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The Final 53: Breaking Down the Eagles’ 2012 Roster Updated

Sep 1, 2012, 12:46 PM EDT

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* Obviously the roster will be tinkered with many times throughout the year, this is merely the final 53 that will enter the regular season following cutdown day.

Quarterbacks: Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Trent Edwards

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Fate was cruel to Mike Kafka, who entered training camp as Vick’s backup, only to find himself left off the roster entirely. Kafka’s fractured left hand opened the door wide for Foles and Edwards, both of whom made the most of their opportunities.

Foles of course became the story of the summer, showing uncanny poise for a rookie while posting a stat line almost identical to that which won fellow first-year quarterback Russell Wilson the starting job in Seattle. Edwards demonstrated great command of the offense as well, but more than anything else, his experience may have been the biggest factor that trumped Kafka. With 33 NFL starts under his belt, Edwards apparently is the safer option if Foles isn’t ready for number two duties after all.

Running Backs: LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk
Fullback: Stanley Havili

McCoy and Lewis were locks, and Havili’s spot never seemed to be in jeopardy. In the end, both Brown and Polk had too much upside to cast either one out, so the Eagles go unconventional and keep five backs. Brown looks like such a fluid runner, big and powerful with excellent burst. Polk runs as hard as anybody we’ve seen come through here. Tons of potential in this backfield.

Wide Receivers: DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Damaris Johnson

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Jackson and Maclin reprise their roles in one of the league’s most dangerous receiving duos, along with steady co-star Avant in the slot. There is some question as to whether Cooper will be back from a broken collarbone in time for Week 1, but he should be ready soon. For those wondering, while he is merely an okay receiver, Coop makes the squad more for his solid special teams play.

Johnson over sixth rounder Marvin McNutt may be something of a surprise, but only if you haven’t been paying attention. McNutt showed absolutely nothing in preseason, catching one pass for 13 yards in four games. The undrafted Johnson made one big play after another, hauling in 12 receptions for 195 yards and a score. Believe it or not, he could have an immediate impact — if not in the passing game, then as the club’s punt returner. McNutt is a candidate for the practice squad.

Tight Ends: Brent Celek, Clay Harbor

Little of note here. Celek has Pro-Bowl potential, and after the Eagles flirted with the idea of bringing in a veteran to compete, Harbor wound up having a strong summer.

Offensive Line:
King Dunlap, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Danny Watkins, Todd Herremans
Depth:
Demetress Bell, Dennis Kelly, Dallas Reynolds, Julian Vandervelde, Nathan Menkin

We’ve known Dunlap would start ahead of Bell at left tackle for some time now. Bell looked shaky in action, and there was some thinking he could even miss the cut. With a guaranteed salary this season, and no better option in play, the Eagles will be forced to turn to him in an emergency.

The rest of the line is the same as last year, and figures to be improved with continuity and experience. Depth-wise, fifth-round pick Dennis Kelly appears to be the primary backup to Herremans, and Dallas Reynolds — who has been trying to catch on in the NFL since he first came to the Eagles undrafted in 2009 — finally lands as a number-two at guard and center. Julian Vandervelde was also on the roster initially, but a short time later released to make room for another safety. He may land on the PS. Update: the team claimed rookie Nathan Menkin off of waivers on Saturday.

Defensive End: Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Brandon Graham, Philip Hunt, Darryl Tapp, Vinny Curry
Defensive Tackle:
Cullen Jenkins, Derek Landri, Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton

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Your eyes are not fooling you. The front office convinced Tapp to take a pay cut, and the Eagles will keep all six of their defensive ends. Not sure how you get six of them on to the field, although Curry won’t necessarily command a ton of snaps in his first year. As expected, Cole and Babin will carry the load, with Hunt and Graham serving as their primary relief.

Antonio Dixon was not so lucky, though he’ll undoubtedly catch on with another team, likely someplace that is a better scheme fit anyway. Jenkins and Landri will rotate with impressive rookie Cox and and Thornton, who originally made the squad out of camp last season, but wound up on the practice squad for most of it. The defensive tackles are thin in the event of another injury, but there is a window where Mike Patterson is eligible to return after Week 6, and either Tapp or Graham may be able to help out inside until then.

Linebackers: Mychael Kendricks, DeMeco Ryans, Akeem Jordan
Depth:
Jamar Chaney, Casey Matthews, Brian Rolle

Sorry, Brian Rolle, no change in the starting lineup yet, and opening day is only a week away. Kendricks, Ryans, and Jordan remain the starters, and no huge surprise behind them with Rolle, Chaney, and Matthews. However, there are health concerns with Chaney and Matthews, each battling nagging injuries during the preseason. The team could’ve taken Keenan Clayton instead, as he seemed to carve out a niche in coverage and on special teams, but the upside of the others was higher.

Cornerbacks: Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Curtis Marsh, Brandon Boykin, Brandon Hughes, Trevard Lindley

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The Eagles made some waves with one of their first announced cuts, releasing Joselio Hanson after he began the summer as the starter at nickel corner. It seemed as though even if he lost the job to Boykin as he did, Hanson could stick in case the rookie faltered, but obviously the Eagles are comfortable with Hughes behind him.

Asomugha, DRC, and Marsh are your top guys on the outside, followed by Hughes. Trevard Lindley’s presence on the roster was a bit of a mystery after his release a season ago, but the team parted with him on Saturday in exchange for Menkin.

Safeties: Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Colt Anderson, David Sims

O.J. Atogwe got hurt again in the preseason finale, and because injuries have plagued him so much in recent years, the team had to cut bait. That left the defense with a huge hole in terms of safety depth, which for the time being they filled with diminutive David Sims, traded from Cleveland for a late draft choice. Allen and Coleman may be capable starters, but Jarrett and Sims don’t inspire a great deal of confidence, while Anderson is there purely for special teams.

Specialists: Alex Henery, Chas Henry, Jon Dorenbos

Henry ended up winning the punting competition over Mat McBriar, though it seemingly had little to d
o with punting. McBriar’s work as the holder on Henery field goal tries reportedly was the issue here, so even though he doesn’t boom it like an Aussie, the Birds stick with the incumbent. And naturally Dorenbos will continue to work his magic as the long snapper.

Non-football Injury/Illness: Jason Peters, Mike Patterson

Both of these guys are eligible to return between Weeks 6 and 9, though neither seems very likely. Patterson probably has a better shot if his skull heals from brain surgery by then. The Eagles might feel compelled to rush Peters back from his Achilles injuries if Dunlap struggles at left tackle, but it’s hard to believe he’ll be ready to play at any point this season, much less at a high level. At this point, I can’t get comfortable with the idea he’ll return in 2012.