OTA’s are underway and Football season is gradually getting closer and closer. There is a lot of uncertainty over the state of the Eagles due to so much competition over open spots and we will likely see a few surprises come the announcement of the 53-man roster. It’s time to take an early look at what those surprises might be and what the final roster may look like.
Quarterback: 3 (3)
No surprises here, the Eagles will likely carry three Quarterbacks into the regular season. Whilst it’s completely possible that the Eagles only keep two Quarterbacks active on gamedays, the birds will want to Wentz to learn as much as possible in his rookie season. Keeping him on the sidelines and having him experience how the Offense works in live game situations will be invaluable to his development.
Running back: 4 (7)
Four running backs seem the most plausible option for the Eagles. Byron Marshall will make the roster but not as a running back due to an ever improving Kenjon Barner turning heads during training camp. With Barner’s off-season bulk up, he could even fill two spots for the Eagles as a temporary fullback. Wendell Smallwood makes the final 53-man roster and adds enough versatility to turn the Eagles backfield into one of the most dynamic and unpredictable in the NFL.
Tight End: 3 (10)
Ertz and Celek were rewarded for their hard work with new contracts this offseason, cementing their spots in the final roster. The backup spot does not fall to Trey Burton however. Instead, undrafted rookie M.J McFarland makes the roster as a player who can help the Eagles out in numerous fashions. At 6’5 and 230 pounds, the Tight End who models his game after Zach Ertz will not only get a chance to learn under him, but work alongside him. Having previous experience as a receiver will help his game massively in the west-coast hybrid Offense that Doug Pederson plans on implementing.
Wide Receiver: 7 (17)
Jordan Matthews and Reuben Randle will lead the charge for the Eagles Wide Receivers as Josh Huff and Nelson Agholor battle to change their reputation and enjoy explosive seasons.
The main surprise here is Trey Burton. As I stated a few weeks ago, Burton’s skill set screams a switch to the outside in an Offense that panders to his strengths. Having already taken some reps as a wideout in OTA’s, the idea of Burton at fullback may be a good one..but not the right one.
Byron Marshall makes the roster as a wideout but will likely contribute in the backfield as well. The former Oregon Duck is extremely versatile but with a stacked backfield, it would be hard to stand out from the crowd. Instead, Marshall will aim to help add even more explosiveness to a wide receiver corps that is rapidly becoming one of many unknowns.
Reuben Randle and Chris Givens are the other new faces on the roster with veteran T.J Graham failing to make the cut.
Offensive Line: 8 (25)
With Pederson standing firmly behind Allen Barbre at left guard, the Eagles will need an insurance policy heading into the regular season in case things change. Third round pick Isaac Seumalo will compete with Wisniewski, in turn developing both linemen much quicker as the hunger for the starting role intensifies. The Offensive Line looks much better heading into 2016 and if Jason Peters does begin to falter, big V can step in and make an impact.
Defensive End: 5 (30)
This may end up being one of the most important positions on the Defense in the new Jim Schwartz era..so it’s important that the Eagles attack it with both talent and depth. Graham, Barwin and Curry are all locks at this point. All three have more than enough talent to dominate at the position under Schwartz and all three bring something different to the table..making rotations a nightmare for Offensive Lines.
The two wildcards here are Braman and Smith. McCalister doesn’t make the final roster but will instead be re-signed to the practice squad as the ruthless Bryan Braman and “on the bubble” Marcus Smith are given a platform to shine.
For months I have been praising Braman’s aggressive work ethic, examining his shattering impact on what were minimal opportunities in 2015 and justifying an improved role on the Defense. The special teams ace was under-utilized in Billy Davis’ Defense and as a Defensive End could prove to be a terror to opposing lines.
It’s do-or-die for Smith on the other hand who desparately needs to prove his worth this season before the lights are shut off on his career. That extra pressure and a suited position change could finally see all those glimpses of what Smith could do turn into a year long demonstration of what he can do.
