The Eagles will narrow their roster from 90 to 75 by Sept. 1 and to 53 for the regular season by Sept. 5. We're spending eight days predicting who stays and who goes. Here's the lineup:
LIKELY TO KEEP: 6
Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Riley Cooper, Josh Huff, Miles Austin, Seyi Ajirotutu
Unless I'm missing something, the Eagles will once again keep six receivers and the six are pretty much set, barring injury. Chip Kelly let a very good receiver in Jeremy Maclin walk, but this group is deeper than last year's. Jordan Matthews will be pressed to match the No. 1 receiver numbers Maclin (85 catches for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns) and DeSean Jackson (82-1,332-9) put up in 2014 and 2013, but that's kind of the point. Kelly wants a constant rotation of receivers shuffling in and out of the offense and receivers who aren't overly concerned with how many targets they get. That doesn't mean Matthews won't put up numbers better than he did during his rookie season (67-872-8). As Josh Huff told me last week, the passing offense will often revolve around Matthews as the first read. And it should. Matthews has looked the part during camp and the preseason. He'll still do most of his work inside, but with Darren Sproles getting additional snaps in the slot, Matthews can also kick outside. A best guess on his 2015 stats: 75 catches, 1,120 yards, 10 TDs.
Riley Cooper and Josh Huff are still the outside starters, but that doesn't guarantee that they'll play more than rookie Nelson Agholor. Again, Kelly will be rotating his receivers, so Agholor and Miles Austin could see the field as often as Cooper and Huff. Cooper has looked reliable all summer. He isn't going to blow anyone away with his speed or nifty moves, but Cooper is a capable third or fourth option. In Kelly's offense, he's a little more than that because of the emphasis the coach places on blocking. While Cooper's production dipped last year, it might be hard to even match those numbers (55-577-3) with the depth at the position. Huff has looked more consistent this camp vs. last. The raw athleticism is still there. If he can be steadier, there is potential. I like Huff with the ball in his hands after the catch. I still haven't seen enough to suggest that he can be a consistent downfield threat.
Agholor might have the highest ceiling among the receivers. He is the fastest and has dazzled after the catch. Like Huff, he needs to be more dependable catching the ball. But that should come with time. And with Matthews, Cooper and Huff ahead of him, he should get it. But that doesn't mean Agholor will watch from the sidelines. He'll be involved from Game 1, and the expectation here is that he'll be the second-most productive receiver on the team when the season ends.
Austin brings some veteran confidence to the unit. The wheels aren't explosive, but he runs efficient routes and can get free underneath. He missed the second preseason game after a brief injury, but returned to practice this week. Austin's roster spot is a virtual lock because the Eagles gave him a one-year contract with $1 million guaranteed. He hasn't played much on special teams, so it should be interesting to see how much he is used on game days if active. Seyi Ajirotutu was signed this offseason mainly because of his special-teams abilities. If he's as good as billed, he'll have to dress. But that would give the Eagles six active receivers on game days and force them to trim from another spot.
Jeff Maehl, G.J. Kinne, Quron Pratt, Rasheed Bailey, Mike Johnson, Freddie Martino, Josh Reese
Jeff Maehl's two-year run on the roster appears to be over. He was inactive in seven of the final eight games last year. He hasn't done anything spectacular enough to beat out Ajirotutu. G.J. Kinne made the switch from quarterback to receiver in the spring. It has gone better than expected. He can get open on shallow crossers and consistently make the catch and get upfield. But it's a numbers game at receiver and he won't likely win this lottery. Quron Pratt seems always to do something that stands out in practice. There's probably a 53-man roster out there that he can make. Just not this one. Philly-born Rasheed Bailey has good hands and body control. He's lacking some in speed, however, and would make an ideal practice-squad candidate.
LIKELY TO KEEP: 3
Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, Trey Burton
The Eagles kept four tight ends last season after the undrafted Trey Burton earned his way onto the roster. James Casey was released in the offseason, and the feeling here is that they'll revert back to three. Brent Celek is the longest-tenured Eagle aside from long snapper Jon Dorenbos. Celek is a Kelly favorite because he does his job quietly and is tough as nails. There's still some skill left in that tank, too. Celek caught 32 passes for 340 yards and a touchdown last season. He'll probably remain the primary blocker on run downs, but his playing time on passing downs could be slipping even more with the ascension of Zach Ertz. Celek played 69 percent of snaps last season, and Ertz played 50 percent. Ertz had surgery to correct a groin tear and will miss the remainder of the preseason. He has said he expects to be back for the season opener on Sept. 14, but he has yet to do anything in practice. Ertz caught 58 passes for 702 yards and three scores last year. They're very good numbers considering his playing time. He has said his blocking has improved. It's going to be difficult for Kelly to keep him off the field because of mismatches he can create often in the passing game.
Burton might see some playing time on offense if Ertz isn't ready by the opener. He's not as big a target as Ertz, but he knows how to get open and has the athleticism to make tough grabs. He will also be one of the four core special-teamers on game days.
Eric Tomlinson, Andrew Gleichert, Justin Tukes
If the Eagles are going to keep four tight ends, Eric Tomlinson would likely be the fourth. He's got a knack for getting open. I can't profess to know how proficient he is on special teams just yet. Burton surprised many by making the team last year. Maybe Tomlinson sneaks in this year. My gut says no.