NFC East: Howie Roseman

Eagles focused on filling needs

May, 5, 2014
PHILADELPHIA -- With only six picks in the 2014 NFL draft, the Philadelphia Eagles will be able to bolster their roster.

They won’t be able to plug every hole.

And they’re fully aware of that fact.

“For us as a personnel staff, the elephant in the room is that you aren't going to be able to fill all of your needs,” Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said in a pre-draft discussion last week. “When you look at the Super Bowl champions over the last couple of years and you break down their team, you probably could pick some weaknesses they have. As much as we don't want that and we'd like to have 22 perfect players at each position, we understand that it's a work in progress. The roster is always going to be like that, so you have to be comfortable that we may have to go into August or September with a spot that we're continuing to look for, and I think that's a great challenge for us and our personnel staff to say that we're going to look at the wire, we're going to look at guys who are cut, but we have to stick to our board because the draft is a long-term decision for us.

"So we don't know where we're going to be in two or three years from now, so it doesn't affect the way that we stack our board, and for us, quality is going to trump quality. When you look back at successful drafts, if you can come out of it with three starters, that is a really good draft. There aren't a lot of drafts where you can come out and do that. So we still have enough picks to do that. Obviously, you'd always like to have more picks, but it is what it is at this point.”

Whether it’s their No. 22 overall pick in the first round or their final pick in the seventh round, the Eagles are continuing to do their homework.

The draft begins Thursday, which is much later than usual, and it has afforded the Eagles to scout everyone for a longer period of time.

“I think it's about the quality of the players we get,” Roseman said. “What this extra two weeks has allowed us to do is spend a lot of time on the potential priority free-agent guys and really know those guys, certainly for me, better than I've ever known guys later on the draft board. I think [I was asked] at the Playground Build [last] Monday about if our board is set and at the top of the board, it is set.

“We are playing around with [the rest of our board]. The sixth- and seventh-round guys, those are the ones we're going to get as free agents. We've never been in a draft, as long as I've been here, where we're having to go through our sixth- and seventh-round guys to find a player [to draft] in the seventh round. So, the way it works is, usually in the seventh round, we're still picking guys we have in the fourth or fifth round.

“Those are the things we're spending a lot of time on here in the last week. The top of our board is set, we haven't changed it or moved anything because you can convince yourself of anything if you spend too much time doing it.”

Adding pass-rusher not priority for Eagles

May, 3, 2014
PHILADELPHIA -- While the Philadelphia Eagles finished 10-6 and won the NFC East title in coach Chip Kelly’s rookie season, there are a number of holes to plug heading into 2014.

Addressing their ability to rush the passer is a huge concern.

Or is it?

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman indicated he was OK with standing pat in terms of pass-rushing.

But the Eagles managed only 37 sacks last season, which ranked 20th in the league. In seven of those 16 games, they had one sack or fewer.

The NFL draft opens on Thursday and the Eagles hold the No. 22 pick in the first round.

“You’re always looking to add pass-rushers,” Roseman said. “There’s no doubt about it.

“But at the same time, you don’t want to sign or draft someone that you don’t think is a good player and that you don’t think is worth the resource that you put out there, whether it’s a pick or money. Those are hard guys to find.”

Veteran Trent Cole wound up with eight sacks last season and Brandon Graham showed flashes of improvement. Connor Barwin was a solid addition as well.

Is that enough?

“Trent Cole was a 4-3 defensive end who came in his first year and had eight sacks and most of them were in the second half of the season when everyone would say, ‘Well, maybe he’s gonna start to wear down,’” Roseman said. “When you look at his production over the last couple of years versus the better pass-rushers in the NFL, it’s pretty good. I don’t think he gets enough credit for his transition into this defense and the production he had.

“And then Brandon Graham has shown he can play in a 4-3 or a 3-4. We’re always gonna be looking for those guys. Obviously we brought in Connor, who we think is a really good fit. And we have some young guys that are here in the offseason that we’re excited to see, that we almost feel like are extra draft picks.”

Eagles GM Howie Roseman talks draft

May, 2, 2014
PHILADELPHIA -- Many NFL teams have more selections in the upcoming draft than the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles have just six.

