Philadelphia Eagles Training Camp: Depth Chart Predictions
Philadelphia Eagles Training Camp: Depth Chart Predictions
In one short month, players, coaches, support personnel and the lucky few chosen fans will flock to the Novacare Complex in South Philadelphia for Chip Kelly's first training camp as an NFL head coach.
As if the ambush and influx of foreign satellite trucks and even larger-than-usual media contingent filling the Philadelphia Eagles headquarters to the brim during optional team activities wasn't enough of an indication that all eyes will be on this team in Kelly's first season, then the lack of a depth chart will simply provide even more reason to observe this team's preparation for the season under a microscope.
Kelly has gone on record several times this spring to say that nothing is set in stone and the competition on the field will dictate playing time once the regular season rolls around.
Nowhere is this philosophy more prevalent than at quarterback.
“We’re not going to make any rash decisions on any position or anything like that,” Kelly explained during minicamp earlier this month. “We haven’t even put the pads on yet. When you put the big boy pads on and get out there hitting, there are a lot of times where a guy can come out of nowhere and surprise you.”
It will be during the dog days of July and August in South Philadelphia, where a quarterback will likely be chosen, the secondary finalized and the front seven as set in stone as a hybrid front can possibly be.
Given the nearly complete open-ended depth chart, here is a look at what the Eagles depth chart may look like when the team kicks off the regular season on September 9.
No position battle in Philadelphia and few across the NFL will garner as much attention as the Eagles race to see who Kelly names this team's starting quarterback.
In Michael Vick, Nick Foles and Matt Barkley, and Dennis Dixon, Kelly has four very different quarterbacks on his hands, and has said all along that he intends to tailor his offense to the strengths of his players rather than vice versa.
Yes, the Eagles restructured Vick's contract this offseason, but the 33-year old quarterback took a $5 million pay cut to return to Philadelphia where he is now being forced to fight for the starting job, and with it a roster bonus which pays him $3.5 million, bringing his total salary in 2013 to $7 million if he is on the roster opening day. However, a strong argument can be made that the Birds hedged their bets and brought Vick in to allow Kelly not only to kick the tires on one of the more athletic signal callers in the league, but also time to evaluate the other quarterbacks on his roster, with Vick as a viable candidate for the starting job if the others falter.
It is that exact scenario that has played out this spring in OTA's and the team's mandatory minicamp at the Novacare Complex. Foles has taken a majority of the snaps on some days, and the practice reps have been evenly split on others, which gives further credence that this job is entirely wide open. There are now doubts, especially after Vick's comments earlier this month that he would like a starter to be named before training camp begins, that the 10-year veteran may not even make the opening day roster.
Kelly has praised Foles since the day he was hired and drafted Matt Barkley, and given the tempered expectations for this season, it could very well be the most prudent strategy to allow the young guns to have an opportunity to showcase themselves this season while laying the foundation for the future — one that Vick clearly does not fit into long term.
1. Nick Foles
2. Matt Barkley
3. Dennis Dixon
Running back is one of the very few positions on this roster that appear to be cemented in stone.
LeSean McCoy has emerged in recent years as one of the preeminent running backs in the league. Last season, the finished with 200 carries for 840 yards and two touchdowns, but also missed four games after suffering a concussion in the waning moments of a 31-6 loss to the Washington Redskins on November 18.
This season, playing in Kelly's run oriented scheme, it would not be shocking to see McCoy post a season where he finishes with nearly 1,200 rushing yards and 800 receiving yards, as he clearly is the focal point of the Eagles offensive attack.
Behind McCoy, Philadelphia has the luxury of second-year running back Bryce Brown, who posted 564 rushing yards and four touchdowns while making just four starts after being the team's seventh-round draft choice last year and winning a roster spot in training camp. The Kansas State product finished 2012 with a paltry 4.9 yards per carry average and could see an increased role this season.
1. LeSean McCoy
2. Bryce Brown
3. Felix Jones
4. Chris Polk
This could very well be the last ride for DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin in Philadelphia.
Maclin, barring a preseason contract extension, is in the final year of his deal, and Jackson's contract is structured in a way that allows the Eagles to walk away from the former second-round pick prior to his salary escalating from $4 million in 2013 to $10 million in 2014.
Making matters more uncertain for Jackson is the fact that Kelly's scheme places a premium on receivers blocking in the run game, which has never been the 26-year old's strong suit.
Jackson has much to prove, after finishing 2012 with 700 receiving yards and two touchdowns while not posting a 1,00 yard season since 2010.
Meanwhile, Maclin has yet to cross the 1,000-yard threshold and is coming off a season in which he hauled in 69 catches for 857 yards and seven touchdowns. He likely will line up on opening day as the team's top receiver.
