With this two-part series on the Philadelphia Eagles roster, I’m going through position-by-position and grading each on talent and depth. The talent is basically the starter and sometimes the 2nd-string player, and how they grade up against the rest of the league. The depth is the whole position as a unit; so the phrase “You’re only as good as your worst player” may be applicable here. A ‘B or B-’ grade here basically indicates that the area of the position is about average for the NFL.
N.B: I’ve left out Fullback as it is a relatively dead position in the Eagles’ offense and there isn’t much to grade on. Also, the list of players for each position is the projected lineup for the regular season.
1. Michael Vick
2. Mike Kafka
3. Nick Foles
*4. Trent Edwards
The quarterback position is somewhat of a mystery for Eagles fans this offseason. The question of “Who will be the 2nd-stringer?” is one that comes to mind quickly. To be honest, it looks like it could go Kafka’s way.
He’s been trusted with the position for several years now, and in two appearances last season he was forced into tough situations by a Vick injury. He played well in one game and struggled mightily in the other. That is all that you can want from a young, developing backup QB.
There is no question that, when healthy, Michael Vick is a top ten NFL quarterback. His talent is unquestionable and his game-changing ability is well-known.
However, with a mobile guy like Vick, the second-in-line at QB needs to be able to close out games and possibly start a few. Sure, Kafka lost the two games that he appeared in last season, but they were both good teams and he was forced to make big plays due to his team’s ineptitude. Against the Giants he threw two interceptions because Andy Reid called deep passing plays to try and trim New York’s lead.
I think that the talent at the QB position for the Eagles is top-notch. When you look at Vick, you see a player that can win you many games, but his fragility can lose you many too. This makes depth important, but I feel that Kafka and Foles are not yet quality NFL 2nd-stringers. Kafka may prove otherwise if he gets time on the field this year; but then with Foles you have a guy with some good potential to move up the depth chart in future seasons.
Quarterback Talent: A-
Quarterback Depth: B
1. LeSean McCoy
2. Dion Lewis
3. Bryce Brown
4. Chris Polk
Don’t take the above depth chart seriously, folks. Depending on how well the No. 2 through 4 guys play between now and the end of the preseason, any one of the three could be the backup or released. It’s just too close to call right now.
Another big preseason battle takes place at the running back position, where neither the 2nd, 3rd or 4th spot is definite as rookies Bryce Brown and Chris Polk battle it out with Dion Lewis.
The one thing that the fans can be assured of, however, is that the 1st spot will be taken by All-Pro LeSean ‘Shady’ McCoy. You have got to agree that this Eagles running back position is one of the more deep RB units in the NFL. Brown, Polk and Lewis are all complements to LeSean McCoy’s game. They can return kicks or punts, some are elusive fringe-runners, some have powerful, inside games. They can really do it all.
However, on talent, and I know the Eagles’ fans may disagree, the running backs aren’t a very proven unit yet. Based on just Shady McCoy, it’s an A+ instantly. But with only 1 year of NFL experience between the next three players (that 1 year was Dion Lewis’ quiet rookie year in 2011), you can hardly justify that they are talented until they’ve played enough pro football. But with LeSean McCoy leading the crew as an every-down back, talent still remains a respectable grade.
Running Back Talent: A-
Running Back Depth: A
1. DeSean Jackson
2. Jeremy Maclin
3. Jason Avant
4. Marvin McNutt
5. Riley Cooper
6. Chad Hall
Examining the wide receiver position has raised several opinions in my mind. First, when you look at the attributes of these six players, you see quite a diversity of talents and styles. You have the vertical threat in DeSean Jackson; an all-around threat in Jeremy Maclin, the prototypical #2 guy; the sure-handed, experienced slot in Jason Avant; and even a red-zone threat in rookie Marvin McNutt. Riley Cooper and Chad Hall have both seen few receptions and opportunities in their short NFL careers, but have shown good promise for #5 and #6 receivers.
So that pretty much covers depth, as there is a great spread of different attributes among this unit.