The New York Jets, for example, have 12.

But thanks to a pair of strong draft classes in 2012 and '13, the Eagles feature 13 of those 17 picks on their current roster.

So having just six picks isn't all bad.

"I'd like to have 15 (picks), but we've got to get the right guys, and I think that's the most important thing," Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said at a pre-draft gathering on Thursday. "And then you factor in some of the pre-existing guys here and some of the guys we brought into free agency, and I think if we found a guy that we thought could be a long-term, high-level starter and he was the highest guy on our board, whatever round that was, I'd still think we'd be aggressive about that, even though there would be a knot in my stomach."

The Eagles hold the No. 22 overall pick in the first round and Roseman isn't afraid of trading up if the right player remains on the board.

"We would not be concerned with that if we felt like the value of the player is right," Roseman said. "That's the name of the game. We're not going to make any move unless it's based on our board, so to sit here and know we're going to move up, move down, if we have a guy that's in the top five in our draft, and he's falling? Would we look at that? No question."

The Eagles can't possibly plug every gap in the draft. They can continue to add to their depth with quality selections.

"When you look at the Super Bowl champions over the last couple years and you break down their team, you probably could pick some weaknesses that they have," Roseman said. "And so as much as we don't want that to be and we'd like to have 22 perfect players at each position, we understand that it's a work in progress. The roster's always going to be like that, and we have to be comfortable that we may have to go into August or September with a spot that we're continuing to look for. I think that's a great challenge for us and our personnel staff to say, ‘We're going to look at the wire, we're going to look at guys who were cut, but we have to stick to our board,' because the draft is a long-term decision for us.

"So we don't know where we're going to be two or three years from now, and so it doesn't affect the way we stack our board, and for us, quality is going to trump quantity. Obviously, you'd always like to have more picks, but it is what it is at this point."

Roseman: I'm comfortable with process

April, 30, 2014
Whether the Philadelphia Eagles decide to release a star wide receiver such as DeSean Jackson or a marginal safety like Patrick Chung, it doesn't happen in a nanosecond.

Every decision takes time, according to general manager Howie Roseman.

The Eagles have been criticized for waiting so long to address the decision to release Jackson.

Roseman answered the critics Monday at the Eagles' 18th annual Playground Build.

[+] EnlargeHowie Roseman
Howard Smith/USA TODAY SportsIt remains to be seen whether Eagles GM Howie Roseman will draft a receiver with the 22nd pick.
"Everything we do is planned out and thought about," Roseman told the team's website. "We don't do anything spur of the moment. That's not how any of us roll. We're thinking about a lot of things, so every decision we make we've thought about and that's what we'll continue to do as we make free agency and draft decisions.

"I think that when you sit down after the season, you try to formulate game plans and your offseason plan, and obviously we're still two weeks out from the draft, so that hasn't totally come in to play yet. ... We're still trying to improve this team. We're still trying to get better, and we're trying to build something that lasts, and with that comes some hard decisions and we've had a couple this offseason."

How about the lack of compensation for Jackson? Is that an issue?

"I'm comfortable with the process," Roseman said. "It's never perfect here in the offseason. The plans never go exactly how you want, unfortunately, and through that we've got to look forward and look towards what we're trying to do here and what we're trying to build. Again, we're not trying to build something for one year, we're trying to be a good football team over a period of time, and with that, we're trying to put pieces of the puzzle together, and unfortunately when you are managing a team in the NFL and the amount of resources that you get in terms of salary cap and the players who come up in terms of contracts, you have to make decisions and you have to figure out how you're trying to build the team and where you are going to put resources. Our offseason is part of that.

There's no guarantee that the Eagles will select a wide receiver with the No. 22 overall pick in the first round of the NFL draft next month. They'll look at all of their options.

"Obviously you have to factor in the talent in the draft," Roseman said. "We will not be in a situation in this draft where we're going to force something. We're going to go by our board and I think we're fortunate, I've said it a couple of times, that when you look at the wide receiver position in this draft, it's unique. It's unique as you look back at draft classes. I think we'll be in every round and there will be a draft prospect that we look at and we'll say, 'Man, that guy's still on the board.' I think that's exciting."

