The Eagles have some tough decisions to make come Friday, perhaps as difficult as they have ever had when faced with trimming their roster to 53 players.
But every year they seem to find a way to keep their most talented players with few casualties. This year should be no different, although they may have to release a couple of budding youngsters and proven veterans that other teams could snatch up.
The Eagles will comb the waiver wire as well following the 9 p.m. deadline, when final rosters must be sent to the league office. Andy Reid and Howie Roseman are likely looking for another safety and a versatile offensive lineman. So several players who made the initial cut should not rest easy.
With the Eagles still having to play the New York Jets Thursday night in their preseason finale, here's one beat reporter's projection of who makes the 53-man roster:
Quarterbacks (3): Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Mike Kafka. Vick is the starter. Foles is the likely backup. Kafka gets the nod here over Trent Edwards as the pseudo backup. Edwards appeared to have no shot of making the team during training camp. But after Kafka broke his left hand in the preseason opener, the 28-year-old veteran performed admirably. Still, it was just several quarters against lesser competition. Kafka has done even less, but Reid deemed him the No. 2 as far back as March for reasons known only to him. Why would he cut him after just nine preseason snaps?
Running backs (4): LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown, Stanley Havili. The Eagles generally need only two tailbacks in their offense on game days. McCoy and Lewis will do the heavy lifting there. Brown has a knack for finding the open hole. The rookie is a bit of a project but has enough upside to remain. There was some question as to whether Reid would keep a fullback, but Havili has done enough to survive through Friday. If the Eagles release undrafted rookie Chris Polk, he'll probably be picked up right away. They could try to place him on injured reserve because of a nagging shoulder injury. But there's room for only one running back project on the roster.
Wide receivers (5): DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Damaris Johnson. This list originally had Chad Hall on it, but the third-year receiver became expendable when Johnson came along. The undrafted rookie has been dazzling, but he has looked a little shaky fielding punts. Hall, remarkably, is still eligible for the practice squad and could stick around as insurance. Cooper will probably miss the opener with a broken collarbone, but he serves a role on special teams and as a competent reserve to Jackson or Maclin. The Eagles drafted Marvin McNutt in the sixth round, but he has underwhelmed.
Tight ends (2): Brent Celek, Clay Harbor. A no-brainer here: The Eagles likely will keep just two tight ends, and they are Celek and Harbor. Brett Brackett could serve on the practice squad for another season.
Offensive line (9): Todd Herremans, Danny Watkins, Jason Kelce, Evan Mathis, King Dunlap, Demetress Bell, Dennis Kelly, Julian Vandervelde, Steve Vallos. Bell probably hasn't earned a spot, but the Eagles are on the hook for $3.25 million, and they need him in case Kelly, a rookie, isn't ready to jump in for Dunlap at left tackle. Vallos likely is the backup center to Kelce, although Vandervelde has taken snaps there. Dallas Reynolds also was vying for one of two interior lineman spots, but he's probably the odd man out. Again, the Eagles could add/subtract at this position before Monday.
Defensive line (11): Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Fletcher Cox, Derek Landri, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Phillip Hunt, Cedric Thornton, Darryl Tapp, Antonio Dixon. The Eagles' depth here has been the subject of much debate. Could they possibly keep 11 linemen, which would constitute more than 20 percent of the roster? It says here they will - at least for the time being. Tapp could be traded before the deadline, but it will be difficult to get another team to take his salary ($2.6 million). The Eagles have kept six defensive ends before - most recently in 2008. They could dress five on game days - Cole, Babin, Graham, Hunt, and Tapp - and keep the rookie project (Curry) inactive. At defensive tackle, Dixon is squarely on the bubble. But he is the only big-bodied run-stuffer of the group.
Linebackers (6): DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Akeem Jordan, Jamar Chaney, Brian Rolle, Casey Matthews. Keenan Clayton was believed to be battling with Jordan for the sixth and final spot, but Jordan overtook Rolle as the weakside starter earlier this week.
Cornerbacks (6): Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Curtis Marsh, Brandon Boykin, Joselio Hanson, Brandon Hughes. You can never have enough cornerbacks in the pass-happy NFL, so the Eagles should carry six this season. Keeping Hughes could make Hanson dispensable. The Eagles have cut him before. But he still has the edge over Boykin in the slot. Marsh is the third outside corner after Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie.
Safeties (4): Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, O.J. Atogwe, Jaiquawn Jarrett. There's a strong chance either Atogwe or Jarrett could be gone within the few days following Friday's deadline. Allen and Coleman are the starters, but the Eagles can't feel comfortable with Atogwe, who has been injured most of the preseason, and Jarrett, who has played as if he has been injured, as their backups. The team has yet to make a decision on whether Colt Anderson opens the season on the physically unable to perform list, but all signs point to him staying there.
Specialists (3): Alex Henery, Chas Henry, Jon Dorenbos. Henery and Dorenbos had no competition, and Henry held off Mat McBriar, who will be released following the Jets game.