Eagles Wake-Up Call: 53-Man Roster Projection
We haven’t seen the Eagles practice in pads yet, and the roster to pick from won’t be the same in September, but let’s have a little fun in these dull days until training camp starts. As the defending champion of the Eagles beat reporter roster projection pool (which I will definitely mention several more times this offseason), here’s my best guess as to how some key position battles will play out.
Quarterbacks (3): Sam Bradford, Chase Daniel, Carson Wentz.
The only certainty with this position is who will make the team, but we don’t know much else. If Sam Bradford gets hurt, how long until we see Carson Wentz? Or if he really struggles, does Doug Pederson put Chase Daniel in? The Eagles are hoping Bradford starts all 16 games so they can compete for a division title and trade him for a good pick to recoup some of the value they lost in the Wentz deal, but Bradford has played in every game just twice out of his six years in the NFL.
Running backs (4): Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, Kenjon Barner.
This is also a position with a lot of uncertainty. Outside of Mathews, who gets the most carries? How much more will Sproles be utilized as a receiving option? Does Pederson keep four running backs? Who’s ahead on the depth chart between Smallwood and Barner? Based off Pederson’s comments throughout OTAs and mandatory minicamp, I’d put Smallwood ahead.
Wide receivers (5): Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Rueben Randle, Josh Huff, Chris Givens.
It will be very interesting to see how the number of targets are split between the receivers this season, and if there’s a noticeable difference depending on which quarterback is throwing the ball. For the Eagles’ receivers to be productive this year, I think Nelson Agholor is going to have to be the guy who steps up. Maybe Rueben Randle could bring some of his touchdown magic from New York last season to Philadelphia, and Chris Givens may be an occasional deep threat, but I’d peg Agholor as the No. 2 guy behind Jordan Matthews.
Tight end (3): Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton.
This is the one offensive position the Eagles don’t really need to worry about. Pederson seems to like how Chris Pantale fits at fullback, but let’s wait to see how he blocks during training camp and if can contribute on special teams as well.
Offensive line (10): Jason Peters, Allen Barbre, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Stefen Wisniewski, Isaac Seumalo, Matt Tobin, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Andrew Gardner.
This is the toughest offensive position to project which guys will be kept as backups. Stefen Wisniewski and Isaac Seumalo seem like locks, while Matt Tobin looks to be the No. 1 reserve offensive tackle on either side, at least for now. Meanwhile, I’m guessing they’d like to give Halapoulivaati Vaitai some time to develop, but his roster spot isn’t guaranteed. After that, does Dennis Kelly again survive final cuts? Andrew Gardner was limited during OTAs so his spot in the rotation is unclear, but it wouldn’t be surprising for him to make the team.
Defensive line (9): Vinny Curry, Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Taylor Hart, Mike Martin, Marcus Smith, Bryan Braman.
The biggest question mark on here is who the backup defensive tackles will be. Taylor Hart often took first-team reps when Fletcher Cox didn’t attend OTAs, but Mike Martin seems to be a guy impressing the Eagles’ offensive linemen. Plus, how does Beau Allen fit in as the Eagles shift from Billy Davis’ 3-4 to Jim Schwartz’s 4-3? Alex McCalister seems like more of a practice squad candidate than anything else, while Marcus Smith gets one more year to prove whether he’s worth a roster spot as a situational pass-rusher.
Linebackers (6): Nigel Bradham, Jordan Hicks, Mychal Kendricks, Najee Goode, Joe Walker, Myke Tavarres.
Another position for the Eagles with a (seemingly) good starting unit, and questionable depth. I’m pretty confident about these first five guys making the roster, while Myke Tavarres is — at best — an educated guess. Tavarres seems like a guy who could contribute on special teams and he has a lot of physical tools to work with, so I’ll give him the nod. But it wouldn’t be surprising at all if the Eagles want to add another linebacker not currently on the roster at some point.