Eagles: Expectations are high for Maclin

April, 7, 2014
So much talk has centered around the loss of DeSean Jackson that it has been easy to forget about the return of another wide receiver.

The Philadelphia Eagles recently signed Jeremy Maclin to a one-year deal. Maclin missed all of last season with a torn ACL in his right knee.

From 2009-12, Maclin caught 258 passes for 3,453 yards and 26 touchdowns. Maclin, 25, has never had less than 56 catches in a single season.

Maclin is dependable and consistently grabs passes across the middle. The biggest hurdle for Maclin will be overcoming the ACL injury and having the confidence to take those hard hits on a daily basis.

Maclin, the Eagles' first-round pick from Missouri in 2009, suffered the injury at the beginning of training camp last year.

“I’m excited to see Jeremy play in our offense,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly told “You saw the potential of that in the spring and summer, but obviously he didn't get an opportunity last year. However, what was great to see was how he was literally here every single day since being injured. You can see he has a passion for the game of football. When he was on the field last spring and summer, you saw his intelligence, you saw his great route-running ability and you saw how tough of a one-on-one matchup he could be.”

Maclin recently said he wasn't sure if he would be cleared in time for organized team activities that begin April 21. But he expects to be ready for the start of training camp in late July.

If Maclin can play like he did from 2009-12, the Eagles will have another threat on offense. Maybe not the deep threat like Jackson, but a stellar wide receiver nonetheless who has put up big numbers in the past.

“I would say our expectations are he's going to be a really good player for us this year," Eagles general manager Howie Roseman told "He has the traits we look for at the receiver position. It's no secret that we thought he was going to have a big year, and he had an unfortunate injury. That's our expectation. He adds another dynamic threat to our offense.”

It will be the first chance for Maclin in playing under Kelly. Judging by how the Eagles' offense fared last season, it's safe to assume Maclin will have a chance to shine.

Analyzing Kiper Grade A draft: Eagles 

April, 3, 2014
The Philadelphia Eagles were active in keeping their own players, such as Jeremy Maclin, Jason Kelce and Riley Cooper. They were active in signing free agents, such as safety Malcolm Jenkins, and trading for running back Darren Sproles.

But the biggest move was cutting wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who stayed in the NFC East by signing with the Washington Redskins.

In ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper's Grade A draft, he plays general manager for the Eagles, not Howie Roseman or Chip Kelly. What would Mel do as GM?

Find out here. Insider

PHILADELPHIA -- With the Eagles' personnel and coaching staffs working side by side in Mobile, Ala., for this week's Senior Bowl, the eternal question of final say is worth contemplating.

[+] EnlargeAndy Reid
AP Photo/Julio CortezRegardless of who has final say on Eagles personnel decisions, playing time has ultimately been up to coaches such as Andy Reid and Chip Kelly.
The Eagles have long chosen to present their personnel decisions as "Eagles" decisions -- without delineating who, exactly, makes the final call on draft picks and free-agent signings. That has led to some serious issues: the claim that Andy Reid demanded final say two years ago (a decade after he was granted final say), or owner Jeff Lurie's declaration that general manager Howie Roseman was blameless for all drafts before 2012 (while Roseman, to his credit, accepted his share of responsibility for the Danny Watkins pick, among others).

Roseman talked to some of the reporters covering the Senior Bowl practices this week. He described the process a little bit. His personnel staff works full time to evaluate college players all fall. By the time the offseason arrives, the personnel staff has whittled down the number of potential prospects for the coaching staff to consider.

"Our first job as a personnel department is to try and narrow it down," Roseman said, according to "We spend a lot of time on 600 guys, making it down to 400, making it down to 200, making it down to a manageable number for our coaches."

Head coach Chip Kelly said last year that he doesn't consider himself a personnel guy. He's a coach. But Kelly does know what he wants in the players who will run his offensive and defensive schemes, and it's vital for Roseman and the personnel people to be on the same page with Kelly and his staff.

