PHILADELPHIA - Midway through Tuesday's practice at the NovaCare Complex, the Eagles' offense split into position groups.
Instead of joining Brent Celek, James Casey, Zach Ertz and the other tight ends, Clay Harbor huddled with DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper, Jason Avant and the rest of the wide receivers.
"It wasn't my idea," Harbor said. "The coaches called me into (head coach) Chip (Kelly's) office and told me they wanted me to play some wide receiver. Nothing's set in stone, but for right now, that's my position."
Harbor was a longshot to make the team as a tight end, considering Celek is a veteran starter, Casey signed as a high-profile free agent and Ertz was a second-round draft pick.
The Eagles were lacking depth at wide receiver after Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn both suffered season-ending knee injuries earlier in training camp.
Harbor, who is in his fourth season with the Eagles, will be competing with Nick Miller, Ifeanyi Momah, Will Murphy, Greg Salas, Russell Shepard III and newcomer Jeff Maehl for one or two roster spots behind Jackson, Cooper, Avant and Damaris Johnson.
The Eagles acquired Maehl on Monday via trade with Houston. They shipped offensive lineman Nate Menkin to the Texans in exchange for Maehl, who bears a strong physical resemblance to PGA Tour star Ricky Fowler.
Maehl is being reunited with Kelly. The 6-foot, 184-pounder played four seasons at the University of Oregon and caught 77 passes for 1,076 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior in 2010 before making the Texans in 2011 as an undrafted free agent. He played in three games for the Texans in 2011 without catching a pass and spent last season on their practice squad.
"I was a little surprised to be traded," Maehl said Tuesday after watching the Eagles' practice. "Obviously, when you are on a team, you want to make that team. But in this league, sometimes you get moved around. I'm happy for the opportunity to be back with coach Kelly.
"He's changed a lot of the terminology and signals with the offense, so I have to relearn the language, but I played four years in this offense, so I'm pretty comfortable with everything. I'm hoping to play (in Thursday's preseason game against Carolina). I'm a competitor. I want to get out there, show what I can do and earn the respect of my new teammates."
Salas has made strong strides in his bid to make the regular-season roster.
He followed a series of solid practices against New England last week by catching three passes for a team-high 54 yards and a touchdown in the Eagles' 31-22 loss to the Patriots in last Friday's preseason game. He caught a 12-yard TD pass from rookie quarterback Matt Barkley in the fourth quarter of that game, then added a leaping, one-handed, 35-yard reception on a pass from G.J. Kinne on the final possession.
The 6-2, 210-pounder made another dazzling grab in Sunday's open workout at Lincoln Financial Field, diving to snare a 40-yard pass from Michael Vick against double coverage. As a reward, he got some reps with the first-team offense during Monday's practice.
"Greg is one of those guys that just keeps showing up," Kelly said. "He's that guy that whenever he gets his opportunity, he seems to step up. He kind of has a knack for making plays, and that's an important thing because depth at wide receiver is a huge question for us right now.
"Every time you get a chance to get on the field, you're building your resume, and he keeps building his resume and showing up, and everybody will take notice of him."
Unlike most of his competition, Salas has a little NFL experience. A fourth-round draft pick of St. Louis in 2011, He caught 27 passes for 264 yards and also averaged 14.5 yards on two punt returns in six games before breaking his leg.
He was traded to the Patriots in the offseason and spent first half of the 2012 campaign on their practice squad before the Eagles claimed him off waivers. He did not play in any games for the Eagles.
"Every day I'm on the field, I'm trying to improve," Salas said. "And every day, I'm trying to impress somebody. I have to go hard on every play, every snap, because if I don't, someone else will be taking my place."
Harbor also has some experience at wide receiver, though he has never played it in the NFL.
He was a wide receiver and defensive back at Dwight High School in Illinois and was recruited to Missouri State as a wideout. He moved to tight end as a sophomore.
"We had two senior tight ends that year and they both got hurt," Harbor said. "I was the biggest receiver they had, so they asked me to try tight end. I made a couple of catches and showed I wasn't afraid to hit people, so they kept me there."
Harbor had his best season with the Eagles last year, catching 25 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns. But once they added Casey and Ertz, it became obvious he needed to move.
The 6-3, 255-pounder had a brief audition at linebacker during the offseason minicamps and is expected to play wide receiver against the Panthers.
"We have a lot of depth at the tight end position, so I'm trying to see if I can find a spot on the roster somewhere else," Harbor said. "I'm willing to play wherever they need me. The more versatile you are, the more valuable you are."
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