Saturday, the Philadelphia Eagles cut their roster down to the league mandated 53 players like every other team in the NFL. They made tough decisions on many young players based on comparisons to others who made the roster and on a small sampling during the preseason. Chances are that some of those players will turn out to be impact players on other teams, and the Eagles will have to live with the regret of letting them get away so easily.
Four players released by the Eagles to get the roster to the magic number have already found new homes. Of that group, two will have a deeper impact in the future and could have remained Eagles. Wide receiver Russell Shepard and linebacker Chris McCoy are two players that Philadelphia let go over the weekend that could have helped them both this year and in the future. They were sacrificed for two players who the Eagles will be able to do without.
Offensively, Shepard would have been a project, but he could have provided a large target as well as speed and excitement. He was not provided much opportunity in the preseason, only catching three passes for 42 yards. Going forward, he looked like a player that would have fit nicely into Chip Kelly’s system and provided a variety of options in which he could be used. It seems looking back at the decision that Kelly passed on Shepard for comfort in what he knew, keeping Jeff Maehl, a former Oregon player. Chances are the Eagles were hoping to add Shepard to the practice squad, as they did with others who were released and cleared waivers, but it didn’t take long for him to catch on somewhere else becoming a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. Look for Shepard to have a bright future and this to be a decision the Eagles will look back on and regret as he thrives.
Defensively, McCoy brought youth as a first year player and seemed to add to the intensity of the defense when he was given an opportunity. Questions will continue to be asked in Philadelphia based on the fact that Casey Matthews, who seems to continually have trouble proving himself as an Eagle, was kept on the roster. McCoy posted 3.5 sacks during the preseason and had an interception. Matthews’ stats were lesser, and although he’s been a proven contributor on special teams in past years he has yet to make any impact on the defensive side of the ball. McCoy’s upside looked glaring after the final preseason game, and it didn’t take long for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who the Eagles played in the third preseason game, to snatch him up. This seems in the end like another case of Kelly taking what he knows and is comfortable with in Matthews, another Oregon product, over a player who could’ve really had an impact both this year and in the future in Philadelphia.
Like all teams, mistakes will be made and players will slip away, but beginning a new era in Philadelphia football it seems that two good ones got away right from the start.