"He's always going to be a part of the process and that's the partnership that you have with your head coach," Roseman said. "You want to make sure that you're putting in front of him players that fit what he's looking for and that he can evaluate them as well."

As for final say, I think it's seldom as big a deal as it appears on the outside. After months of evaluations and discussion, the draft board really is a collaboration between the personnel staff and the coaches. It has to be. Roseman has no incentive to force a player he likes on a coach who doesn't want him. Ultimately, the coaches decide who is on the 53-man roster, who is active on Sundays and who is on the field and on the sideline.

Here's an example: I was told years ago that Reid preferred offensive lineman John Welbourn in the 1999 draft while personnel man Tom Modrak really liked Doug Brzezinski. The point being made to me was that Welbourn had a longer career, therefore Reid made a better evaluation.

But Reid was the coach. He decided which player was on the field more. He determined whether a mistake was proof a guy was overmatched or merely part of the developmental process. That's not an indictment of Reid, either. This is what goes on with every coach and every player on every team.

The point is, winning organizations develop a cohesive way for the personnel side and the coaching staff to collaborate. Assigning blame and pointing fingers result when things go wrong.
It was just a passing comment by Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman, but it caught my ear. Maybe because it echoes something that I’ve written about quite a bit over the past few years -- defense is dead in the NFL.

First, the comment. The question was about whether the Eagles have enough talent and depth on defense to win in Chip Kelly’s first season.

“It’s funny,” Roseman said. “I go back and think about how much respect you have for the San Francisco 49ers and their defense. Then you look at the playoffs and it’s a league where teams are scoring a lot of points.”

The Niners had the No. 3 ranked defense based on yardage allowed (294.4) in the regular season last year. They were fourth against the pass (200.2) and fourth against the run (94.2). They allowed just 17.1 points per game, second lowest in the NFL.

In three postseason games, the Niners allowed 29.6 points and 398.7 total yards per game. That’s two touchdowns and over 100 more yards.

Roseman wasn’t criticizing the 49ers, who are in the mix to return to the Super Bowl this season. He was simply pointing out that the formula for NFL success has changed radically. There’s a reason the Eagles hired Oregon’s offensive innovator, Chip Kelly, over Seattle’s defensive mind, Gus Bradley.

You can’t ignore defense entirely, of course. That isn’t the point, either. But the Eagles believe Kelly can unleash an offense that will run 75 plays per game, wear opponents down with its fast pace and put up a lot of points. The defense is obviously well behind on the development curve, but in the NFL in 2013, that is much better than the other way around.

What the Eagles do need from their defense is the occasional big play: a defensive touchdown here, a short field thanks to a turnover there. New England gave up almost 400 yards a game in the regular season, but created 41 turnovers. The Giants surrendered 383.4 yards, but forced 35 turnovers.

The Eagles? They intercepted just eight passes and recovered five opponent fumbles.

So there is plenty of room for improvement without reaching the heights of the 1991 Eagles or 2000 Ravens. These Eagles are a long way from that. But if they can just make some progress there, the hope is that the offense can pull the defense along.
PHILADELPHIA -- Danny Watkins never showed the mean streak that caught the eye of the Philadelphia Eagles. Why? General manager Howie Roseman said he thought Watkins succumbed to the pressure of being a first-round draft choice in a demanding sports city.

“When you watched Danny play, the toughness and the hockey-playing aspect of him never translated to Philadelphia,” Roseman said Saturday, a few hours after releasing Watkins. “When you watched him at Baylor and when you watched him at the Senior Bowl, there was an innate toughness about him. You felt like you were getting an enforcer.”

It’s ironic, because those precise qualities are prized by Philadelphia fans. Instead of winning hearts and minds, Watkins had fans, coaches and Roseman scratching their heads. He was a 26-year-old rookie, a former firefighter from British Columbia, and he seemed lost from the beginning.

“He never let himself go here,” Roseman said. “I don’t know why that was. I told him that was one of the things I was so confused by. It all goes back to the pressure he put on himself here. At the end of the day, for him to have success in this league, we felt he had to have a fresh start.”

