Wendell Smallwood. 

“This is what I think everybody here fully expected,” center Jason Kelce said. “When you’ve been in the league for a while, you can tell when you have good players, a good team.

“I think, even in the offseason, I think everybody, just looking at the roster we had, I thought we were very underrated in the media’s eye, (and) honestly, it seems like our team always does better when the media doesn’t expect us to do well.

“Obviously, nobody expected Sam (Bradford) to get traded right before the season and Carson to get the start. But he deserves all the praise he’s getting. He’s been the most consistent player through these first three games. What Carson has done, in my opinion, as a rookie, has been incredible.”

Wentz is the first quarterback to go 3-0 the first three weeks of his rookie season without throwing an interception (see photo gallery).

On Sunday, he became the first rookie in NFL history to throw for 300 yards in a game, complete 74 percent of his passes and throw two or more TDs and no interceptions.

Like we said … unprecedented stuff. 

Historic stuff.

Simply unbelievable stuff.

But the defense has been just as impressive. Since giving up a touchdown in the second quarter to the Bears, the Eagles have faced 19 consecutive possessions without allowing a touchdown.

They’ve allowed a TD on only one of the last 31 drives they’ve defended.

The last time the defense gave up a second-half touchdown, Pat Shurmur was the head coach. 

“I think we still have a lot of room to grow,” cornerback Nolan Carroll said. “We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves. It’s three games, but I feel like every single week we keep improving, keep fixing our mistakes.”

The Eagles have outscored their three opponents by a combined 65 points, which is the second-largest differential in Eagles history after three games.

The 1980 team outscored its first three opponents by 88 points on the way to Super Bowl XV.

“Everyone is starting to play kind of inspired football,” Wentz said. “Everybody is believing in each other and it’s been three great team wins. The defense is playing phenomenal, the special teams are doing a great job and offensively we’re doing our part.

“I think everyone around here was confident, and we knew we had the ability, but we had to keep chopping. ‘Keep chopping away’ is a motto that we have, and we’ve done a good job of it.”

How far can chopping take them?

“Our goal is going to the Bowl and get that trophy,” Bradham said. “That’s our goal and that’s what we want to do. It’s still early. There’s a lot of football to go. And we know we have to keep fighting to get there.”

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Eagles in awe of Carson Wentz after another stunning performance

Eagles in awe of Carson Wentz after another stunning performance

Carson Wentz clearly had some 60,000 fans cheering for him during Sunday’s 34-3 drubbing of the cross-state Pittsburgh Steelers (see Instant Replay).

He had a few fans on the sideline too. 

During Sunday’s game, when the Eagles’ offense was on the field, defensive teammates couldn’t help but stop to watch the electrifying rookie. 

“I watch him all the time,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said, cracking a smile. “It’s impressive what he’s doing, man. I think everybody is waiting to see him fall off or see a bad decision or see a rookie mistake. But so far, they haven’t come. He’s been the key reason why we’re 3-0. 

“What he’s doing is great. It’s amazing. It’s something that I think he’ll downplay, but there’s no doubt about it, what he’s doing is special. I think it’s a testament to his preparation, his demeanor.”

Against the Steelers, Wentz put forth his best game of his young three-game career. He completed 23 of 31 passes for 301 yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions and had a passer rating of 125.9 (see 10 observations)

Wentz became the first NFL rookie ever to have a game with 300-plus passing yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a completion percentage above 74. He also became the third rookie in Eagles history to throw for 300-plus yards with two touchdowns in a game.

Wentz actually outperformed Pittsburgh starting quarterback and future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday. 

"I thought he played great,” Roethlisberger said. “He won the game."

What Wentz is doing is special. 

So special even his teammates on the other side of the football are taking time to notice in between preparing for their next series. 

“You find yourself hearing the crowd getting excited,” linebacker Jordan Hicks said. “You’re watching the plays and we’re jumping up and down getting excited with them. You find yourself doing those things. When the offense is doing what they’re doing and then we’re doubling back and doing what we’re doing, it’s just tough to spot.”

“Oh yeah. It feels good,” cornerback Nolan Carroll said. “It’s great for them to move the chains and Carson does a good job. He’s seasoned. It’s only his third game in the NFL but he’s seems like a vet.”

Through three games, Wentz has completed nearly 65 percent of his passes for 769 yards. He has five touchdowns and still hasn’t thrown an interception in 102 career passes.  

On Sunday against the Steelers, he continued to wow onlookers. His best feat of the night came on an off-schedule play in the third quarter. With the Eagles still just up by 10 points, Wentz rolled right and found Darren Sproles, who caught the ball and ran the rest of the way for a 73-yard touchdown pass.

“We always say, hey a play’s never dead,” Wentz said. 

It was just the 16th 73-yard-plus touchdown pass in Eagles history. 

Maybe Wentz has always been this confident in himself, but now his teammates are undoubtedly behind him. 

“He continues to blow my mind away,” receiver Josh Huff said. “The poise he has, the way he commands the huddle, all the guys listening to him. He brings a ton of energy every day, especially on game days. … The team’s with him right now and that’s one of the reasons we played so well today. We have a good quarterback … a great quarterback.”

While Philadelphia will certainly be engulfed in Wentz-mania in the coming weeks, the buzz within the locker room is palpable too. 

“I told [head coach Doug Pederson] being 10 years in, this kid is inspiring me,” tight end Brent Celek said. “He’s adding youth to my game just by the way he’s acting, being in the huddle, taking command, it’s beyond impressive. It’s great. We have to keep it going. I’m not going to sit here and say we’re the greatest team, but I’m excited with how he’s playing and he’s elevating everybody else’s play by the way he’s handling it.”

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