A look at the likely Eagles roster

Rookie receiver Riley Cooper, tackled by Kansas City's Jackie Bates in Friday's preseason win, is a safe bet to make the roster. Cooper was a fifth-round draft pick out of Florida.
Rookie receiver Riley Cooper, tackled by Kansas City's Jackie Bates in Friday's preseason win, is a safe bet to make the roster. Cooper was a fifth-round draft pick out of Florida.
Posted: September 02, 2010

At the start of every Eagles training camp, there are 80 players and a lot fretting over who will make the 53-man roster six weeks later.

But, somehow, after dozens of practices, four preseason games, and hours of watching film, coach Andy Reid and his crew end up with very few tough choices when final cuts must be made by Saturday afternoon.

With various places to stow and sometimes protect players - injured reserve, the physically-unable-to-perform list or the practice squad - picking the final roster essentially comes down to two or three players.

Final, of course, is a relative term. Reid and general manager Howie Roseman will continue to tinker with the roster in the week leading up to the Sept. 12 season opener against Green Bay, and, well, there's a lot of football after that.

The Eagles already have begun sorting through the back end of the roster, trading rookie running back Charles Scott and placing rookie defensive end Ricky Sapp on IR earlier this week.

But a few jobs still are up for grabs, and Thursday night's preseason finale against the New York Jets, in which the starters will rest, could go a long way in determining who stays and who goes.

Based on observing nearly every practice, watching and re-watching every preseason game, and consulting with various coaches and members within the Eagles' organization, here's one man's stab at who makes the 53-man roster:

Quarterback (3). Despite months of rumor and conjecture that Michael Vick would not be wearing an Eagles uniform this season, the backup quarterback is where the team said he was going to be all along: on the roster as the backup to Kevin Kolb. Rookie Mike Kafka is the emergency third-stringer.

Running back (4). Reid loves rooting for the little guy, and Eldra Buckley has been an underdog since he arrived two off-seasons ago. He was a tackling dummy for the first-team defense in training camp, but Buckley is a tireless worker and a more-than-competent special-teams contributor. He will make the team as the fourth running back behind LeSean McCoy, Mike Bell, and fullback Leonard Weaver.

Wide receiver (5). DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Jason Avant are no-brainers. The Eagles appear to have gotten a bargain when they grabbed rookie Riley Cooper in the fifth round. So he's in. That leaves one, possibly two remaining spots. If it's one, Hank Baskett and Kelley Washington are the main combatants. They mirror each other in size and special-teams capabilities, but Baskett is more sure-handed and familiar. Chad Hall piqued some interest, but he's better suited to the practice squad.

Tight end (2). It used to be mandatory that the Eagles carried three tight ends, but last year they carried only two, and this year they really don't have a third option after starter Brent Celek and rookie backup Clay Harbor. Cornelius Ingram was supposed to compete with Harbor for the second spot, but he's suffered yet another setback in his recovery from two torn anterior cruciate ligaments and appears destined to go back to IR. The Eagles may simply just release him. More than likely, the team will pick up a prototypical blocking tight end off the waiver wire with Harbor still a work in progress.

Offensive line (10). Jason Peters and Winston Justice are the starting tackles. Rookie Austin Howard, an undrafted find, and King Dunlap are the backup tackles. Todd Herremans, if he's healthy, has a hold on left guard, Stacy Andrews not so much of a grip on right guard. Nick Cole, Mike McGlynn, and Max Jean-Gilles are capable of supplanting Andrews. If the Eagles feel as if they don't need five guards, Cole and McGlynn will have the upper hand over Jean-Gilles because they also can play center. In fact, either one might open the season at center if Jamaal Jackson and his knee aren't ready.

Defensive line (9). If it weren't for the fact that the Eagles traded away Chris Clemons and a fourth-round pick for him, Darryl Tapp could be hitting the pavement. He hasn't done much in camp or in the preseason. The team recently added Pannel Egboh to the mix, but Tapp appears to be the fifth of five ends, joining Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, Juqua Parker, and Daniel Te'o-Nesheim. Victor Abiamiri, still rehabilitating from microfracture knee surgery, will start the season on PUP.

Tackles Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley will anchor the starting center of the line for the fourth straight season. Trevor Laws, once considered a possible cut, is in, as is Antonio Dixon.

Linebacker (7). If Stewart Bradley, Ernie Sims, and Akeem Jordan are starting, that leaves three, possibly four, spots to fill. Omar Gaither is versatile, and Keenan Clayton, a rookie, has shined in the preseason. Jamar Chaney hasn't stood out, but the Eagles project the rookie as a future middle-linebacker candidate. Moise Fokou opened camp as the starting strong-side linebacker but has bounced between backup SAM and defensive end since. Seven is a lot of linebackers, but Fokou is the only viable option behind Jordan.

Defensive back (10). Five cornerbacks: Starters Asante Samuel and Ellis Hobbs, and backups Trevard Lindley, Joselio Hanson and Dimitri Patterson, and four safeties: Quintin Mikell, Nate Allen, Quintin Demps, and Kurt Coleman almost definitely keep the playbook. Demps or Coleman could have competition now that Macho Harris has been moved from cornerback to safety. Harris probably will last through Saturday's cut-down deadline but could be the first to go if the Eagles add elsewhere next week.

Specialists (3). Wild guesses here, but David Akers, Sav Rocca, and Jon Dorenbos are probably the kicker, punter and long snapper, respectively.

Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Jeff_McLane.

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