Eagles Roster Projection: Green-Beckham’s Impact
It was about time to update my 53-man roster projection anyway, but with the Dorial Green-Beckham trade shaking things up, now is a good time to look at how the Eagles may be constructed after final cuts.
Quarterbacks (3): Sam Bradford, Chase Daniel, Carson Wentz.
Bradford and Wentz have looked a little bit better than I expected during training camp, while Daniel is the opposite. I think the Eagles’ front office — as well as the fans — would take that in a heartbeat. While Bradford will play at least one quarter tomorrow night in Pittsburgh, Wentz may be out for the entire preseason. The rookie’s rib injury should have a negligible impact on his overall development, however, so don’t be too concerned about the time he’s missing. I’m now less confident in Daniel’s ability to keep the Eagles afloat if Bradford gets hurt, but Daniel is still the least important quarterback of the three.
Running backs (4): Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Kenjon Barner, Wendell Smallwood.
After all of the time Smallwood has missed during training camp because of a quad injury, he’s one person to keep a close eye on tomorrow night. He still seems likely to contribute this season, but he may not have a very big role early on, especially if Mathews stays healthy. Of these four, Barner is probably the least likely to make the roster, but I envision Doug Pederson keeping four running backs. After Sproles’ contract extension, he’s not going anywhere, which is good for the Birds because they may need some big punt returns to jump start a potentially sluggish offense. Byron Marshall is also a good practice squad candidate.
Wide receivers (5): Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham, Josh Huff, Chris Givens.
With Green-Beckham in, I picture Rueben Randle as the odd man out. In some ways, Green-Beckham is a younger, more talented version of Randle. Both have had their effort questioned, and both need to be much more consistent in their production. Huff’s spot seems safe because the Eagles like him as a kick returner, so I think it comes down to Randle, Givens or even Paul Turner for that fifth spot. Perhaps Randle can impress coaches in the last three preseason games, but Givens has the edge right now, while Turner is undoubtedly a strong candidate for the practice squad.
Tight end (4): Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton, Chris Pantale.
Since Pederson said he’s leaning toward activating four tight ends on game day, he hasn’t suggested he’s changed his mind. Pantale is certainly raw in the backfield, but I liked most of what I saw from his run blocking against Tampa Bay. Burton and Ertz did a great job on Mathews’ touchdown run in the preseason opener, and their improved run blocking will make the Eagles’ three tight end sets much more difficult to defend. Frank Reich has appeared genuinely surprised about Celek’s ability as a receiver, so don’t be shocked if the Eagles get Celek involved in the passing game.
Offensive line (10): Jason Peters, Allen Barbre, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Stefen Wisniewski, Isaac Seumalo, Matt Tobin, Andrew Gardner, Halapoulivaati Vaitai.
We’ll wait until Johnson’s suspension actually happens to adjust for that, but the Eagles have reached out to free agent Will Beatty and are reportedly “keeping tabs on him.” It wouldn’t be surprising at all if the Eagles keep nine offensive linemen instead of 10, but I’m very curious how Dennis Kelly’s exit impacts how this plays out. Maybe the Eagles think Vaitai could contribute at some point this season, but I can’t imagine them being comfortable with the rookie playing early on. Between concerns about Peters’ ability to stay on the field and Johnson’s potential 10-game ban, there’s a lot of uncertainty at this position.
Defensive line (9): Vinny Curry, Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Mike Martin, Beau Allen, Steven Means, Bryan Braman.
Linebackers (5): Jordan Hicks, Mychal Kendricks, Nigel Bradham, Najee Goode, Joe Walker.
It was somewhat difficult to leave out Stephen Tulloch, but he still hasn’t signed with the Eagles. Keeping just five linebackers with the combined injury history their three starters have may be unlikely, but I’m not sure who they’d bring in outside of Tulloch. Kendricks’ hamstring injury has become increasingly concerning, as Pederson expected him to practice last Saturday, but he’s still out and he won’t play on Thursday. Goode and Walker seem like safe bets as backups, but I think the Eagles will make some type of addition to this unit before the regular season starts.
Cornerbacks (6): Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, Nolan Carroll, Jalen Mills, Eric Rowe, Aaron Grymes.
Picking between Grymes and C.J. Smith for that sixth spot is surprisingly tough. Malcolm Jenkins has been very praiseworthy of Smith, and Jenkins isn’t one to hand out compliments when they aren’t deserved, so I’m buying the hype. Perhaps JaCorey Shepherd — who has missed time due to a hamstring injury during camp — or Denzel Rice step up in the preseason, but I really like Grymes’ body of work throughout the entire training camp. I’m still not sure who will start Week 1 opposite of McKelvin, but I do think Mills will have a larger role than Rowe this season because the rookie can contribute in the slot.
Safeties (4): Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Jaylen Watkins, Chris Maragos.
Watkins has emerged as a safety the Eagles can rely on in coverage from various positions, while Maragos’ special teams ability keeps him on the roster. The Eagles may keep five corners and five safeties instead of six and four, but this is one position where the Birds don’t have to worry about how injury prone their starters are. McLeod hasn’t missed a game since entering the league four years ago, and Jenkins has played more than 1,000 snaps in each of the last two seasons.
Specialists (3): Caleb Sturgis, Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos.
Even if Sturgis gets hurt, I’m not sure I’d automatically keep Cody Parkey. It seems Parkey’s groin injury has had a lingering effect, because Sturgis has been significantly better both in accuracy and from distance.