Eagles Wake-Up Call: 53-Man Roster Projection
Not sure how we let the rookie win last year. Josh not only bested me but every other beat out there in his Eagles 53-man projection for 2015. As Mr. Miyagi once said, beginner luck. Guess I have to start taking this thing a bit more seriously, so let’s get the training going a little early this season. Here’s my first stab at it. If you’re so inclined, Paunil put his projection out last week.
Quarterbacks (3): Sam Bradford, Chase Daniel, Carson Wentz.
And in that order, it appears. Unless the Eagles get an offer they can’t refuse, Bradford is expected to be the starter if healthy, with Daniel serving as the No. 2 and Wentz on ice for the ’16 campaign. That’s the plan. Now let’s see if they stick to it.
Running backs (3): Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood.
There’s certainly a chance that Kenjon Barner makes it, but we’ll say Doug Pederson gets creative with the roster and carries four tight ends (and a quasi-fullback) instead. The quality of this group rests largely on how much of an impact Smallwood can make in his rookie year. He doesn’t need to be Jamaal Charles, but given Mathews’ injury history and Sproles’ age, seems like a good bet that Smallwood will have to pull some weight.
Wide receivers (5): Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Rueben Randle, Josh Huff, Chris Givens.
Plenty of question marks at this position as well. Pederson seems to prefer Matthews in the slot, so the Eagles are in need of a couple outside receivers to step up (at least for three-receiver sets). Who will it be? Pederson singled out Randle for having a good spring. He’s certainly talented but hasn’t been totally reliable as a pro to date. Huff had his share of drops during OTAs. Agholor? Who knows. Givens has familiarity with Bradford but has posted just 512 yards and two touchdowns over his last 29 games. The Eagles need a surprise or two here.
Tight end (4): Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton, Chris Pantale.
Pantale made an impression with a number of pretty catches during the offseason training program. Pederson likes the idea of deploying him at fullback as well.
“I have to look at it from, how much are we going to use that position? [What’s] the value of that position, and if you’ve got four tight ends active on game day, that’s pretty good, because one of them can be a fullback, play special teams [and] all of that comes into play,” Pederson said.
Sounds like Pantale might be in the plans, at least for now.
Offensive line (10): Jason Peters, Allen Barbre, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Stefen Wisniewski, Isaac Seumalo, Matt Tobin, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Dennis Kelly.
The Eagles invested in the o-line this offseason and have some interesting decisions to make when it comes to the bottom of the roster. Andrew Gardner won the starting right guard job last year but suffered a foot injury that landed him on IR and limited him this spring. Can he bounce back? Howie Roseman gave rookie Darrell Greene the most guaranteed money of any UDFA in the league. Will he stick? What about Malcolm Bunche? There should be some good competition this summer.
Defensive line (9): Vinny Curry, Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Taylor Hart, Mike Martin, Marcus Smith, Bryan Braman.
Curious to see how Beau Allen shows this preseason. He appears best suited for a 3-4 but I’m not ruling him out. The Eagles will also have a decision to make with Alex McCalister. He’s a bit of a project, but can they put him on the practice squad without him getting plucked? Worth keeping an eye on UDFAs like Destiny Vaeao who may have otherwise been drafted if not for the depth of the DT draft class.
Linebackers (6): Jordan Hicks, Mychal Kendricks, Nigel Bradham, Najee Goode, Joe Walker, Travis Long.
Don’t feel real confident in my selections outside of the first four. Josh has Myke Tavarres making it. Maybe that’s right. I’m thinking the Eagles add help from the outside here before it’s all said and done. If Stephen Tulloch ever gets cut by the Lions as initially expected, he seems like a logical fit given his history with Schwartz and the need for depth at linebacker.
Cornerbacks (6): Leodis McKelvin, Eric Rowe, Nolan Carroll, Ron Brooks, Jalen Mills, JaCorey Shepherd.
Some jobs to be won this summer. First, there’s still some uncertainty as to who will start opposite McKelvin on the outside. Could be Carroll, could be Rowe. This spring, Brooks got the most reps out there. Then there’s the slot role. Does it go to Jenkins? Brooks? Could Mills sneak in there? Shepherd has to prove that he’s back from his ACL and will be competing with the likes of Jaylen Watkins and Denzel Rice for a gig.
Safeties (4): Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Blake Countess, Chris Maragos.
The starters are set, and I’d imagine Maragos sticks because of his special teams play. That leaves the rookie Countess fighting it out with the likes of Ed Reynolds.
Specialists (3): Cody Parkey, Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos.
Caleb Sturgis is still on the roster. Parkey needs to prove he’s all the way back from a groin injury.
WHAT YOU MISSED
“How you deal with all the statistics now that are available through scouting is extraordinary when you break it down.” The Eagles and the use of Next Gen stats.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Tommy Lawlor writes about the importance of Jim Schwartz to the Eagles’ defense.
Jim Schwartz runs a simpler system than the defensive gurus we’re talking about here, but don’t be fooled into thinking Schwartz just rolls the ball out there and yells “Attack!”. He will design creative blitzes. He will use stunts and loops with his DL. He will mix up coverages to keep offenses from knowing exactly what to expect.
Schwartz will tailor his system to the players he has. If the Eagles can run a basic system and get the best of offenses, so be it. If Schwartz needs to be more creative and aggressive, he will do that. The key is that he wants his players to attack. Rather than focus on being creative, he wants to find the best way to get his players to make plays, especially behind the line of scrimmage.
Chip Kelly and Bill Davis always talked about the need to confuse opposing QBs. Maybe. If you are Greg Maddux and can get batters out with movement and deception, so be it. If you are Nolan Ryan and can overwhelm them with 99 mph fastballs, why the heck would you worry about confusion? Do what you do best. The point isn’t to outsmart the opponent, but rather to pound him into submission.
Over the years, Schwartz has shown that he has a good feel for the appropriate balance of brains and brawn. You want players to be smart, but also fast and physical. Too much thinking can be a bad thing.
After one offseason in Philadelphia, we’re starting to see what Doug Pederson likes in his offensive personnel, writes Jimmy Kempski of PhillyVoice.com.
Versatility. Pederson made it very clear during the pre-draft process that he values offensive linemen who can play multiple positions.
“You love offensive linemen that are versatile,” explained Pederson. “You love to have tackles that can play left or right. You love to have guards that can also play center. The more you can have that flexibility with your guys up front, the more combinations and rotations you can have because not everyone is going to stay healthy for 16 games and you have to mix and match that. Guys that are athletic who can get out on the perimeter and run, aggressive up front, have a little, as they say, ‘piss and vinegar’ in their neck are guys that you look for. I think we have a good nucleus of that.”
The Eagles backed up Pederson’s words when they drafted Isaac Seumalo in the third round of the draft. Seumalo is a rare player who can play all five positions along the offensive line. The Eagles’ fifth-round pick, OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, started at right tackle in 2014 and left tackle in 2015 for TCU. The Eagles also brought in the versatile Stefen Wisniewski in free agency. Wisniewski has started both at guard and center during his time with the Jaguars and Raiders.
Happy Fourth of July weekend. Check in with us between parties (at parties).
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.