Cornerbacks (6): Leodis McKelvin, Eric Rowe, Nolan Carroll, Ron Brooks, Jalen Mills, JaCorey Shepherd.
This will be the most interesting position battle to follow. We don’t know who the starters will be, and we don’t know who the backups will be either. I’d pencil in Leodis McKelvin and Eric Rowe as the starters on the outside with Ron Brooks on the inside at nickel, but if Nolan Carroll or Brooks take Rowe’s spot, that wouldn’t be surprising. Meanwhile, who do the Eagles keep behind those guys? Jalen Mills has impressed so far during the offseason, so much so that Jordan Matthews said he thinks Mills will “play a lot.” But that last spot is the toughest. Does it go to JaCorey Shepherd or Denzel Rice, the undrafted free agent who made the 53-man last season?
Safeties (4): Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Blake Countess, Chris Maragos.
Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod may be one of the best safety tandems in the NFL, while Blake Countess has generated a little bit of chatter with his performance during OTAs and mandatory minicamp. Chris Maragos is one of the Eagles’ best special teamers, which is why I think Ed Reynolds is on the outside looking in.
Specialists (3): Cody Parkey, Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos.
Donnie Jones is the only certainty here. Cody Parkey will be locked in a battle with Caleb Sturgis throughout training camp, while Jon Dorenbos will have to hold off John DePalma, who reportedly received an “unprecedented” deal for a rookie long snapper.
WHAT YOU MISSED
“I think it’s definitely blown over from the viewpoint of the other players — I think from the coaches as well.” Stefen Wisniewski talked about the team’s quarterback drama.
Who are the top players the Eagles invested a lot of resources in this offseason?
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Tommy Lawlor explains why he ranked Corey Simon and Trent Cole higher than Hugh Douglas in his all-time Eagles defensive linemen rankings.
If we’re going strictly on talent, Cole shouldn’t be this high. Hugh was more talented. Cole got ranked that high for a couple of reasons. First, he played 10 years and I do think longevity counts when doing these rankings. Cole started 145 games for the Eagles and was a rock for the DL. Every week you knew #58 would be the RDE and would play as if his life depended on it. He had 85.5 sacks in his Eagles career, second only to Reggie in team history.
I also went with Cole that high because he was a terrific run defender. He was tough when run plays came at him and relentless in chasing the ball when plays went away from him. Hugh was a good run defender in his own right, but Cole was outstanding.
Corey Simon at #6 is the ranking I’m sure that most find questionable so let’s talk about this. I am not a fan of Corey Simon the person. The Eagles put the franchise tag on him after the 2004 season. It became evident he wasn’t coming back so the Eagles negotiated a trade with the Ravens. The Eagles would get a 2nd and 3rd round pick in return. That was exciting news. Unfortunately Simon would not agree to a deal with the Ravens (who were offering good money) so the trade was off. Other teams wouldn’t bite so the Eagles rescinded the tag and Simon signed with the Colts.
Roseman’s legacy will be based just on Carson Wentz, pens Angelo Cataldi of PhillyVoice.
Since returning to the role after the Chip Kelly disaster, Roseman has signed 14 contracts worth $280-million – twice the amount of any other NFL team so far in 2016 – he has secured his best player (Cox) for six more years, filled major holes with seven free agents, and managed the salary cap astutely.
And none of it will matter if Wentz is not the franchise quarterback, and soon. What has been lost in Roseman 2.0 is that he didn’t just risk hundreds of millions of dollars, he also gambled the immediate future of the Eagles by handing over 2017’s first-round draft pick, a 2018 second-rounder and two selections from the most recent draft.
In other words, Roseman made 14 moves, but really only one. He prioritized the quarterback position like no team ever has, investing $22-million in guaranteed money to Sam Bradford, $12 million more in backup Chase Daniel and $27 million already committed to Wentz. That’s $61 million guaranteed just to quarterbacks.
We’ll keep you updated on what’s going on with the Birds.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.