EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The real purpose behind last night's Eagles' preseason finale against the New York Jets was to settle a half-dozen or so roster spots for each team. NFL teams must cut from 80 to the regular-season limit of 53 players by 6 p.m. tomorrow.
Roster projections are like mock drafts - mock drafts can never be 100 percent correct because there are always trades, which can't be predicted. With the roster, you have the fact that every other team is trimming from 80 to 53 as well. The Eagles will add players from other teams' cutdowns, and maybe even from a last-minute trade. (This won't be the linebacking corps the Birds plan to take to St. Louis, will it? Seriously?)
But, all that said, here we go on how the Eagles will get to 53.
Vince Young nearly caused us some trouble last night with that ill-fated rollout, but we're assuming he starts the season at least able to serve as the third quarterback.
Let's start right there. Michael Vick, Young, Mike Kafka. It's unclear who is No. 2 and who is No. 3, but it also doesn't matter as much as it used to, now that all three QBs can be fully active for the whole game.
Offensive line is much more interesting. Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Danny Watkins, Todd Herremans. Then you have to figure the rookie, Julian Vandervelde, drafted in the Howard Mudd mold, will make it. Winston Justice probably starts on the 53 and not on the PUP, which would keep him out of the lineup for 6 weeks. Then maybe Reggie Wells, and either King Dunlap or somebody who isn't here yet. I don't think the Eagles are going to keep Jamaal Jackson around as a backup. I think the regime change has ended the Eagles career of Mike McGlynn and Austin Howard, among others. On Twitter, Ryan Harris has insisted he will not need to go on IR after microsurgery on his back; that seems implausible, but if there is a chance of Harris being healthy for a good chunk of the season, maybe he's on the roster. Let's figure nine slots here, and put Dunlap in the ninth for the time being, Harris to IR.
Running backs: Pretty straightforward - LeSean McCoy, Ronnie Brown, Dion Lewis. Then Owen Schmitt or somebody else's cut as the fullback.
Tight ends: I'm going to say three - Brent Celek, Clay Harbor and Donald Lee. But if you wanted to keep Cornelius Ingram on the practice squad, maybe you could get by with Celek and Harbor. Lee, who came over from Green Bay with that Super Bowl luster, really hasn't shown much, but he's had a pretty solid career.
Wideouts: Have to keep six, with Steve Smith in the picture. Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Smith and either Chad Hall, who offers that gimmick-RB versatility, or Sinorice Moss. Hall fumbled twice on punt returns against the Jets, losing one, which led to a Jets touchdown. Could matter. Especially since Moss then took over the duties and did well.
Defensive line: Some tough choices here. Trent Cole, Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson and Jason Babin are the starters. Also on the team are Antonio Dixon and Derek Landri, I think. Probably Darryl Tapp. Is the oldest Eagle, 33-year-old Juqua Parker, safe? I'm thinking he isn't, unless the Eagles ask for and get a salary revision that reduces Parker's $4.3 million cap figure. Trevor Laws? Might depend on how the Eagles evaluate Anthony Hargrove, who can play tackle and end but really hasn't done that much in the preseason. I'd like to see more of Phillip Hunt, the ex-CFL star, but I have a feeling he won't do better than the practice squad. Ditto Cedric Thornton. I think if Daniel Te'o-Nesheim makes the 53, it's only because the Birds don't like to give up on third-round draft choices after 1 year.
Let's say nine d-linemen, the first seven I mentioned, plus Hargrove and Laws.
Linebackers: Casey Matthews, Jamar Chaney, Moise Fokou, Brian Rolle and somebody. Probably Keenan Clayton, if nobody enticing gets cut elsewhere. Greg Lloyd to the practice squad, on my ledger. Other teams' cuts might even produce a sixth linebacker.
Defensive backs: I keep six corners - Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Curtis Marsh, Brandon Hughes and Trevard Lindley. Joselio Hanson is either traded or cut. Five safeties - Kurt Coleman, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Jared Page, Nate Allen and Colt Anderson, who is a key special-teams guy.
Specialists: Long snapper Jon Dorenbos, punter Chas Henry, kicker Alex Henery.