That 2011 draft has turned out to be disastrous for the Eagles. Watkins is a bust. Second-round pick Jaiquawn Jarrett, a safety from Temple, was cut last year and is now starting for the New York Jets. Only two players, center Jason Kelce and kicker Alex Henery, from that class are in the Eagles’ starting lineup.

The 2010 draft wasn’t much better. First-round pick Brandon Graham is a backup trying to make the move from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker. Second-round safety Nate Allen appears to have survived a challenge to hold onto his starting job. Riley Cooper and Kurt Coleman are the only other players from that class on the roster.

When he fired head coach Andy Reid after 2012 season, owner Jeff Lurie made a point of absolving Roseman for those drafts. To his credit, Roseman seized the opportunity to change the way the Eagles do business. That included adding veteran personnel men Tom Gamble, Rick Mueller and Tom Donahoe to his staff.

“We’ve been able to evaluate ourselves and make some substantial changes in how we do things,” Roseman said. “We’ve changed a lot of people in our personnel department. We’ve changed the way we look at things because we have new people in place.”
Most significant move. It’s always eye-catching when a team gives up on a first-round draft pick after just two seasons, but guard Danny Watkins had become irrelevant long before being released Saturday. So the departure of the former firefighter means less on the field than it means symbolically.

It was decisions like drafting Watkins, who was already 26 and had been playing football for just four years, that led to the Eagles’ sharp decline in Andy Reid’s final two seasons. Reid crowed that he had a stud who could step right in and dominate at right guard. After 30 months and 18 starts, Watkins is gone.

Versatility is the key. Head coach Chip Kelly and GM Howie Roseman placed a heavy emphasis on versatility in making decisions, especially at the back end of the roster.

Linebacker Casey Matthews, who plays on all four special-teams units, stayed instead of Chris McCoy, who had a good preseason. Tight end Emil Igwenagu, a strong point-of-attack blocker, beat out Clay Harbor, whose skills were similar to the other tight ends. Wide receiver Jeff Maehl, a high school safety, beat out Greg Salas and Russell Shepard because he’s a tougher special-teams guy.

“We were looking for different skill sets, especially at the back of the roster,” Roseman said. “We felt there was room for some role players on our team.”

What’s next. The Eagles have the No. 4 spot when it comes to being awarded waiver claims. Roseman plans to take advantage of that in order to fill some holes that remain on the roster.

“Sometimes that’s hard to do at this time of year,” Roseman said. “[Jaguars GM] Dave Caldwell’s probably thinking the same thing two spots ahead of us on the wire. We have a draft board set up. We spent an inordinate amount of time on guys we thought would be on the bubble.”

The most pressing needs are in the defensive secondary, where the Eagles are thin at cornerback and simply unimpressive at safety, and at linebacker. There were only three outside linebackers on the roster as of the 6 p.m. deadline.

The cuts:

QB: Dennis Dixon, G.J. Kinne. RB: Matthew Tucker. WR: Greg Salas, Russell Shepard, Ifeanyi Momah, Will Kelly. TE: Clay Harbor. OL: Danny Watkins, Dallas Reynolds, Matt Tennant, Matt Kopa. DL: Antonio Dixon, David King. LB: Chris McCoy, Travis Long, Everette Brown, Adrian Robinson. DB: Trevard Lindley (injured), David Sims. Placed DE Joe Kruger (shoulder) on IR.
It started on the bus ride from the Meadowlands to South Philadelphia. Chip Kelly started watching tape of the just-concluded preseason finale, a 27-20 loss to the New York Jets, in preparation for a full slate of meetings Friday.

Kelly will sit down with his Philadelphia Eagles coaches and with general manager Howie Roseman and the personnel staff. By the end of the day, they should know which 22 players will be released to reach the final 53-man roster limit by Saturday at 6 p.m. ET.

This game will be but a small part of the evaluation process. A total of 22 players didn’t even dress; they are the starters held out to avoid injury risk. If anything, this game will serve as a tie-breaker for a few spots at the bottom of the roster.

“It gives us another opportunity to evaluate,” Kelly said. “Some guys are in situations where we haven’t got a ton of snaps for them. Some of those guys played an entire game tonight.”