Defensive Tackle: 4 (34)
Cox and Logan will be the dominant Defensive Tackles for the Eagles and former Titans tackle Mike Martin will become the backup due to his consistency and suitability to the scheme. Should Cox or Logan go down, the Eagles have a reliable option in Martin who brings a veteran presence to the position..allowing undrafted rookie Connor Wujciak to have a season of education under two of the best in the NFL.
A Nose tackle who may lack the size to prevent running holes opening in the NFL but never backs down from a challenge, Wujciak will have a chance to develop behind the likes of Bennie Logan and utilize his frame in an aggressive scheme that evidently suits his talents of rushing the passer in smaller spaces. Failing that, he can earn his stripes on special teams.
Linebacker: 5 (39)
There’s going to be a lot of competition at Linebacker this season and all of it headed by Jordan Hicks. The Sophomore Linebacker burst onto the scene in 2015 before an injury stunted his DROTY campaign. With Bradham able to teach him the nuances of the Schwartz Defense and Kendricks looking to bounce back to the top of the depth chart, the starters may be thin on depth..but have an abundance of talent and potential.
Najee Goode makes the roster due to his special teams expertise and Quentin Gause becomes the next surprise to make the roster. Why would Gause make the cut over some of the more experienced or arguably impressive Linebackers vying to make the roster?
Playing at strong side linebacker during 2015, Gause amassed a total of 96 tackles which saw him rank second in the team whilst he led the Rutgers with 12 tackles for a loss. He also had back to back 15 tackle games against Ohio State and Wisconsin. At 6’1 and 235 pounds, Gause has a well rounded figure that was supported by an emphatic pro day in which he outperformed every other Rutgers prospect in the following categories:
Vertical jump: 36 inches
3-cone drill: 7:00 seconds
20-yard shuttle: 4.15 seconds
60-yard shuttle 11.53 seconds.
A captain on the field, Gause has all the physical attributes to develop into a dominant force in the league and with the Eagles needing depth at linebacker..his athletic ability could prove invaluable to the birds.
Cornerback: 7 (46)
Like Jordan Hicks, Eric Rowe is a player walking into 2016 with a lot of expectation on his shoulders. Unlike Hicks however, there is a LOT of competition behind him. Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll should be certain to make the roster but behind that it’s a complete free-for-all.
JaCorey Shepherd who was seen as a steal in last year’s draft will look to build on what was an impressive training camp last year to cement his place on the roster whilst undrafted rookie of 2015 Denzel Rice is already turning heads.
After getting a few defensive snaps towards the end of last season, Rice entered OTA’s knowing he had to up his game..so he did just that. In the first day, he picked off Carson Wentz and forced two fumbles. If this level of aggression continues to impress, Rice could spring a surprise and make the roster ahead of veteran Ron Brooks..a man who should make the final roster due to his knowledge of the system and ability to not only provide depth for the Eagles if needed, but help the rookies develop the attributes needed to succeed in such an attacking scheme.
Jalen Mills has already said that he expects to start out at corner for the Eagles and if that’s the case, expect him to make the roster. There is nothing stopping him moving over to Safety or using his versatility to plug numerous holes, but Mills has everything needed to succeed as a corner in the NFL..and it could well be his proving grounds en route to one day becoming a starting defensive back, regardless of position.
Safety : 4 (50)
Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod will aim to become one of the most dominant Safety duo’s in the NFL this season and it’s likely that they will do just that. With special teams wizard Maragos in behind and Blake Countess making the roster as a rookie who can learn as well as prove to be a valuable and versatile backup, the Eagles Safety position may be one of the team’s greatest strengths heading into 2016.
Special teams: 3 (3)
Kicker- Cody Parkey
Punter- Donnie Jones
Long snapper- Jon Dorenbos
There have been several additions to the special teams unit over the course of the offseason, but Cody Parkey should resume his role as the Eagles kicker whilst Jones and Dorenbos put another year in their illustrious NFL career books.
Practice squad: 10
OG Darrell Greene
DT Aziz Shittu
WR Jonathan Krause
LB Myke Tavarres
LB Joe Walker
WR Cayleb Jones
WR Hunter Sharp
CB Randall Evans
DE Alex McCalister
CB C.J. Smith
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