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.

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

As part of their “Salute Saturday” series, the Sixers honored the 1966-67 championship team at halftime of their 107-106 loss the Celtics on Saturday.

Fifty years after winning the title, the success of the squad (which went 68-13 in the regular season) still resonates with those representing the Sixers today. After all, they are the group Wilt Chamberlain described as “the best team ever.” 

“It’s just part of the history of this city and the organization,” said Brett Brown, who has established a relationship with Billy Cunningham through practice visits and emails. “There was a toughness with that team that he personified and the city sort of reflects. It’s stuff you hear me talk about all the time how you want our team to reflect the spirit of the city. That team did it.”

Prior to their tribute ceremony, members of the team reflected on their run in which they beat the San Francisco Warriors for the title. 

On Wilt Chamberlain
“Wilt was such a dominant figure, not only as a basketball player, but he’s almost bigger than the game,” Matt Goukas said. “He played so well, he was such a good team player – he started really passing the ball right around that time --and that enabled great scorers like Hal (Greer) and Billy and Chet Walker to do their thing, and Wilt was very happy to give them that leeway.”.

On fond memories
“It was a team that we played well together and we lived as a family and that’s what made it so good for us," Greer said. "A lot of fun, a lot of fun. We missed the next year, but 68-13 is not bad at all.”

“It’s hard to forget a situation like that where we had such a terrific team and the season went so quickly, we won so many games and then of course winning a championship,” Goukas said. “As a first year player I said, ‘This is the way it’s supposed to be, I guess.’ But of course I never won another championship as a player, but we had such a terrific group of guys and true professionals that for me as a rookie, Billy Melchionni as a rookie, we really benefited from guys like Hal Greer, Wally Jones and Harry Costello, they really showed us the way.”

On team chemistry
“It was very difficult times when you look at the sixties from a social aspect,” Cunningham said. “Martin Luther King was killed the following year we won the championship. Race relationships weren’t the best. And this time, which was just about half black-half white, I’m not even sure, it was never an issue. That’s the beauty I think of being on a team you know getting to know people, you judge them as an individual and nothing more than that.”

“I think it was our coach Alex Hannum, for one (that kept the team together),” Greer said. “And of course the big guy. He held us together most of the time, he could rebound, play defense, do it all.”

Ivan Provorov buries Chicago nightmare by showing Blackhawks his true self

Ivan Provorov buries Chicago nightmare by showing Blackhawks his true self

Ivan Provorov moved on but didn’t forget.

The 19-year-old still remembers losing his footing on the United Center ice in front of 21,263 fans, alone in his own end and costing the Flyers a goal in a blowout defeat to the Blackhawks on Oct. 18.

In just his third NHL game, Provorov had his rookie moment. He also had a minus-5 rating when the 7-4 loss was all said and done.

Well, on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center, he saw the Blackhawks again and made it a point to show them his best. Provorov ripped off two goals in 31 seconds of the second period to erase a 1-0 deficit and spearhead a 3-1 win for the Flyers (see story).

Better output than last time?

Provorov laughed, paused and then laughed again.

“A little bit,” he said. “I think so.

“I was trying to use it as a positive thing. Try to prove that that’s not me, that it’s just one bad game.”

Consider that job done.

“I didn’t play my best at that game,” Provorov said. “But I put it behind me, learned from it and this was a better result tonight.”

In 31 ticks of the clock, the Russian defenseman topped his goal total through the first 25 games (see 10 observations). Provorov uncorked a slap shot and slung a wrister for the tallies early in the middle stanza.

“I think you have to keep everything in perspective from a night like that,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said of Provorov’s first game against Chicago. “He is a guy that continues to work at his game and continues to build.”

Provorov didn’t net the hat trick, but in the same period, saved a goal on the defensive end when he quickly pounced on a puck dribbling toward the goal line off and behind goalie Steve Mason.

“I came from the left corner and I saw the puck was rolling on Mase’s shoulder,” Provorov said. “It went down, rolled to the goal line. I just got there as quick as I could and swiped it out.

“I think it was close. As soon I saw the puck, I tried to get there as fast as I can.”

After experiencing some growing pains to start the season, Provorov has played better. Once he makes a mistake, he rarely makes it again.

“He’s just beyond his years in terms of maturity and the way he studies the game,” Hakstol said a little over two weeks ago. “He’s a young guy that I can probably ask him about a play that happened two weeks ago in a game and he would immediately have recall on that play. A very intelligent player, he’s handled the ups and the downs pretty well."

Mason isn't surprised by Provorov's development.

"When you come into the league at a young age, it’s not easy and you’ve got to get your feet under you," Mason said. "We’re starting to see that [with Provorov]."

And two goals in half a minute don’t hurt.

“Score one goal in a game, it’s a good feeling. Score two in one shift, it’s unbelievable,” Provorov said. “Two great plays by our forwards. The whole team, it was a great effort, we played a great hockey game, so it was easy to play.

“Every time you score, it’s like a confidence booster. For me, it’s defense first but when you get goals and assists, it’s always nice.”

The Flyers had the players’ dads on hand for Saturday’s game. Provorov’s father, Vladimir, couldn’t make it from Russia, but you can bet he tuned in.

“He watches every game back home,” Provorov said. “Today was a little easier because it’s only 9 p.m. back home when the game started, so yeah, I think my whole family watched it.”

He watches the other games at 3, 4 a.m.?

“Yeah,” Provorov said with a smile, “then he takes my brother to practice at 6.”