For those on the outside of the meeting rooms, the game and Kelly’s comments offered a few insights into where some of those competitions stand:
  • Matt Tobin, an undrafted rookie out of Iowa, has a better chance of making the team than former first-round pick Danny Watkins. Kelly played Tobin nearly the entire game at left tackle and praised him for having a strong summer.

Watkins? “Danny’s competing like the rest of those guys,” Kelly said. “There’s always some good out of Danny, but there’s always some mistakes out of Danny.”
  • Emmanuel Acho made a very compelling case to be the first linebacker off the bench. He and Jake Knott thoroughly outplayed veteran Casey Matthews, in this game and throughout the preseason.
  • Chris McCoy is probably the second-most-complete outside linebacker on the team after Connor Barwin. Brandon Graham and Trent Cole continue the transition from defensive end and struggle with the pass-coverage aspect of the job. McCoy looked very good in a starting role.
  • Outside linebacker Everette Brown could sneak onto the roster. He recorded a sack for the second week in a row. Kelly volunteered his name when listing defensive players who stood out.
  • [+] EnlargeChris McCoy
    AP Photo/Bill KostrounLinebacker Chris McCoy (94) turned in a solid performance as a starter in Thursday's finale.
    Nobody really seems interested in claiming the open starting-safety job. Nate Allen, the incumbent, managed exactly one tackle. Rookie Earl Wolff had three. Neither did what McCoy, Acho and Brown did -- make a big play or two in their final opportunities to stake a claim.

So with all that, here’s a somewhat educated guess on how the 53-man roster will look Saturday at 6 p.m. Expect a couple of changes in the next days as Roseman and his staff look for help on the waiver wire.


Quarterbacks (3): Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley. No explanation necessary here.

Running backs (3): LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk. It’s a high-attrition position, so it wouldn’t shock me to see Matthew Tucker stick and Kelly go light elsewhere.

Tight ends (3): Brent Celek, James Casey, Zach Ertz. If Casey’s hamstring injury is a problem, Clay Harbor could wind up back in the TE meeting room.

Wide receivers (6): DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper, Jason Avant, Damaris Johnson, Greg Salas, Russell Shepard. That might be a little high, but Kelly likes to have a lot of options.

Offensive line (10): Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, Lane Johnson, Allen Barbre, Matt Tobin, Julian Vandervelde, Dennis Kelly, Matt Tennant. Could Watkins edge out Tennant? Sure, but I see Eagles cutting another tie to the Andy Reid era.


Defensive line (7): Fletcher Cox, Isaac Sopoaga, Cedric Thornton, Bennie Logan, Vinny Curry, Damion Square, Clifton Geathers. Went with Geathers over Antonio Dixon, but could go either way.

Linebackers (8): Connor Barwin, Mychal Kendricks, DeMeco Ryans, Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, Chris McCoy, Jake Knott, Emmanuel Acho. It was hard to leave Everette Brown off. It wouldn’t be a shock if Eagles went heavy here: Linebackers make key special-teamers.

Defensive backs (9): Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Jordan Poyer, Patrick Chung, Nate Allen, Earl Wolff, Kurt Coleman, Brandon Hughes. This group is subject to the most change after deadline.

Specialists (3): K Alex Henery, P Donnie Jones, LS Jon Dorenbos.
PHILADELPHIA -- Chip Kelly had some interesting things to say this morning about finalizing his first NFL roster. Some highlights:

*Kelly has final say on the 53-man roster. This was always a subject of speculation during Andy Reid’s 13-year tenure, largely because the Eagles were vague about their process for selecting and evaluating personnel. Kelly couldn’t have been more direct when asked if he had final say.

“Yeah,” Kelly said.

He added that he and general manager Howie Roseman are “on the same page. There hasn’t been a decision that’s been made personnel-wise since I’ve been here that I’ve felt one way and he’s felt the other way. We’ve never had a situation where ... two guys are standing on a soapbox.

“I think he sees big picture and I see big picture.”

*At Oregon, Kelly didn’t have to cut his roster to 53 or decide which 46 players to dress on game days. He did have to decide on reduced numbers for road games, however, and said the same principles apply.

