Philadelphia Eagles: Clay Harbor

The Philadelphia Eagles’ waiver-wire spree didn’t really materialize Sunday. The team was awarded just one player, former Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Shaun Prater.

One possible reason for the relatively light activity: The Jacksonville Jaguars, who are two spots higher than the Eagles on waiver claims, were awarded a stunning seven players. That included two players, DE/LB Chris McCoy and TE Clay Harbor, who were released by the Eagles.

Prater is 5-foot-10, 190 pounds. A fifth-round pick out of Iowa last year, Prater spent his rookie season on injured reserve with patellar tendinitis. He is not expected to be a factor right away. The Eagles will roll with Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher (who played with Prater at Iowa) outside and Brandon Boykin in the slot.

But at least Prater can practice and play. To make room for him, the Eagles released Curtis Marsh, another member of their disastrous 2011 draft class. Marsh had surgery on his broken hand last month and was not available for the last two preseason games.

A couple of other roster-related notes:
  • The Eagles signed four players to their practice squad, all of whom were released over the weekend: OT Michael Bamiro, RB Matthew Tucker, WR Greg Salas and LB Travis Long. They have four more spots to fill.
  • Didn’t do too poorly on my projected 53-man roster, which was posted Friday morning. I had 48 players right. And where I was incorrect, I might have been right in a couple of spots where the Eagles turn out to be wrong.I had McCoy staying and Casey Matthews going. We’ll see how that one turns out.

    I had Salas and Russell Shepard among six wide receivers. The Eagles kept five, including Jeff Maehl. That’s two Oregon guys who made the team that I didn’t expect.

    I thought they’d keep 10 offensive linemen, including Matt Tennant. They went light there, cutting Tennant, and kept one more tight end than I expected: Emil Igwenagu.

    Finally, they kept two more DBs than I expected. One was Colt Anderson, who will play only on special teams. The other was Marsh, who was released today. So maybe I had 4.5 players wrong.
  • Roseman made two trades involving a running back for a linebacker. He got Emmanuel Acho, who made the team, for Dion Lewis, who is on IR in Cleveland. And he got Adrian Robinson, who was cut Friday, for Felix Jones, who made the Steelers roster.
  • The Eagles were off today and have some conditioning work scheduled for Monday. They’ll be off again Tuesday. The practice week for Monday night’s game at Washington begins in earnest on Wednesday.
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.

Few surprises as Eagles cut to 53

August, 31, 2013
8/31/13
4:35
PM ET
The Philadelphia Eagles got their roster down to 53 with nine more cuts Saturday. The most notable, of course, was former first-round pick Danny Watkins. A few others were more surprising.

Wide receivers Greg Salas and Russell Shepard both had very good training camps. With so many injuries at the position, including projected starter Jeremy Maclin, they looked like candidates to make the team. Both were released. That means Jeff Maehl, who played for coach Chip Kelly at Oregon, made the 53-man roster. Clay Harbor, the tight end who attempted a midsummer conversion to wideout, was also released.

Outside linebacker Chris McCoy, who stood out in Thursday's preseason finale against the Jets, was cut. Emmanuel Acho made the team, as did reserve inside linebacker Casey Matthews. Another linebacker, Travis Long, was cut.

While running back Matthew Tucker looked very good all summer, the Eagles kept just three backs. Tucker, Shepard and tackle Michael Bamiro, a 6-foot-8 behemoth, could all wind up on the practice squad.

The 53-man roster looks like this, pending late additions via trade or the waiver wire:

Quarterbacks (3): Matt Barkley, Nick Foles, Michael Vick

Running backs (3): Bryce Brown, LeSean McCoy, Chris Polk

Wide receivers (5): Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, DeSean Jackson, Damaris Johnson, Jeff Maehl

Tight ends (4): James Casey, Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, Emil Igwenagu

Offensive Line (9): Allen Barbre, Todd Herremans, Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce, Dennis Kelly, Evan Mathis, Jason Peters, Matt Tobin, Julian Vandervelde

Defensive line (7): Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry, Clifton Geathers, Bennie Logan, Isaac Sopoaga, Damion Square, Cedric Thornton

Linebackers (8): Emmanuel Acho, Connor Barwin, Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, Mychal Kendricks, Jake Knott, Casey Matthews, DeMeco Ryans

Defensive Backs (11): Nate Allen, Colt Anderson, Brandon Boykin, Patrick Chung, Kurt Coleman, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Hughes, Curtis Marsh, Jordan Poyer, Cary Williams, Earl Wolff

Specialists (3): Jon Dorenbos, Alex Henery, Donnie Jones
The release of Danny Watkins says nearly as much about the Philadelphia Eagles as it does Watkins himself.

With the hiring of Chip Kelly, there is no more need to rationalize the mistakes of the Andy Reid era. Watkins, fairly or otherwise, became symbolic of that era’s final unraveling.

His release wasn’t even surprising. The only eyebrows raised Saturday were at the departures of wide receiver Russell Shepard and tight end/receiver Clay Harbor. They both had better preseasons than Watkins. The Eagles also released safety David Sims and offensive tackle Michael Bamiro.

The Eagles were a playoff team in 2010. Going into the 2011 draft, they were looking to fill a few key needs in order to remain a perennial contender. With the 23rd pick, they took Watkins, a guard from Baylor with an unusual backstory: A Canadian, Watkins didn’t start playing football until he was 22 years old. He was a 26-year-old rookie.

The Eagles went 8-8 in 2011. They went 4-12 last year. Reid was fired. Kelly was hired.

Of the 11 players taken in that draft, just 30 months ago, only center Jason Kelce and kicker Alex Henery are in the starting lineup. Fifth-round pick Julian Vandervelde, who was released last year and re-signed, is the backup center.

Second-round pick Jaiquawn Jarrett is long gone. He started at safety for the Jets Thursday night. Third-round cornerback Curtis Marsh and fourth-round linebacker Casey Matthews are on the bubble and could be gone by opening day.

Watkins started 12 games as an overmatched rookie. He started six games last season. He never clicked with Howard Mudd, the coach Reid brought in to revamp the offensive line’s approach. With Kelly and new line coach Jeff Stoutland, Watkins was pretty much a non-entity all summer.

Now he’s gone and, with him, so is another reminder of what went wrong under Reid.

As for other known cuts:

Harbor became endangered in May, when Kelly asked him to work out at linebacker during OTAs. He moved back to tight end, then started taking reps at wide receiver early in camp.

Shepard got a really close look this summer. He seemed like a good bet to make the 53-man roster.

The 6-foot-8, 340-pound Bamiro was not eligible for the draft. The Eagles signed him in July. With his size and natural ability, he will almost certainly be on the practice squad if he clears waivers.

Sims started one game at safety last season. He never really became a factor in what turned out to be a lackluster competition for a starting job.
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.

Jones
Kelly
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.

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