The700Level

Kulp's Eagles 53-man roster projection

Kulp's Eagles 53-man roster projection

With one preseason game remaining, and likely only the back end of the depth chart left to be sorted out, here’s a look at how the Eagles’ 53-man roster might be taking shape.

Quarterback (2): Carson Wentz, Nick Foles 

This is taking the Eagles at their word that Foles is fine, everything is fine, which is probably a mistake. The fact the Matt McGloin played just about the entire preseason game against the Dolphins last week suggests the coaches might’ve been breaking in the emergency quarterback in case he’s needed. Under ideal circumstances, the team will only carry two.

Running back (4): LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles, Donnel Pumphrey

Corey Clement has had a terrific offseason. He runs hard, can catch the ball out of the backfield and is solid in pass protection. That’s more than can be said for a lot of the depth chart. Still, Clement – an undrafted rookie – will probably pass through waivers and land on the practice squad, whereas another team might jump at the opportunity to pick up Pumphrey were he cut. Pumphrey hasn’t looked good, but he was a fourth-round draft pick. If the Eagles don’t deem him worthy of stashing on the 53-man roster, another team could.

Wide receiver (6): Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson, Marcus Johnson

Johnson’s inclusion is probably reading too much into his move from a temporary stall in the middle of the Eagles locker room to one of the permanent fixtures along the wall. A strong offseason carried over into a solid camp and preseason for Johnson, who’s probably more NFL ready than Gibson at this point. Like Pumphrey, Gibson is more stash than immediate contributor. No real surprises here otherwise.

 

Tight end (3): Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton

There have been a few arguments for Billy Brown on the 53, but that just doesn’t seem necessary. Another team might pluck Clement off waivers. A converted wide receiver in the midst of a transition to tight end isn’t likely to help anybody 2017, especially once Brown has to learn a new system. Meanwhile, Celek and Burton have clearly defined roles on this Eagles squad, so while it may make sense to think about the future, this is the optimal depth chart for right now.

Offensive line (9):  Jason Peters, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Chance Warmack, Stefen Wisniewski, Dillon Gordon

After the top eight, it’s a bit of a mystery. Taylor Hart has surprised some people with his conversion from defensive line to offensive tackle, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Eagles keep him. Ultimately, Gordon just does more, with the option of lining up at tight end or fullback. More trades are always a possibility, but I get the sense Kelce is firmly entrenched in that starting center job, so keep on dreaming.

Defensive end (5): Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Derek Barnett, Chris Long, Steven Means

Alex McCalister wound up making a strong push for the roster, but Means has more value to the club on special teams. There’s a good chance McCalister will pass through waivers and make it to the practice squad as well. These are the only six ends on the 90-man roster, making this really the only discussion to be had.

Defensive tackle (5): Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan, Beau Allen, Destiny Vaeao, Elijah Qualls

The Eagles rolled with four interior linemen for much of the 2016 season, so this might seem heavy. That being said, the club seems to like Vaeao, while Qualls appeared to play himself back into the conversation against the Dolphins last week. There’s a good chance Qualls would pass through waivers, although he may well prove useful yet this season, too. Tough call – Justin Hamilton is intriguing as well – which is always a good sign, talent-wise.

Linebacker (6): Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Mychal Kendricks, Joe Walker, Don Cherry, Kamu Grugier-Hill

Najee Goode could wind up on the roster – in Week 2. He won’t be there for the opener, and with the emergence of young players like Walker, Cherry and Grugier-Hill in their backup roles and on special teams, Goode may not be necessary at all. If Kendricks somehow gets traded, his spot may go to Goode, because Nathan Gerry hasn’t shown he belongs. Gerry is transitioning from safety to linebacker, so his apparent lack of progress can be forgiven, but he would definitely clear waivers and is a prime practice-squad candidate as a result. Another addition here isn’t at all unlikely.

Cornerback (6): Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Ron Brooks, Rasul Douglas, Jaylen Watkins, C.J. Smith

Perhaps the most difficult situation to read of all is at cornerback. Patrick Robinson has performed much better in the slot – but well enough to supplant Brooks, a Jim Schwartz-darling, or Watkins’ versatility? Possibly. The recent trade for Dexter McDougle certainly didn’t provide any clarity to the competition at nickel corner, except maybe to indicate Aaron Grymes is no longer in the mix. Trading for Darby improved the unit overall, but after he and Mills, the mess of bodies still needs to get sorted out.

Safety (4): Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Corey Graham, Chris Maragos 

While McDougle only added to the confusion at cornerback, trading Terrence Brooks went a long way toward solidifying the safeties. Graham is locked in as the No. 3 now with Watkins’ move to corner, and there is essentially nobody else behind him. Meaning no offense, that includes Maragos, who is pretty much a full-time special teams ace at this point.

Specialists (3): Caleb Sturgis, Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos

If Rick Lovato was pushing for Dorenbos’ job, we would have virtually no way of knowing it. Then again, the Eagles probably would’ve granted Dorenbos his release by now if they saw it was in the cards. (Haha, get it?!)

