Eagles Wake-Up Call: 53-Man Roster Projection
Now that the Eagles have made their initial cuts, let’s take another look at who will make the team once the preseason is complete.
Quarterbacks (3): Sam Bradford, Chase Daniel, Carson Wentz.
Obviously, the biggest question still surrounding the quarterbacks is whether Wentz will play at all this season. It may be weeks — or even months — until we know, but the rookie is somewhat fortunate he isn’t expected to play early in the year after his rib injury forced him to miss three preseason games. However, as Doug Pederson mentioned, it’ll be very difficult for Wentz to replace the reps he has missed the last couple of weeks during the regular season.
Running backs (4): Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Kenjon Barner, Wendell Smallwood.
The most notable change here? I see Barner as the primary ball-carrier — at least to start the season — if Mathews is out. Barner has had a terrific preseason, averaging more than six yards per carry, while Smallwood has rushed the ball just twice due to injuries. Sproles may get more snaps than Barner because of his receiving skills, but Barner has been one of the Eagles’ best players over the last few weeks, and it’d be surprising if Sproles carried the ball more than a few times per game.
Wide receivers (5): Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham, Josh Huff, Paul Turner.
Even with Rueben Randle and Chris Givens gone, I’m not sold Paul Turner automatically makes the roster. The Eagles still don’t seem to be happy with their receivers, though they hope Green-Beckham can change that, so I expect Howie Roseman to try adding another receiver via trade or on cut-down day. I also don’t think it’s far-fetched to say the Eagles could safely stash Turner on the practice squad. As other teams look to add someone after final cuts are made, how many are going to want to sign someone who may not even be able to crack the Eagles’ unimpressive group of receivers?
Tight end (4): Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton, Chris Pantale.
Pederson recently reiterated his intention to keep four tight ends. Pantale gets the nod because of his fullback and special teams skills, while Burton has continued to play well throughout camp and the preseason. One of the few ways Pederson can create matchup problems on offense is with his multi-tight end sets, so you may see a healthy dose of Burton this season.
Offensive line (9): Jason Peters, Allen Barbre, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Stefen Wisniewski, Isaac Seumalo, Matt Tobin, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Josh Andrews,
Let’s assume Johnson’s suspension comes down before the regular season, so he won’t count as a roster spot. Regardless, this is another position where, even though I’m penciling in Andrews, I expect the Eagles to try adding an offensive lineman who’s one of the last cuts for another team. It’s also unclear who will start at left guard when Barbre shifts to right tackle, although Seumalo still seems to have the edge.
Defensive line (9): Vinny Curry, Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Beau Allen, Destiny Vaeao, Steven Means, Bryan Braman.
Mike Martin was the biggest surprise of the early cuts because when he was healthy, he looked like the third-best defensive tackle the Eagles had. However, injuries derailed his chances, and Allen, Taylor Hart and even Vaeao have played pretty well. For now, I’ll say the Eagles find a trade partner to ship out Hart, which opens up the spot for Vaeao, but if Hart isn’t traded, Vaeao likely gets placed on the practice squad. Means still has the better body of work this summer over Marcus Smith, but it’s far from a guarantee he makes the team. Perhaps late signee Jake Metz can make a push for the practice squad, but it will be very difficult for him to win a spot because he’s joining the team this late.
Linebackers (6): Jordan Hicks, Mychal Kendricks, Nigel Bradham, Najee Goode, Stephen Tulloch, Quentin Gause.
The first five linebackers are essentially set in stone now that Tulloch signed, but it’s unclear whether the Eagles will keep five or six at this position; I’m adding a sixth because of how injury prone this group is. I’d give Gause the edge over Myke Tavarres, but this is yet another position where the Eagles could nab a player from another team after final cuts are made.
Cornerbacks (6): Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, Nolan Carroll, Jalen Mills, Eric Rowe, C.J. Smith.
With Aaron Grymes released, Smith gets the sixth spot. Perhaps the Eagles only keep five here, but Smith seems to have a pretty good lead over everyone else vying for that last spot. The Eagles are also reportedly “sniffing around” to add a cornerback via trade, so that could throw a monkey wrench into how this position group plays out.
Safeties (4): Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Jaylen Watkins, Chris Maragos.
No change here. Watkins is still impressing his teammates and coaches, while Maragos is too valuable on special teams to get rid of. If the Eagles keep a fifth safety, I’d probably give that spot to Ed Reynolds, but Blake Countess does seem to be a good practice squad candidate.
Specialists (3): Caleb Sturgis, Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos.
Sturgis is far ahead of Cody Parkey, but maybe the Eagles get a conditional seventh-round pick for the runner-up in the kicker competition.
WHAT YOU MISSED
After planning to sit down for the national anthem Thursday night, rookie linebacker Myke Tavarres will now stand up.
“I was obviously hoping to get out there one more time in the preseason, but it is what it is.” Carson Wentz is disappointed he won’t play in the preseason finale against the Jets.
Other than Wentz, head coach Doug Pederson gave injury updates for multiple players, including Jordan Matthews and Wendell Smallwood.
“Dak has certainly, without question, created tangible energy on our team during training camp.” NFC East Roundup.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Myke Tavarres released the following statement, per his agent Corey Williams’ Twitter account:
“I want to apologize for the distraction I’ve become to all of Eagle Nation. I feel passionate about racial issues going on in our country and I thought that sitting during the National Anthem would bring more awareness to this issue and encourage more constructive discussion to find solutions, but I feel I only made things worse. I want to make change in this world, but sitting down during the national anthem just isn’t the best way to do it. With that being said, I do plan on finding a better way. I’m young and I still have a lot to learn about saying and doing the right thing. For now, I will stay focused on football; but I will definitely look for opportunities to do what I can to prevent injustices. I am so blessed to be an American and I just feel a responsibility to do what I can to make things better.”
The Eagles made a couple of roster moves, including signing a defensive lineman:
Congratulations to Jake Metz!
Now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles!
Soul Nation is so proud.
— Ron Jaworski (@jawsespn) August 30, 2016
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) August 29, 2016
ESPN’s Tim McManus also had a good piece on Jim Schwartz and the Eagles’ defensive meeting about the national anthem.
“Coach Schwartz, he feels very strongly about the defense standing up for the national anthem and showing respect for this country and those that came before us, but he is also open to guys standing up for what they believe in,” said safety Ed Reynolds.
“It wasn’t like, ‘Believe what you want to believe outside but we’re all going to stand on this.’ No, ‘You can do what you believe in,’ which I think is cool for a coach. He wanted that conversation, but then he’s allowing you to kind of express yourself.”
According to one player who was in the meeting, Malcolm Jenkins, Leodis McKelvin and rookie linebacker Myke Tavarres were among those who talked during the session, which lasted about 15 minutes. Tavarres later told ESPN.com that he plans on sitting down for the national anthem when the Eagles host the New York Jets on Thursday.
Doug Pederson is scheduled to address the media around 1:15.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.