The spring workouts are over for the Philadelphia Eagles which means we have chance to unwind just one more time before Training Camp gets underway. After an intense few weeks, it’s time to see if some surprise performances from both OTA’s and Mandatory Minicamp have altered the roster prediction picture.
Quarterback: 3 (3)
It would be extremely surprising if the Eagles only kept two quarterbacks on the final roster. With the development of Carson Wentz being such a prominent focus, the team will want to ensure he is in a position to observe as much as possible from the sidelines, even if he doesn’t play a snap in 2016.
Running back: 4 (7)
Four running backs seem the most likely option for the Eagles going forward. Mathews and Sproles still remain the best options to lead the Eagles’ committee backfield, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t competition. Barner’s chances of seeing a larger offensive role in 2016 have increased after a strong spring program while rookie Wendell Smallwood will likely ease his way into a heavier workload as the season progresses.
Tight End: 3 (10)
Ertz and Celek’s positions are cemented after the pair received new contracts during the offseason, but how important Pederson views depth at the position to be is still unknown. The most likely outcome is for either Trey Burton or Chris Pantale to make the final 53-man roster as a backup to Ertz and Celek. With Pantale seeing action at fullback during OTA’s and Minicamp, it’s likely that the team will choose to retain him due to his ability to help complete Pederson’s backfield vision.
Wide Receiver: 6 (16)
This is the first position where we could expect to see a surprise or two from the Eagles. After posting an article on Trey Burton that shows just how explosive he could be on the outside, I was quietly confident that this was a plausible move. Once OTA’s kicked off, Burton began to see reps on the outside. A trend that continued deep into Mandatory Minicamp. If Burton can show the Eagles just how effective he could be as a big-body receiver, I think the transition across is a likely one.
Elsewhere, the Eagles could well decide to give Hunter Sharp his big break if his impressive spring form continues in August. With the inconsistent Josh Huff never really able to stand out from the crowd..the decision to start a new era with some new blood could prove to be an easy one.
Chris Givens also makes the roster as the Eagles go-to Deep Threat receiver.
Offensive Line: 8 (24)
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 to take over the starting role intensifies. The Offensive Line looks much better heading into 2016 and if Jason Peters does begin to falter, the Eagles have plenty of depth..something they lacked a year ago.
Defensive End: 5 (29)
With Defensive end being one of the most important positions on the Defense, there has to be plenty of depth and talent for Schwartz to work out which rotations are the most effective.
Graham and Curry are the two locks at the position as of right now. It will be interesting to see how Graham performs in 2016 and with a lot of depth beneath him..the level of play will need to be consistent. A new deal for Vinny Curry cements his future in Philadelphia under a Defensive Coordinator who can extract the best out of one of the Eagles most exciting players.
With Smith on the bubble and playing for his career, the chances of a strong training camp in a system that suits his skill set is likely. Smith would sit behind Barwin on the roster and aim to work his way up the depth chart as the season progresses.
Some would regard Braman’s presence on the roster as a surprise..but to me, it would be anything but. For months I have been praising his 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 2015 and as a Defensive End, could prove to be a terror to both opposing lines..and opposing quarterbacks.
Defensive Tackle: 4 (33)
Cox and Logan are the two starters without question, but beyond those two..the competition is wide open. Mike Martin has exploded onto the scene during the absence of Cox throughout spring workouts and in turn may have just made enough of an impact to beat Beau Allen to a roster spot. Connor Wujciak would be battling with the 24 year old over the final DT spot on the roster and while it’s going to be very close, the Eagles could stick to their guns and aim to develop the talent drafted this year.
Linebacker: 6 (39)
There aren’t any real shocks here other than the Eagles going a little heavier than expected. With Hicks coming back from an injury that has a tendency to be the catalyst for more problems down the road, the Eagles need to have plenty of depth to prepare for an unlikely, yet possible scenario.
Quentin Gause and Myke Tavarres will have a shot to earn their stripes on special teams and adjust to the higher competition levels in the NFL. Both are very aggressive and athletic pass rushers, with Gause leading Rutgers with 12 tackles for a loss last season and Tavarres racking up half a tackle for a loss more in 2014.
They may not see much Defensive snaps in 2016, but it’s better to be prepared and also develop a pair of undrafted rookies who have all the fundamentals to be effective under Jim Schwartz.
Cornerback: 7 (46)
Of all the position battles on the Eagles roster, the battle at cornerback is by far the most intense. Because of the abundance of defensive backs on the roster and the ceilings they all possess, the Eagles may well be tempted to head in to the new season with 7 corners on the roster.
With Brooks and McKelvin taking the reins under Jim Schwartz and stamping their authority on the position during the Spring, the rest of the cornerbacks are going to need a strong Summer to secure their spots on the roster. Nolan Carroll’s injury history and short-term deal could come back to haunt him if he fails to impress while Eric Rowe has failed to stand out from the crowd thus far. However, both cornerbacks are more than likely going to play big roles under Jim Schwartz.
It would be strange to see the Eagles avoiding taking a chance on Blake Countess after drafting him in the sixth round and with the versatility of himself and others not only adding serious value to their names but opening up more opportunities, Countess should logically make the final 53.
JaCorey Shepherd is looking to rebound from a torn ACL that sidelined him a year ago and while he faces an uphill battle due to so much competition, could well thrive under the pressure and earn himself a spot on the final roster.
The seventh spot could belong to any remaining defensive back on the roster. Denzel Rice has looked strong early on and there have been a few other defensive backs standing out from the crowd..but after my All-22 on Watkins not too long ago, I think that we’re going to see a completely new cornerback in 2016. With a little refinement and an aggressive system that plays to his strengths, Watkins should sneak onto the final roster, even if it’s primarily to play on Special Teams.
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. Chris Maragos has obvious value as a dominant Special Teamer which secures his spot on the roster.. leaving one more spot at Safety.
This is where versatility is so important. Mills may be practicing as a cornerback but after being drafted as a Safety, Mills could make the roster as the team’s 4th Safety and contribute elsewhere..such as cornerback. The chances of Mills not making the roster are minimal after such a strong Spring. It’s how the Eagles decide to structure their Secondary that will determine where Mills will play however.
Special teams: 3 (3)
Kicker- Cody Parkey
Punter- Donnie Jones
Long snapper- Jon Dorenbos
Parkey may have struggled during the spring against Caleb Sturgis, but it’s still really his job to lose. Parkey will go in to training camp with every intention of locking down the role of starting kicker nice and early. Donnie Jones and Jon Dorenbos also retain their spots from 2015.
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