76ers Season Opener: One more moral victory before we start winning for real

76ers Season Opener: One more moral victory before we start winning for real

We've all been so excited about the start of the Philadelphia 76ers season that it feels like nobody even bothered to look at the first three games on the schedule this year: At Washington, home for Boston, at Toronto. The Sixers may be the fifth best team in the Eastern Conference when healthy this season -- Jeff Van Gundy thinks so, at least, as he kept gushing last night on the ESPN (!!) broadcast of 76ers-Wizards -- but they play three of the four teams ahead of them to kick off the season, their first after the supposed summation of The Process. It's a pretty cold way to welcome the Sixers to the land of the NBA living, really. 

So yeah, the Sixers lost last night in their season opener for the fourth time in four seasons -- and forever shout out to Michael Carter-Williams, Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner, and the rest of the squad that pulled off arguably the greatest regular-season upset in franchise history against LeBron and the Heatles on opening night, 2013. But the Sixers lost last night merely because they were playing the Washington Wizards, arguably the second-best team in the East last season and only stronger in the new year, in DC. And they still came a couple late-game deflections away from walking away with more wins than losses on their docket for the first time since... hey, don't forget James Anderson and Tony Wroten on that '13-'14 squad, either. Remember James Anderson? 

No, you don't, of course, because the Sixers don't have any James Andersons anymore: They have 10 professional basketball players, and arguably even more on the bench who might not crack the rotation this year until things go very south. (I'd take Furkan Korkmaz over all but maybe three players on the '15-'16 squad; we might not even see him on the court until we reach the deepest recesses of December garbage time.) And all of 'em looked good last night -- except for Amir Johnson, who went 2 for 27 from within three feet of the basket and somehow fouled out in 15 minutes. Even he should have nothing on the infuriating Sixers of years past: Brandon Davies ain't walking through that door anytime soon.

Everyone else was beautiful. Ben Simmons had a sparkling debut, posting an 18-10-5 with just one turnover, with shocking efficiency for a ball-handler who didn't attempt a shot outside six feet. Markelle Fultz was really impressive making plays for himself and others around the basket -- though he similarly balked at shooting from any kind of range, and his free-throw motion still looks disturbingly close to my fourth-grade form -- and fought on defense, generally showing that he can be a positive contributor even while he works on fixing his busted jumper. And we probably should've known that Joel Embiid's minutes limit was just a red herring: He played 27, posted 18 and 13, and got the crowd chanting "Trust the Process" like the Verizon Center was just an oversized Chickie's and Pete's. Dario Saric played unexceptionally -- 3 points on 1-5 shooting -- but he's Dario, so he's beautiful by default. 

But the real difference was in the wings. Robert Covington and J.J. Redick combined for an absolutely staggering 11 triples on 19 attempts -- the Sixers routinely went entire months at the beginning of the Process without the team making double-digit threes in a single game, now we have two guys doing it entirely on their own. Covington was of course the real superstar, accounting for seven of those triples on his way to a game-high 29 points with typically exceptional D. But man, when Redick pulls up into a quick-trigger three off the dribble... it's like, you didn't even know players were allowed to do that. Not Sixers players, anyway. 

And even with all that, the Sixers still lost, 120-115. Oh well. If Bayless can get the ball to an open Simmons under the basket in the final minute, or if Covington can swing a pass to an open Bayless in the corner a possession later -- both passes were deflected and stolen -- the game may have ended very differently. But it also may not have -- the Wizards have John Wall, they have late-game experience, and they have organizational consistency: In other words, they should win games like this, even against a team as improved (but still as green) as the Sixers. It's fine. It's great, honestly.

Of course, Redick and Covington won't always combine for 11 three-pointers, Embiid won't always be available for 27 minutes a night, and Simmons won't maintain a 5:1 assist:turnover ratio for the entire season. But it's not like any of that won't ever happen again, either: This is just a good team of good players now, and there will be games where they hang in against teams they shouldn't be hanging in against, and even escaping with the win on occasion. 

Will it happen in any of the team's first three? Maybe, maybe not -- it's a little frustrating that the Ballers might not get to demonstrate how improved they are in their W-L record for the season's first stretch, and you have to hope the team (and fanbase) don't fall into some Same Old Sixers malaise as they scrap against the conference elite. But watching the team last night in Washington, the feeling couldn't have been more different than even last year, when they nearly scraped together an opening-night win against an undermanned OKC team. It's not gonna be long before the Philadelphia 76ers are the team that makes the rest of the East go "Oh crap, we have to play them on opening night?"

Howard, Rollins, Utley, Manuel connected again in fun way

tbs-ryan-howard-jimmy-rollins.jpg
TBS

Howard, Rollins, Utley, Manuel connected again in fun way

This was pretty darn cool.

The core members from the greatest run in Phillies franchise history were all connected in a way on Wednesday night.

Jimmy Rollins, who has been performing in-studio analysis for TBS during the MLB postseason, was joined by special guest Ryan Howard.

The ballgame they watched and analyzed? Game 4 of the Dodgers-Cubs NLCS, featuring old friend and teammate Chase Utley.

And then beloved former manager Charlie Manuel joined the fun. Let's just say he was a fan of the TBS crew.

Next season marks the 10-year anniversary of the 2008 world champion club.

Let's hope all four can reunite at Citizens Bank Park for the festivities.

That'll be special.