Julian Vandervelde was the player the Eagles let go on Tuesday to get down to 75. He is currently injured so the Eagles simply reached an injury settlement with him. That means David Molk will be the backup Center this year.
Molk was added to the roster back in January after sitting out all of 2013. He played for the Chargers in 2012, but got hurt late and that caused him to not make the team last year. Molk has limited experience, but he is a good fit for the Eagles. He’s got the athleticism that Kelly wants in a C.
Molk wasn’t given the job…he earned it. Molk played well this summer. He showed that he could be effective blocking at the point of attack or 20 yards downfield on a screen pass. I don’t know Molk is ever going to be a player that a team wants as a starter, but he looks like he could be an effective player if needed. And that’s okay in a backup.
Teams love competition for spots at the bottom of the roster for a couple of reasons. First, competition can bring out the best in players. Just look at the Eagles RB situation right now. Those guys are all battling for a spot or two. We’ve seen other years when a spot was there for the taking and no player would step up.
The other benefit to competition is that it is okay for someone to fail because someone else is there to win the job. If a team tries to give a job to a rookie or developmental player and that guy fails…uh oh. We all thought Joe Kruger would win a roster spot or at least be part of the practice squad. Instead, he’s gone. Luckily the Eagles had quality players in Brandon Bair and Taylor Hart there to take his place.
Let’s talk about some positions and players who have stepped up or not done so.
The Eagles love Mac, Coop and Matthews. Josh Huff looks like a standard rookie. Beyond that, things are open. Brad Smith had a good camp, but injuries have limited him in the preseason. It sounds like Kelly is still high on him, but it would be nice to have seen more out of him in games. Arrelious Benn shows up on STs and as a blocker, but hasn’t caught many passes. Is the STs play enough for him to win a spot? Ifeanyi Momah stepped up in a big way. I think he’s more practice squad than roster material, but he’s at least made the conversation a possibility.
It would have been nice for some UDFA or unheralded player to really shine this summer. Didn’t happen. The guys will get a lot of reps vs the Jets. That is going to be a huge game for them.
Remember when this was a huge question mark? Andrew Gardner and Matt Tobin stepped up in a big way. Kudos to them. Molk played well and earned his spot. Dennis Kelly could make it. Michael Bamiro regressed. None of the rookies has stood out in a big way. Kevin Graf is the most intriguing player.
I went back to re-watch the PIT game again, focused only on ILBs. There just aren’t enough plays that jump out at you. The good news is that there aren’t a lot of mistakes. Najee Goode is the best of the bunch. He’s played okay, but is a victim of the way he looked in real games in 2013. I thought he’d eat up backup players. Emmanuel Acho has played well enough to make the roster, but he’s not been good enough to sit back and feel confident that he’s got a job.
The ILB situation is wide open enough that OLB Travis Long played on the inside last week. The Eagles might keep him on the roster as an OLB and emergency ILB player. Long has played well this summer and done whatever the coaches asked of him. We’ve seen him at DE, OLB and ILB, as well as all over on STs. If he were a better athlete, he’d be a lock to make the team. At the very least, Long has done everything in his power. Kudos to him.
Nate Allen stepped up and earned his starting spot. Earl Wolff has been solid and will be the #3 guy. Chris Maragos looks terrific on STs. He is always around the ball and looks like the real deal. On defense, he just doesn’t stand out. He can attack what is in front of him, but I don’t see anything special in terms of cover skills or range. Ed Reynolds flashed in the opener, but has been quiet since then. He might get a roster spot, but I bet the Eagles look around at other cuts for possible S help. Reynolds could be practice squad material and might have a good future, but he’s not stood out much this summer. Keelan Johnson has been a major disappointment.
Nolan Carroll has played well enough to challenge for a starting job. He’s been ideal for what you want out of a new guy. Rookie Jaylen Watkins has looked okay, but hasn’t played well enough that you feel the coaches will aggressively push to get him on the field. Watkins has shown enough to absolutely make the team. Roc Carmichael is a player I’m not sure about. I don’t think he’ll ever be good enough to start, but he can play slot or outside and is a solid STer. It wouldn’t shock me to see him make the team.
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The Jets game will be crucial to many of these players. One game doesn’t define a player or a career, but it can be just enough to get a player on the roster.
Priest Holmes was on the roster bubble in his rookie season with the Ravens. He was great in the preseason finale and secured a roster spot. The rest is NFL history.
That’s the exception, obviously, but Thursday is going to be a huge moment in the lives of many of these players.