Halfway Home: Close roster battles at preseason midpoint

With the preseason now halfway over following back-to-back wins for the Eagles in a matter of six days, the time for roster decisions becomes even more magnified.

After essentially swapping DE Wade Keliikipi for waiver claim DT Jeremy Towns, the Eagles still have 90 players on the roster as Week 3 of the preseason begins.

The Eagles still have Saturday’s game against Green Bay to make some decisions, as the roster reduces to 75 a week from today on Sept. 1. Just four days later, the final roster of 53 must released on Sept. 5.

There are obvious locks and position battles. Here are a few that are worth watching heading into the weekend and who has the edge thus far.

Quarterback: Tim Tebow vs. Matt Barkley – Is there a chance that neither quarterback makes the roster? Apparently the Eagles are weighing the possibility of using two quarterbacks at the start of the season. But given the health concern that surrounds Sam Bradford and knowing what to expect already from Mark Sanchez, the Eagles will likely have another arm who can step in. I’d say Tebow’s in right now based on pro experience alone. Both he and Barkley have performed similarly and didn’t really make a case for themselves on Saturday.

Running Backs: Kenjon Barner, Rahaeem Mostert, Kevin Monangai – Barner’s two punt returns have him carving out a spot behind the three-headed monster of DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. However, Mostert and Monangai have both looked solid and taken advantage of the opportunity. In the end, I still like Barner over the other two, but the Eagles have clear depth here and any decision would be difficult.

Wide Receivers – I don’t believe there is any real battle here. Rasheed Bailey has been impressive, but he’s destined for the practice squad. With Miles Austin rounding out a group of five that includes Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Josh Huff and Riley Cooper, the Eagles are probably set at the position.

Tight Ends: Eric Tomlinson – Tomlinson’s battle isn’t another player. It’s space. He’s been good enough to make many teams in the league. The fact that he’s still behind three other tight ends – Zach Ertz, Brent Celek and Trey Burton – leave him on the bubble. He might make the team if Ertz isn’t ready for Week 1, but it wouldn’t last upon Ertz’ return.

Defensive Line: Brandon Bair, Brian Mihalik – I’m a little surprised this is a battle to be honest. Nothing against Mihalik, but I expected the seventh-round pick to basically be a practice squad guy. I still think he will in light of Bair’s playing experience last season, but Mihalik is much further along than I expected and as long as the Eagles retain him on the practice squad, he will easily make the team some point in the future.

Linebackers: Jordan Hicks, Marcus Smith – Good chance both make the team. I’m a little surprised to see a lot of people putting Emmanuel Acho off the roster when he looked so strong in the first game this preseason. Najee Goode has struggled, so that likely opens up a spot. To me, the Eagles shouldn’t give up on Smith because an injury holds him out of the final two or three preseason games. I can’t see them admitting things aren’t working out with Smith after making him a first-round selection just a year ago. For Hicks, I admit I was a little surprised at his playing time, but he’s shown he can handle it.

Cornerbacks: E.J. Biggers, Randall Evans, Jaylen Watkins – It’s hard to argue with the Eagles top three here – Byron Maxwell, Nolan Carroll and Eric Rowe. Biggers has been very impressive to me. He’s composed in tough situations and looks like a sure veteran on coverages. I think Evans was always likely destined for practice squad and his name is only now being thrown in because a spot opened up with JaCorey Shepherd’s injury. Watkins has really stepped up this preseason following a year on the practice squad, so he likely earns the vacant spot.

Safeties: Ed Reynolds, Chris Prosinski, Jerome Couplin – Is there a way to keep all three? Prosinski would be a key player to special teams. Couplin has shown great signs of improvement. And Reynolds, well, he’s the wildcard. I don’t think anybody expected him to make the case he has this preseason, but he might just be worthy of a spot. More to that, he might even beat out Prosinski or Couplin, which is huge considering the Eagles are likely taking one spot away from certain positions to add another at a position with more depth and talent.

The picture will obviously be clearer in another week, and with one preseason game left between the cut to 75 and 53, there will be a lot of decision-making to be done in a short period of time.

Kevin Durso is managing editor for Eagledelphia. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.

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