“It’s part of the same thing,” Kelly said. “You still have to look at what guys can be more versatile. I think versatility is the key. You have travel rosters in college. You can only bring X amount of guys to a game. It’s the same thing: Why are we bringing the fourth running back if he doesn’t contribute on special teams when the sixth receiver does contribute on special teams?”

*It follows, then, that versatility will go a long way toward final decisions on the 53-man roster, which must be made by Saturday at 6 p.m. The Eagles will not play their starters Thursday night against the Jets, but Kelly called it a “huge game” for sorting out those final roster spots.

“A lot is up in the air right now,” Kelly said.

His starting five offensive linemen are set, but Kelly will keep four or five reserves. The advantage of playing multiple positions, as Allen Barbre does, could hurt former first-round pick Danny Watkins’ chances to make the team. Watkins only plays guard. One wild card: backup guard/tackle Dennis Kelly is still not recovered from back surgery. Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Kelly will likely be unavailable for the first two regular-season games.

Another big factor on offense: How does Kelly break down his skill-position players? Clay Harbor could be both a wide receiver and a tight end. If Kelly keeps four backs, Matthew Tucker could sneak onto the roster.

On defense, the switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 means keeping more linebackers than usual. Kelly said the ideal would be “two deep,” or eight LBs, but special teams and versatility could be deciding factors there, as well.

“When you’re not the starter,” Kelly said, “versatility becomes a huge thing. He may be at his position but he also plays on four special teams, so that’s almost like four starting spots.”

*One other thing seems certain. All 53 men who will be on the roster for opening night at Washington aren’t here yet. Kelly said Roseman was working on moves before Tuesday’s cut to 75. The GM will certainly be looking to add help in the defensive backfield and possibly at linebacker.
Is it impossible to find two competent NFL safeties? The Philadelphia Eagles certainly have made it look that way over the past few years.

The release of Kenny Phillips Sunday afternoon, as first reported by Pro Football Talk, continued a sorry trend that began with the departure of the beloved Brian Dawkins after the 2008 season. A team that once prided itself on dominating safeties -- from Bill Bradley and Randy Logan through Wes Hopkins and Andre Waters to Dawkins and Michael Lewis -- just cannot seem to find anyone to play the position.

The roll call is depressing to Eagles fans: Marlin Jackson, O.J. Atogwe, Sean Jones, Macho Harris, Jarrad Page, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman.

The latter two started last year in a secondary that surrendered a league-high 33 touchdown passes. General manager Howie Roseman flipped the secondary after the season, parting ways with corners Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and signing four veteran DBs.

Three of them -- safety Patrick Chung and corners Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher -- started Saturday night in Jacksonville and appear to be the starters going into the regular season.

The fourth was Phillips, who had a history of knee trouble. He was unable to play Saturday because of a quad injury. Like Jackson and Atogwe, he was a known injury risk that backfired on the Eagles.

That leaves Allen, who managed to play in 15 games (13 starts) last season without recording an interception, a sack or forcing a fumble. In three seasons, Allen has two sacks and five interceptions -- which would have been a good month for Dawkins.

Rookie Earl Wolff, a fifth-round pick, rotated in with the first team. But he and Chung were embarrassed on a 63-yard touchdown run by Jacksonville’s Jordan Todman.

With Phillips gone, Roseman has few options on the roster. He can scan the waiver wire this week, as teams cut their rosters to 75 by Tuesday and to the final 53 by Saturday.

Or he can attempt a more ambitious solution. Eagles fans are already clamoring for Jairus Byrd, the two-time Pro Bowler who just signed his franchise tender in Buffalo. If the Bills decide to shop the unhappy safety, Roseman should at least consider it.

Byrd and Chung played together at Oregon, where a guy named Chip Kelly was the offensive coordinator.

With the release of Phillips and linebacker Jamar Chaney, who tweeted about being waived, the Eagles' roster was down to 76. It must be at 75 by Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET.
PHILADELPHIA – Only the strong (safety) survived.

That’s been the case so far, as the overhaul of the Eagles’ dreadful 2012 secondary remains incomplete. Strong safety Nate Allen could be the sole survivor.

