Eagles Wake-Up Call: 53-Man Roster Projection
An updated look after gathering more information with the first preseason game near:
Quarterbacks (3): Sam Bradford, Chase Daniel, Carson Wentz.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson seems like he’s spent more time as a stand-in at defensive back and wide receiver during drills than at quarterback. Nothing has — or will — change here. Although Wentz has made some impressive throws during training camp, Bradford has clearly been the best quarterback, with Daniel at No. 2. However, you should see a lot of Wentz in this first preseason game.
Running backs (4): Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Kenjon Barner, Wendell Smallwood.
I’ve posed this question before in other mediums, and I’ll ask it again here: Which of these backup running backs would you be okay with getting more than five carries in a game? The 33-year-old receiving threat, the 26-year-old with 34 career carries, or the rookie fifth-round pick? Byron Marshall is a guy to keep an eye on during the preseason, but I picture him as more of a practice squad candidate.
Wide receivers (5): Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Rueben Randle, Josh Huff, Chris Givens.
Wide receiver is similar to running back in terms of the lack of clarity after the No. 1 spot on the depth chart. I wouldn’t be surprised if Huff is fifth in wide receiver snaps in some games this year, but as the team’s kick returner, there doesn’t seem to be much of a chance he isn’t on the roster. Givens has lined up a lot with the first-team offense this summer, so he seems like the third starter after Matthews and Agholor, but I imagine the depth chart for this position group will change several times this season.
Tight end (4): Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton, Chris Pantale.
This seems set in stone. Doug Pederson has gone so far as to say he’s leaning toward activating four tight ends on game day. Pantale has carved out a role as a fullback and special teams contributor, while Burton has been one of the best players this summer. Expect some three tight end sets so the Birds can get Burton involved, but this is one position the Eagles don’t need to worry about.
Offensive line (9): Jason Peters, Allen Barbre, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Stefen Wisniewski, Isaac Seumalo, Matt Tobin, Dennis Kelly.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai hasn’t done much to suggest he should be on the 53-man roster. Perhaps he’ll surprise during the preseason or the Eagles could get worried he won’t make it to the practice squad, but even if he does survive final cuts, it seems very unlikely he would be able to contribute much this season. Wisniewski has separated himself from Seumalo as the clear alternative to Barbre at left guard, but I’d bet on Barbre retaining that starting job, at least to start the season. Undrafted free agent Darrell Greene also makes a lot of sense as a practice squad candidate.
Defensive line (9): Vinny Curry, Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Mike Martin, Beau Allen, Steven Means, Bryan Braman.
Means has been better than Marcus Smith throughout training camp. Smith’s concussion will only give Means more of an opportunity to show off his skills, and to perhaps play his way into a small number of snaps as the No. 4 defensive end. However, if the Eagles were to cut their 2014 first-round pick, they’d incur $2,127,028 in dead money. If they traded him, they’d save $130,992. If the Birds cut him before June 1 next year, they’d save $1,483,515 against the cap. At defensive tackle, Martin has clearly established himself as the No. 3 guy. The fourth spot is up for grabs, and I have Allen narrowly beating out undrafted free agent Destiny Vaeao, who appears to be a likely practice squad member.
Linebackers (6): Jordan Hicks, Mychal Kendricks, Nigel Bradham, Najee Goode, Joe Walker, Stephen Tulloch.
I’m not sure if anyone in Birds 24/7 history has ever included someone on the 53-man roster projection who isn’t actually on the team, but I’m more confident Tulloch will make it than Quentin Gause, Deontae Skinner or Myke Tavarres. I’m not sure when Tulloch would join the Eagles if they do ultimately sign him, but I’m guessing the 31-year-old, who knows Jim Schwartz’s system very well, is not in any rush to jump into the Eagles’ three-hour training camp practices. Gause, Skinner and Tavarres, however, do seem like good practice squad options.
