Early Eagles roster projection: Defense
It’s ridiculously early, but, then again, it’s never too early for a 53-man roster, right? Right? Well, here’s the first go at it. Yesterday, we looked at the offense
and today we'll be evaluating the defense and special teams. *Note: This was written before the Eagles signed safety O.J. Atogwe.
This roster is based on what I’ve seen during OTAs and minicamp. Obviously, plenty can change during training camp:LDE:
Jason Babin, Brandon Graham, Darryl Tapp LDT:
Cullen Jenkins, Derek Landri, Antonio DixonRDT:
Fletcher Cox, Mike PattersonRDE:
Trent Cole, Vinny CurryWILL:
Jamar Chaney, Brian RolleMIKE:
DeMeco Ryans, Casey MatthewsSAM:
Mychal Kendricks, Akeem Jordan LCB:
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Brandon Boykin, Brandon HughesRCB:
Nnamdi Asomugha, Joselio Hanson, Curtis MarshSS:
Nate Allen, Jaiquawn JarrettFS:
Kurt Coleman, Colt Anderson, Phillip ThomasSafety
The Eagles are still young up the middle here and Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman remain the starting safeties, much to the dismay of many Eagles fans.
The fact that Jaiquawn Jarrett, last year’s second-round pick, had trouble getting on the field last season, doesn’t look good, but after a lockout-shortened off-season cost him his first months of development, they won’t give up on him yet.
Colt Anderson is still recovering from ACL surgery, so we’ll have to see how that goes, but he should make the team if he’s healthy. He’s their best special teams player.
The last guy on the team at safety is Phillip Thomas, a rookie free agent out of Syracuse. He’s a guy who has looked good through OTAs and had a nice college career. Cornerback
Nnamdi Asomugha will be the starter on the right side and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will be the starter on the left side. And with Asante Samuel gone, you can expect those two to switch back and forth more frequently.
Joselio Hanson is the incumbent corner in the slot and he’s battling with rookie Brandon Boykin. Both should make the roster. I’d give a slight edge to Boykin to win that job.
The next corner on the outside is Curtis Marsh. He didn’t get much of a chance to play last season after getting drafted in the third round but has some talent. He’ll be ahead of Brandon Hughes.
That would leave D.J. Johnson, Trevard Lindley and Cliff Harris out of the mix. Harris couldn’t attend OTAs because he hadn’t yet graduated from Oregon. It’s possible he has a good enough camp to take a spot from somebody, but it’ll be an uphill battle.
Also, the Eagles had no problem cutting Joselio Hanson before last season only to re-sign him four days later. That was a contract issue, as they were able to bring him back for less money, but if Boykin wins the slot job, maybe they’d cut Hanson again. Linebacker
The Eagles traded for DeMeco Ryans to be the man in the middle and they drafted Mychal Kendricks to play the strongside. That’s where those two guys will start. Then, it gets a little more interesting.
Jamar Chaney and Brian Rolle will battle for the weakside position. Rolle is the starter now -- like he was at the end of last season -- but Chaney had off-season surgery and it’s possible they’re trying to slowly get him back in there. Either way, both are on the roster, so that leaves two spots open (thinking they’ll keep six linebackers).
Akeem Jordan is a really hard guy to cut because he plays smart and is a good special teams player. And, Casey Matthews was thrown into a bad situation last season and he will get another shot.
That leaves Keenan Clayton and Moise Fokou out of the mix. Fokou was once a starter; now he’s an afterthought. And, Clayton recently had sports hernia surgery, and he was on thin ice before he wasn’t able to show his stuff during OTAs. Defensive line
We’re probably looking at 10 defensive linemen on this team, which is important because they’re all going to get plenty of playing time. Jason Babin and Trent Cole are the starting ends. Cullen Jenkins and Fletcher Cox look like the two tackles. Cox is the 12th overall pick and should be ready to start after training camp.
Brandon Graham is still on the team, ready to prove he’s not a bust. Vinny Curry is a second-round pick. Mike Patterson should be ready to go for the season after brain surgery in the off-season. He still has a chance to start if the team wants to give it to him.
Derek Landri found a home last season and the team will want to see if his 2011 performance was for real. Antonio Dixon is coming back from an injury-shortened 2011 and is one of the team’s best run-stuffers.
That leaves one spot for either Phillip Hunt or Darryl Tapp. The Eagles really like Hunt, formerly of the CFL, but Tapp showed some real pass-rushing ability during the early part of last season before injuries ruined the rest of his year. I think he’ll be the guy. Special TeamsP:
The Eagles worked out Brad Maynard and brought in free agent punter Ryan Tydlacka, but the job still belongs to Chas Henry. Yeah, his 2011 season wasn’t very good, but he’s still they best they have.
Forget about the 49ers game; Alex Henery is good. In fact, he’s really good and made just about everything during OTAs and minicamp. His leg will keep getting stronger and he’ll be the Eagles’ kicker for years to come.
Jon Dorenbos is the long snapper. And he does magic. E-mail Dave Zangaro at email@example.com