We’re just over a week away from the first game of Eagles pre-season, which means we’re one step closer to finding out who does..and who doesn’t make the final 53-man roster. With the Eagles deep into their second week of full-team practice, here’s an updated roster prediction.
Quarterbacks 3 (3):
No real surprises here, we know that the Eagles will carry three quarterbacks on their roster and that Bradford will be the starter ahead of Chase Daniel while Wentz learns on the sidelines. Barring any injuries between now and the end of pre-season, this is how the quarterback position is going to look in 2016.
Running backs 4 (7):
Darren Sproles ,
Shock. I don’t think that Ryan Mathews will be the lead running back this year..in fact, I think he could struggle to make the roster. The age of Sproles may be the factor everyone uses to go against this..but Frank Gore had a 1,000 yard season at the age of 31 in San Francisco and very almost had another in 2015.
The durability of Mathews is a big concern and hearing that he may not return until pre-season not only gives Barner, Smallwood and Marshall a chance to steal the spotlight..but a chance to show that the amount of versatility the group can create is exactly what Pederson is looking for.
The Eagles could save cap space and begin developing a very young RB corps. Barner and Smallwood will fill out the committee backfield..with Barner becoming last year’s “DeMarco Murray” and Smallwood becoming last year’s “Ryan Mathews”, while Marshall splits his snaps with Sproles, becoming his apprentice as such.
Tight ends 4 (11):
Pederson has already alluded to the fact that he wants to keep four tight ends on the roster..but not one of then should be named Trey Burton.
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. McFarland will 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. Not only does it add extra depth..but it gives Pederson that fullback flexibility.
Wide receivers 6 (17):
Jordan Matthews is still a focal point of the Eagles Offense and could well be primed for a breakout year in an Offense where slot-receivers shine. Reuben Randle has been lighting up camp since day one and rotating with Agholor and Givens as outside/deep threats give the Eagles plenty of room to exploit mismatches throughout the season.
Many of you will know by now that I’ve been the only writer pressing the Burton to WR move since before Minicamp even started. A week into Training camp and I’m more convinced than ever. For an in-depth breakdown on the proposed move, check out my article here. If Burton can continue to show the Eagles just how reliable and effective he could be as a big-body receiver, I think the transition across is a likely one.
Finally, the Eagles round out the position with undrafted rookie, Marcus Johnson. He may be injured currently, but the former Texas receiver had previously been taking first-team reps on Special teams and making some impressive catches. The Eagles appear to be hot on Johnson and if Huff continues to struggle, Pederson would be wise to give the 6’1, 204 pound receiver a shot.
Offensive line 9 (26):
There aren’t really many surprises here either. The Eagles are going to keep both of their drafted rookies on the roster and it’s likely that Barbre loses his starting role to Wisniewski who has had a strong camp so far. Matt Tobin makes the roster as a capable backup who can also bring some added versatility and experience to a unit that could rely on both deep into the regular season.
Defensive line 9 (35):
The rotation at DE is going to be crucial this season. Curry is clearly the man the Eagles are building around for the future..but the roles of Graham, Barwin and Smith all seem to be up in the air. Pre-season will be crucial, but expect all of these and the ruthless Bryan Braman to be rotating deep into the regular season. Braman is a dominant special teamer just waiting to be unleashed in Schwartz’s system.
With Cox and Logan locks to make the roster, Mike Martin will probably be the backup here with Wujciak being able to develop behind one of he most dominant duos in the league.
Linebackers 5 (40):
Linebacker depth is relatively thin here..but we knew that going into the season. Bradham, Hicks and Kendricks are the starters here without a shadow of a doubt. Joe Walker and Myke Tavarres fill the backup spots after an impressive Training camp, but it’s important to remember that both Graham and Barwin could still technically play the position effectively. The Eagles have enough DE depth to dive into if they had to..and I think that in adding plenty of DE depth, it gives the Eagles room to breathe at a position vital to the scheme as well as being able to move guys around to a light LB corps without worrying about being light on the line.
Cornerbacks 6 (46):
An extremely strong summer from Jalen Mills and Aaron Grymes should cement their depth roles at cornerback while McKelvin, Brooks, Carroll and Rowe begin the year as the starters. There’s an abundance of depth currently so expect a few guys to be signed to the Practice squad..but at most the Eagles will keep six corners on the final roster.
There’s no way that McKelvin and Brooks don’t make the roster and after a confident response to criticism from Eric Rowe, he’s more than likely going to be joining Nolan Carroll to round out the starting corners.
Jalen Mills has been sensational so far and has been consistently making plays. Former CFL corner Aaron Grymes has also been stealing the spotlight with some big pass breakups too. In a cornerback competition designed to draw the strongest to the top..these are the two names that are constantly being praised and seem to be catching the most attention.
Safeties 4: (50)
Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod have the potential to become one of the best Safety tandems in the league without question. Behind them, rookie Blake Countess will be the backup as I predicted a few months ago..allowing Mills to play at his stronger position and the more physical Countess to develop behind two hard hitting Safeties.
Chris Maragos keeps his roster spot due to his prolific Special teams presence.
Special teams 3 (53):
I think Sturgis wins the kicker battle purely because of the upper hand he’s already established. The injury Parkey suffered is one of the most common among kickers and it’s rare for a kicker to suffer said injury and come back just as strong. Sturgis may be a little inconsistent from beyond 35 yards out..but right now it’s enough to earn him a roster spot.
Donnie Jones retains his role as the team’s punter and Jon Dorenbos is able to stay on the team despite his commitment to America’s Got Talent. In a worst case scenario, the Eagles will likely call DePalma up from the practice squad to cover for Dorenbos in his absence.
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