“Nate's a phenomenal athlete and good football player,” defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “Nobody works harder at it than Nate. The first game he struggled a little bit, and second game, he played well.”

Allen, drafted with a pick acquired in the Donovan McNabb trade, figured to be swept out with the rest of the starting defensive backfield. That group gave up a league-high 33 touchdowns, more than two per game, and wasn’t exactly a model of stout run defense.

The starting cornerbacks are gone. Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had become symbols of the 2011 “Dream Team” debacle. They were even less effective last season. Asomugha was released. Rodgers-Cromartie walked in free agency.

General manager Howie Roseman signed Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher to replace them.

[+] EnlargeNate Allen
Howard Smith/USA TODAY SportThough he hasn't exactly overwhelmed during camp, safety Nate Allen could be close to cementing a place in the Eagles' secondary.
Free safety Kurt Coleman is still in camp, but has been displaced on the depth chart by Patrick Chung. Roseman signed Chung in the same offseason spree that netted Williams, Fletcher and safety Kenny Phillips.

That’s where the overhaul remains incomplete. Injuries have kept Phillips from establishing himself. He missed the second preseason game, against Carolina, with a strained quadriceps. He was riding an exercise bike instead of practicing Wednesday.

Meanwhile, fifth-round pick Earl Wolff has not yet been able to slip into the starting lineup. That leaves Allen, who has been an underwhelming presence, as the No. 1 strong safety for Saturday’s preseason game in Jacksonville, Fla.

“This is a big preseason game for us,” Davis said. “In the evaluation process, every game weighs a little heavier than the practices, obviously, because of the speed at which you play and the tackles and all that. But this is a big preseason game to help us determine who the starters will be and the back ups.”

Davis said Allen and Chung will start for the third week in a row, but he plans to rotate other candidates in with the first team.

“There is still a good competition going on there,” Davis said. “We'll try to get everybody some plays. Probably roll some of the other safeties in the first half. So it's not in stone. We really want to get a good look at all the guys and see where we are at the end of the three preseason games that we play.”

If Phillips isn’t able to play, there won’t be much time left for him to make a run at the starting job. That could leave Allen, thought to be targeted for replacement, as the only secondary survivor from last year’s wreckage.

“I need to have a great game,” Allen said. “No mental errors, just go out there and make plays. That’s the same every day. Even out here in practice, you have to go out and play your game -- no mental errors, nobody getting behind you. Whether I’m running with the ones or the twos or the threes, I’m just going out there and working.”
Wide receiver Riley Cooper returned to Philadelphia Eagles practice Tuesday, just four days after the team announced he was taking time away to seek counseling after a video surfaced last week of him using a racist epithet at a concert. He practiced with the team against the New England Patriots, spoke to reporters after practice and talked to each of his teammates individually as part of his continued effort to make amends.

"I told them, 'I don't want you to forgive me, because that puts the burden on you, and I want it all on me,'" Cooper said.

Cooper and his teammates are handling this ugly and difficult situation as well as it can be handled, and the main conclusion to be drawn from Tuesday's events is a relatively simple one: The Eagles very much want Cooper to be on their team.

As I've said a few times, I don't get what's so special about Cooper as a player that warrants this headache. He doesn't seem perceptibly better than the other replacement-level receivers they have on the roster, even with starter Jeremy Maclin out for the season with a torn ACL. Somebody suggested in our chat Tuesday that they like him for his blocking, but Pro Football Focus ranked him the 53rd-best blocker last year among wide receivers who played at least 25 percent of their teams' snaps, so I don't see how it's that.

But it's not my team. It's Chip Kelly's and Howie Roseman's and above all else Jeffrey Lurie's. And those guys have decided that Cooper is important enough to their 2013 chances that they need him around and the best thing for them is to work through the current issues and reach a point at which Cooper can play with and for the Eagles. If they didn't think that, he'd likely be gone. They surely have enough volume at the position to compensate for his loss. But there's something about Cooper the player that the Eagles like, and for that reason I would expect to see him a lot in Kelly's offense at least early in this season.