Cornerbacks (6): Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, Nolan Carroll, Jalen Mills, Eric Rowe, Aaron Grymes.
After creating some buzz last offseason, JaCorey Shepherd hasn’t done the same this year. He has missed the last two practices because of a hamstring injury, while Grymes has consistently stood out. Wentz’s North Dakota State teammate, C.J. Smith III, has also played pretty well during training camp and appears to be a legitimate practice squad candidate. Right now, I’d expect Brooks as the starter opposite of McKelvin, while Brooks slides inside in nickel situations with Carroll taking his spot on the outside. At this point, it wouldn’t be surprising if Mills earns more playing time than Rowe this season.
Safeties (4): Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Ed Reynolds, Chris Maragos.
This is a tough one. Jaylen Watkins has played pretty well during camp, but Maragos gets the nod because of his special teams prowess. Blake Countess could also be in the mix, but he seems more like a practice squad candidate. With Jenkins out in recent days due to a hamstring injury, Reynolds has taken his spot alongside McLeod with the first-team defense, so Reynolds seems like the No. 3 safety, at least in the Eagles’ eyes right now.
Specialists (3): Caleb Sturgis, Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos.
Jones, obviously, is in no danger of losing his job, while Sturgis has been more accurate and displayed a stronger leg than Cody Parkey this summer. The long snapper battle, however, is a complete mystery. We’ll see how Dorenbos compares to John DePalma during the preseason.
WHAT YOU MISSED
“I have a lot of respect for that guy and his production.” Jim Schwartz is a fan of Stephen Tulloch, but nothing seems imminent.
Practice observations: The Birds returned to pads yesterday, and Rodney McLeod recorded yet another interception.
“Right from the outset his approach has been outstanding. He has the ability to play. He just needs experience playing at this level.” NFC East Roundup.
The Eagles were reportedly in heavy negotiations with Tulloch on Saturday night.
“Without him, I probably wouldn’t be in the NFL.” Tight end Trey Burton has emerged as an offensive weapon this camp.
The Eagles had another 10-10-10 session on Saturday. Here are some practice observations.
Brandon Graham says he was almost released by Chip Kelly in favor of Travis Long.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
With his fiery attitude, Jim Schwartz is earning the respect of his defensive players, writes the Inquirer’s Jeff McLane.
But there is a softer, more thoughtful side. Schwartz will often take an anecdotal approach to teaching. The stories may be profound or they just may be humorous. And he isn’t above awarding players for effort – most recently, with gallons of lemonade from Chick-fil-A.
“There’s a lot of different ways to teach,” Schwartz said. “There are lessons to be learned from other football players from other teams, from other people, from history. It’s all about learning lessons so however you do it, you do it right. There are a lot of different ways to skin a cat.”
Jenkins said that he felt compelled to read more about Shuttlesworth after Schwartz’s presentation. Defensive end Connor Barwin said what he remembered most about the talk was the quote, “Boys step backward, men step forward.”
“It’s surprising because he is so intense,” Barwin said. “He’ll surprise you with this depth that he has, which you don’t see on the surface or out here. And then you’re like, ‘Oh, [shoot].’ “
Brent Celek shows no signs of slowing down in his 10th season in the league, from CSN Philly’s Reuben Frank.
The last player to spend 10 or more years with the Eagles and never spend a day with another team is Jerry Sisemore, who spent the 1973 through 1984 seasons in Philly.
More than 30 years ago.
Celek hopes to end that. He plans to end that. He signed a two-year contract extension this offseason at $4 million per year, and that runs through 2018.
By then he’ll be about to celebrate his 34th birthday and he’ll be a 12-year vet.
And unless there are dramatic changes in the front office and in Celek’s level of play – which is still very high – he will never play for another team.
“With how this organization has taken care of me, with how this city has taken care of me, I don’t want to go anywhere else,” he said after practice Monday.
Practice begins at 8:05, with Doug Pederson set to address the media afterward.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.