My other opinion is that the talent here is scary good. DeSean Jackson had a tough season last year, but the new contract and full offseason will be great for him in preparing for ’12-’13. Maclin has always been a great NFL receiver. Avant is an above-average, veteran slot guy who’ll improve on his best NFL season in 2011. And then McNutt has all the intangibles and size to be an excellent red-zone threat for this team.
With my best grades for an offensive position in the Eagles, the receiving corps looks promising for the coming season.
Wide Receiver Talent: A
Wide Receiver Depth: A+
1. Brent Celek
2. Clay Harbor
*3. Brett Brackett
I’ve always been a huge fan of Brent Celek. Since his superb 2009 season his stats have taken a slight dip, but he still shows that he can catch balls in the clutch and is still a premier blocking tight end.
You can have DeSean Jackson or Mike Vick go off on the odd occasion, but you need at least one guy that produces week in, week out. Tight end is a great place to have that, and that’s what the Eagles have in starter Brent Celek. Even when he’s not catching balls, he’s making things happen in the running game; he’s the best blocking tight end in the NFL, and that’s a tough thing to argue.
Clay Harbor is more of an athletic, receiving TE and that sacrifices his blocking ability. With a mobile-yet-fragile QB like Vick, you need a TE that can help block and contribute to pass-protection. He hasn’t shown enough in the receiving game over the last two seasons to justify that style, and if he wants to continue to contribute he’ll need to beat out former practice squad member Brett Brackett in training camp.
If Harbor does come out as the winner, how well he plays could determine the overall success of the Eagles offense in some crucial situations.
Tight End Talent: B+
Tight End Depth: C+
LT – Demetress Bell
RT – Todd Herremans
3. King Dunlap
4. Dennis Kelly
The loss of Jason Peters—for what will likely be the entire season—is a huge blow to the Eagles. He’s probably the best left tackle in the league at the moment and really contributed to LeSean’s huge season last year. No matter how well that you think Demetress Bell’s addition to the team patches this hole up, Peters was simply better in almost every aspect. Bell doesn’t pass-block as well as Peters and isn’t as fast or athletic either. Even so, if Bell plays up to potential he could be as good in the run game as Peters at times this season which could give Philly quite the boost.
Herremans is a generally consistent blocker; he can play nearly anywhere along the line and will be looked upon to lead this unit in 2012 as the longest-tenured starter. He’s excellent in both aspects of the game—rushing and passing—and is up there among the best tackles as well.
Dunlap is a large, physical blocker and is less athletic but compensates this with the ability to outmuscle and out-size many fringe pass-rushers. He’s not a starter but can contribute competently if there are injuries/fatigue amongst the starters. Kelly is more of a project player for the Eagles, but since he’s surrounded by veterans and coached by the legendary Howard Mudd, it’s possible that .
Nevertheless, while the loss of Peters hurts the overall grading of this corps, the talent of this group is definitely above-average for the NFL while the depth is about average.
Offensive Tackle Talent: A-
Offensive Tackle Depth: B-
LG: Evan Mathis
RG: Danny Watkins
C: Jason Kelce
4. Brandon Washington
5. Steve Vallos
The re-signing of Evan Mathis was a great offseason move by the Eagles’ front office. He’s truly underrated by the general NFL community, as writers such as the Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller assert that he is one of the top left guards in the league. He lets through very few, if any, sacks. His intelligence as a player is undoubted, as is second-year center Jason Kelce who impressed Mudd to the point where Howard complimented him. A Howard Mudd compliment is something any young lineman should savor.
Danny Watkins and Kelce are both in their 2nd-year and will be key members of the Eagles franchise for many seasons to come. Their current talent is pretty good, not great, but with several more years in the NFL it will be A or A+ quality.
The depth provided by Washington, who was very underrated in draft war rooms, and Vallos—a great college player that never really found his feet in the NFL—contribute to this unit receiving some decent grades to round out the article.
Offensive Guard/Center Talent: B+/A-
Offensive Guard/Center Depth: C
So thanks for reading, and be sure to check back next weekend on khandyman.com for my analysis of the defense!