Clay Harbor is caught up in a numbers game in more ways than one.
The three-year veteran tight end can look around his position meeting group and see that the likes of Brent Celek, rookie Zach Ertz and James Casey are locks to make the final roster. Meanwhile, at wide receiver where he has taken reps during training camp and in the Philadelphia Eagles‘ first three preseason games, youngsters like Greg Salas and Russell Shepard are pushing for the final roster spots.
Harbor put it quite simply on Monday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field following the team’s open practice when he said he sees his chances of making this team as being “50/50″.
Head coach Chip Kelly said before Monday’s practice that the tight end position is among the toughest groups to evaluate in terms of how many players to keep in his first season as an NFL head coach. His affinity for tight ends is well documented.
In Harbor’s case, the mixed bag of having such talent at his position while playing — in his mind — the best football of his career, is the type of quandary few veterans find themselves in.
“Physically, I’m the best player I’ve ever been,” Harbor told reporters at his locker after Monday’s practice. “With that being said, I think this is the first time that I think there’s a really good chance that I’m not going to make this team. But all I can do now is go out Thursday, play to the best of my ability and let the cards fall where they may.”
Given the rash of injuries to the receiver position — Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn lost for the season with torn ACLs — having an experienced veteran with Harbor’s 6-foot-3, 252-pound frame who can play either tight end or receiver would certainly be a luxury for this team.
The Missouri State product will play wide receiver for the first half and then move to tight end in the second half of Thursday’s preseason finale against the New York Jets.
The Eagles asking Harbor to play a full game in the final preseason contest of the year could be a blessing for him because it’s one final evaluation for the coaching staff and front office here, as well as a showcase of his versatility for teams across the league looking to add help at either tight end or wide receiver.
Regardless, versatility can only be an asset for Harbor right now.
Matt Lombardo is also a sports radio host on 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia. Join the conversation and follow him on Twitter.