Now that the Philadelphia Eagles have something resembling a roster, it's time for my last blast of negativity and worrying before the opener next Sunday. While the roster will probably change after Saturday it is pretty unlikely to do so immediately, meaning the current roster will be the one that faces the Rams. As such, a To-Do list no longer really applies. But as is the case with every team that ever played the game, there are concerns. Let's dwell on them, shall we?
**UPDATE**: So naturally within 12 hours of my stating the Eagles won't change the roster or starting lineup until next week, they re-sign Joselio Hanson, cut Trevard Lindley to make room, and indicate that Kyle DeVan will start over Danny Watkins. Clearly, they did it just to make me look stupid. Well, the joke's on them, I don't need help for that!
- Offensive line
- Juan Castillo
- Michael Vick
- OL - The number one concern for the Eagles going in to the regular season has to be the offensive line. Aside from Jason Peters, the line is entirely different than last years. Given that last year's line wasn't ideal, this by itself is not a bad thing. New coach Howard Mudd's reputation is certainly grounds for hope as well. Unfortunately, the Eagles are starting a line in Week 1 that has never played in a game together. They are starting a line with a former backup the Bengals let go at left guard, a right tackle that has been playing left guard almost exclusively for over 5 years, and two rookies who struggled in the preseason. Yes, PFF has a major man-crush on Evan Mathis and the Bengals are worse at evaluating and retaining talent than I am at retaining beer in my fridge. Yes, Todd Herremans is a talented guy who played tackle in college and drives the Mystery Mobile. And yes, those two rookies were selected to start over veterans by one of the most highly respected position coaches in the league. I'm still worried. You're still worried. And Michael Vick probably bought a diamond-encrusted MedicAlert bracelet on the down-low by now.
**UPDATE**: Two rookies won't be starting, as Kyle DeVan will start over Danny Watkins at RG. Much like Mathis, DeVan is a player that a team with offensive line problems decided to cut.
- Castillo - No matter the positive impression people got during the preseason, he has to be on this list. We all know his story, so I'll skip the rehash. Can he call plays? Can he make adjustments? Can he build a defense? Can he avoid lingering brain trauma from head-butting his helmeted players?
- LBs - Everyone was expecting the Eagles to pick up a veteran backup for MLB. Then again, everyone was expecting the Eagles to name a defensive coach as defensive coordinator. Sure, they might pick someone up after the magic Saturday cheapness deadline. But for one game at least, the starting lineup will be Moise Fokou, Jamar Chaney, and Casey Matthews. Recently-resigned 26 year-old backup LB Akeem Jordan has more NFL experience than all three starters combined, in addition to his confusing and possibly telling Twitter account name.
- Kickers - In what seems to be a burgeoning theme, the problem here is inexperience. Most of the linebackers have at least played in a regular season NFL game. The same cannot be said for the kickers. Chas Henry and Alex Henery, the Law Firm of Henry and Henery, were the best college kickers available this offseason. Unfortunately, young kickers tend to struggle. While Henry's punts in the preseason have been acceptable, Henery has struggled with consistency. In the final preseason game Henery went 1/2, missing a 43-yarder on the first drive. While he later connected on a 49-yard FG, that was against third-string goalposts.
- Vick - Here we enter the second tier of worry. These are concerns I have that are fairly likely to be at least partially groundless. They still exist though, and a perfect example is the play of Michael Vick. At times last year he looked incredible, quite possibly the best quarterback in the league. Then at some point last season, he fell back to Earth from Starship 7. In his last two starts in 2010 (MIN and the playoff game) his averaged QB rating was 77, including 4 turnovers and a below-60% completion percentage. He hasn't looked better in the preseason, either, averaging 52.8% completion, a 4 to 1 turnover-to-TD ratio, and a QB rating of 45.9. Sure, a lot of this can be blamed on the offensive line and other factors. I also expect Vick to play better in the regular season than the preseason. My worry remains, though, that last season was a one-shot deal, and Vick will struggle before getting hurt early and replaced by Vince Young, who plays lights-out and seals up the starting job and a big new contract next year... Nah, never happen.
- Safeties - See above re: Linebackers. Two second-year players, a rookie, and a journeyman who had less value to the Patriots than the recently released Brandon Meriweather. I don't even count Colt Anderson, since he exists on the roster solely to keep special teams coach Bobby April from committing seppuku. It looks like last year's 2nd round pick Nate Allen won't be starting, due to lingering knee problems, and this year's 2nd round pick Jaiquawn Jarrett has made exactly no impression whatsoever in the preseason. The sole bright side has been overachieving 7th rounder Kurt Coleman. It wouldn't surprise me at all if the Eagles attempt to confuse Rams safety Quintin Mikell by sneaking one of his old green and white uniforms into his locker.
- Fullback - I hadn't given this position much thought recently. Sure, the Eagles drafted Stanley Havili, but that was in the 7th round. He was 14 spots from going undrafted. Despite the Eagles' recent and somewhat bizarre success with 7th round picks, I didn't expect much to come from it. In the past week, however, the Eagles have done everything but put an ad on Craigslist for a fullback, "no experience necessary." After failing to claim Jerome Felton and Chris Gronkowski off waivers, last year's starter Owen Schmitt is probably ready to knock himself out with excitement for the Eagles organization. The moves make sense, in that Schmitt has never been an exceptional blocker or runner in the NFL, but it seems pretty clear they miss what Leonard Weaver brought to the offense.