Where this position gets interesting is in the depth behind Maclin and Jackson. Veteran Jason Avant is assured of nothing, while Arrelious Benn and rookie Russell Shephard will be given every chance to win a roster spot as well.
1. Jeremy Maclin
2. DeSean Jackson
3. Jason Avant
4. Arrelious Benn
5. Riley Cooper
6. Damaris Johnson
Brent Celek was one of the veteran stalwarts of the Andy Reid regime in Philadelphia.
However, like many veterans on this team, Celek is learning that he must sing for his supper under new head coach Chip Kelly. After the team signed James Casey in free agency and selected Zach Ertz with the 35th overall choice in April's NFL Draft, it could be an uphill climb for Celek to remain this team's top tight end in the long run.
Kelly's affinity for the tight end position has never been a question, and in all likelihood, the team will keep four and there will likely be many three tight end sets on offense this season.
1. Brent Celek
2. James Casey
3. Zach Ertz
4. Will Shaw
Few units were more besieged by injuries last season than the Eagles' offensive line.
By season's end, only Evan Mathis remained from the opening day starters who had not suffered a significant injury during the season.
With Todd Herremans, Jason Kelce, Jason Peters and Mathis all returning healthy this season and bolstered by the addition of fourth-overall draft choice Lane Johnson at right tackle, the Birds offensive line could very well hold the keys to this team's success in the first season playing in Kelly's uptempo scheme.
RT: Lane Johnson
RG: Todd Herremans
C: Jason Kelce
LG: Evan Mathis
LT: Jason Peters
RT: Dennis Kelly
RG: Julian Vandervelde
C: Dallas Reynolds
The Eagles' defensive line is at the center of the team's overhaul on defense.
After nearly a decade and a half of playing in the 4-3, defensive coordinator Bill Davis was brought in to oversee a gradual transition to a 3-4 front. While the personnel on the roster may be best suited to play in a 4-3, which could very well be why Davis who runs a hybrid front was hired to oversee the transition, there are plenty of question marks surrounding how this side of the ball can rebound from a year allow 343.2 yards per game in 2012.
DE: Fletcher Cox
NT: Isaac Sopoaga
DE: Cedric Thornton
DE: Vinny Curry
DT: Bennie Logan
DE: Clifton Geathers
DT: Antonio Dixon
The Eagles' linebackers will be under much scrutiny this season, especially given the team's transition to a 3-4 alignment.
The sudden sea change will mean veterans Brandon Graham and Trent Cole will have to pick their hand off the ground and become outside edge rushers in certain situations. When the team lines up in the 4-3, they will likely put their hands on the ground as defensive ends. This will be the first time Cole has played stand-up linebacker in his NFL career, while Graham did play outside linebacker in college at the University of Michigan.
While the addition of Connor Barwin certainly bolsters this group, DeMeco Ryans became expendable by the Houston Texans two seasons ago when they moved to a 3-4. That perception does not fit kindly with Ryans.
"There's a big perception that ‘DeMeco doesn't fit in a 3-4,'" Ryans said this spring. "Whatever. I played in that defense, I played with the Texans in the 3-4 defense when we were the no. 1, no. 2 defense in the league, so if I didn't fit in there then we wouldn't have been that highly ranked."
ROLB: Trent Cole
RILB: DeMeco Ryans
LILB: Mychal Kendricks
LOLB: Connor Barwin
OLB: Brandon Graham
OLB: Phillip Hunt
ILB: Jason Phillips
ILB: Jamar Chaney
There is no question that Cary Williams will enter this season as the Eagles' top cornerback, he just will need to shed any notion that he is not committed to his team or teammates after missing significant time during OTA's and minicamp this spring.
Also, in all likelihood, Bradly Fletcher will man the opposite starting corner position. Meanwhile, look for Brandon Boykin to fight for playing time as the team's third CB and Jordan Poyer, chosen by the Eagles in the seventh round of April's draft, was so highly touted by scouts that he could wind up fighting for playing time as rookie as well.
1. Cary Williams
2. Bradley Fletcher
3. Brandon Boykin
4. Curtis Marsh
5. Jordan Poyer
It's no question that the Eagles safety position has been maligned and searching for an anchor since March 1, 2009 when Brian Dawkins signed a free agent deal with the Denver Broncos.
By early returns, 2013 could amount to be a transition year for this group after adding veteran journeymen Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips in the offseason to go with returning veterans Nate Allen. There could be an interesting position battle that develops once camp kicks off in late July.
FS: Kenny Phillips
SS: Patrick Chung
SS: Nate Allen
FS: Kurt Coleman
SS: Earl Wolff