Eagles' wide receiver competition is one to watch

Sam Bradford looks to be the starter here, but will the Eagles keep three quarterbacks on the roster? Getty Images

PHILADELPHIA -- Now that we've looked at the Philadelphia Eagles position by position, let's try to make sense of the roster from a big-picture view. It's kind of tough to guess at the 53-man roster until we at least see some of the new players out on the field, but we'll try.

Let's look at the offense today.

Offensive line

Projected starters (5): LT Jason Peters, LG Evan Mathis, C Jason Kelce, RG Allen Barbre, RT Lane Johnson.

Projected reserves (4): T Andrew Gardner, G Matt Tobin, G/T Malcolm Bunche, C/G Mike Coccia.

Training camp battles: This could be way off-base, but as much as I'm expecting continuity along the first-team line, I could see some real change among the backups. Now it may be that guys like Kevin Graf, Dennis Kelly and Josh Andrews have impressed the coaching staff and are ready to make a push for more playing time.

But it is certainly true that the Eagles need to infuse some youth into this group. They signed undrafted free agents Bunche and Coccia for that reason. They could wind up on the practice squad, but my feeling is that coach Chip Kelly is looking to change up the chemistry in the offensive line meeting room.

Gardner and Tobin got a fair amount of experience last season. They would be the primary backups if someone had to come out of a game. But if the injuries pile up the way they did last season, it may not matter who the backups are. The Eagles will be in trouble.

Tight end

Projected starter (1): Zach Ertz.

Projected reserves (2): Brent Celek, Trey Burton.

Training camp battles: I'm calling it. Celek held Ertz off thanks primarily to his superior run blocking. That could remain the case this year. I just think Ertz has improved enough -- and is determined enough -- to make the jump this year. That's no knock on Celek, one of the consummate professionals on this roster.

At the very least, Kelly will find ways to get Ertz on the field more, even if Celek is the starter.

There is a chance the Eagles keep a fourth tight end. Undrafted rookies Andrew Gleichert, Eric Tomlinson and Justin Tukes can help their stock by blocking well and establishing themselves on special teams. Burton did just that last year.

Wide receiver

Projected starters (3): Nelson Agholor, Jordan Matthews, Riley Cooper.

Projected reserves (3): Josh Huff, Miles Austin, Seyi Ajirotutu.

Training camp battles: It is possible that Jeff Maehl retains his spot based on special-teams ability, but I am sticking with the belief that Kelly is really trying to upgrade this roster. The status quo is over. If Kelly hadn't signed the veteran Austin, I would have an undrafted rookie in his place. As it is, John Harris, Devante Davis or Rasheed Bailey could play his way into a job.

As for the starters, I still think Cooper sticks because of his contract. It won't be shocking if Huff or Austin moves into the starting lineup, or if Cooper winds up in the slot instead of Matthews. The only thing that seems almost 100 percent certain is that Agholor, the first-round pick, will be out there.


Projected starter (1): Sam Bradford.

Projected reserves (2): Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow.

Training camp battles: They should be interesting. When will Bradford be ready to put on the pads and play? Could Sanchez be the starter at the start of the preseason? The season? Will Tebow get a chance to compete for the No. 2 job, especially if Kelly wants to use him in certain situations (such as two-point conversions or short-yardage plays)?

Ultimately, Kelly traded Nick Foles and a second-round draft choice for Bradford because he believes he can be an elite starter. So Bradford will start when he's healthy and up-to-speed on the offense. Kelly was more impressed with Sanchez last season than many of us were, but he also went out of his way to add Tebow to the mix.

There is a chance that Kelly could keep just two quarterbacks because of numbers at other positions. For this exercise, I'm assuming there will be three quarterbacks.

Running back

Projected starter (1): DeMarco Murray.

Projected reserves (2): Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles.

Training camp battles: If Purdue sprinter Raheem Mostert is able to translate his speed to the football field in Kelly's offense, he could change the equation here. That will be an interesting and fun subplot throughout the preseason.

The Eagles could go with just three backs if they need an extra roster spot for a wide receiver or a safety. But Kelly said he planned to have Chris Polk on the roster, so there is a chance Mostert, Kenjon Barner or Matthew Tucker could make it. A defensive back, receiver or linebacker would have to go to make room.


Projected starters (3): K Cody Parkey, P Donnie Jones, long-snapper Jon Dorenbos.

Training camp battles: The Eagles did sign undrafted rookie free agent Kip Smith to compete with Jones. It would take a very strong (and very consistent) camp to unseat the reliable veteran. It will be worth watching to see if Kelly is determined to replace Jones as he was determined last year to move on from kicker Alex Henery.

Parkey is a lock. So is Dorenbos, unless one of the players Kelly acquired this offseason is a secret long-snapper.

Total: 24 offensive players, three specialists. There were 26 defensive players yesterday. To keep an extra running back or tight end, Kelly would have to cut a defensive back or linebacker.