Eagles 53-man roster prediction: Preseason edition

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The Philadelphia Eagles will kick off the 2016 preseason tomorrow when they take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 7 p.m. The team currently has 90 players in total on the roster.

The team must cut down the roster to 75 players on August 30th at 4 p.m., then trim the roster to 53 players on September 3rd at 4 p.m. also.

Here’s my latest 53-man roster projection:

Quarterbacks: Sam Bradford, Chase Daniel and Carson Wentz (3)

This projection is the likeliest of the rest of the position groups. Barring an unforeseen injury to any of the team’s quarterbacks, this is how the group will pan out prior to the team’s week one matchup versus the Cleveland Browns.

Running backs: Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Kenjon Barner and Wendell Smallwood (7)

The Eagles running back group lack a true featured back, but the overall group can still succeed. The Eagles were 14th in rushing a year ago. The team is looking to replace DeMarco Murray’s 702 rushing yards.

Mathews and Sproles are poised to be the vocal points of the Eagles rushing attack in 2016. The Eagles are poised to use the running backs more in the team’s passing attack. Sproles thrives in this role, but he’s not the only one on the roster.

The Eagles coaching staff is high on Barner. They believe he can be a versatile weapon for their west coast offense. Pederson and company are also high on Smallwood. The team drafted the former West Virginia running back in the fifth-round of the 2016 draft.

Byron Marshall and Cedric O’Neal are two rookie free agents turning heads so far in training camp (Marshall for the most part). Marshall has the best shot of making the team, but again, barring an unforeseen injury, it’s unlikely at this point.

Fullback: Chris Pantale (8)

Pantale, originally a tight end, appears to be lining up at fullback for the Eagles during the preseason. His overall play at the position during the preseason will determine his chances of making the roster for Eagles at fullback.

Wide receivers: Nelson Agholor, Rueben Randle, Jordan Matthews, Chris Givens and Josh Huff (13)

The Eagles are going to rotate their wide receiver group multiple times throughout the season. Agholor and Randle should become the No. 1 and No. 2 wide receivers on the depth chart. Matthews continues his level of play in the slot, while making appearances on the outside depending on certain matchup advantages.

Givens and Bradford are poised to rekindle their past chemistry they shared with the former St. Louis Rams in 2012. Givens gives the Eagles a receiver who creates quick separation off defensive backs, and has enough speed to get down the field in a hurry.

The team is still high on Huff despite his inconsistencies. They believe they can correct Huff’s technique and fundamentals, while unlocking his playmaking potential. It appears Huff will receive one more chance to revive his Eagles career in 2016.

Tight ends: Zach Ertz, Brent Celek and Trey Burton (16)

No surprises here either. Ertz, Celek and Burton are expected to headline the Eagles tight end group in 2016. The team is expected to use more three tight end formations in the red zone this season. Burton is poised for much larger production, while Ertz could have a top-five season as a tight end. Celek, who didn’t drop a single pass in 2015, will continue to be a reliable target for the Eagles.

Offensive line: Jason Peters, Allen Barbre, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Dennis Kelly, Stefen Wisniewski, Matt Tobin, Isaac Seumalo, Halapoulivaati Vaitai (26)

The Eagles go heavy on the offensive line carrying ten for the 2016 season. Peters health, along with Johnson’s reported ten game suspension (not official yet), force the team to keep necessary depth on the roster.

Barbre, who is penciled in as the Eagles starting left guard on the team’s preseason depth chart, could slide over to right tackle depending on the outcome of Johnson’s reported suspension. Kelly or Tobin can both man the position as well, while Tobin is currently backing up Peters at left.

Wisniewski or Seumalo could play left guard or center for the team if needed. Vaitai is a developmental project the team picked in the 5th round of the 2016 draft, but could be forced into playing time early in his career.

Defensive ends: Vinny Curry, Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Marcus Smith and Bryan Braman (31)

The Eagles’ defensive line is packed with starting caliber talent and potential. Curry is poised to be the team’s starting left defensive end, while Barwin and Graham rotate at right and compete for the No. 1 spot during the preseason.

Smith is transitioning back to his old position and could make an impact in 2016. His 4.6 speed rushing the passer could prove to be an asset for the Eagles from a depth standpoint. Braman is one of the Eagles best special teams players, so his spot on the roster looks to be certain.

Defensive tackles: Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Mike Martin and Destiny Vaeao (35)

Cox and Logan are obvious locks to make the roster and become starters for the Eagles. Martin was signed during the off-season and is poised to be the team’s No. 3 defensive tackles on the depth chart.

Beau Allen, Taylor Hart, Aziz Shittu and Vaeao are competing for the last spot. Vaeao has been impressive in training camp thus far and can prove to be an asset in with his pass-rush abilities.

Linebackers: Nigel Bradham, Jordan Hicks, Mychal Kendricks, Joe Walker, Najee Goode (40)

The Eagles starting linebackers appear to be set in stone with Bradham at SAM, Hicks at MIKE, and Kendricks at weakside linebacker. The depth behind them is unproven and somewhat of a concern moving forward given the starter’s injury history.

The Eagles are in talks with free agent middle linebacker, Stephen Tulloch, and the deal is expected to be announced within the next few days. Tulloch’s arrival hinders the Walker’s chances of making the 53-man roster.

Cornerbacks: Leodis McKelvin, Nolan Carroll, Ron Brooks, Jalen Mills, Eric Rowe and JaCorey Shepherd (46)

The Eagles have a deep cornerback group that lacks a true No. 1 cornerback. McKelvin is penciled in that spot right now for the Eagles, and it appears it’s his job to lose prior to the 2016 season. Brooks is penciled in as the No. 2 currently. His ties to Schwartz and knowledge of the system appear to be the reasoning behind that decision.

Carroll is likely to claim a Brooks spot before the start of the season, but rookie cornerback, Jalen Mills, is gunning for that position as well. Brooks, Mills and Shepherd are all candidates for the nickel position. Mills best shot at starting right away in 2016 is nickel, which I ultimately believe he wins.

Shepherd’s spot on the team is far from a guarantee. He showed signs of his potential early in training camp, but has been limited ever since and will miss the preseason opener as well. Aaron Grymes, the cornerback the Eagles signed this off-season from the CFL, could take the Shepherd’s spot. Grimes play has been impressive all throughout camp and he looks to continue that in the preseason.

Safeties: Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Blake Countess and Chris Maragos (50)

Jenkins and McLeod are locked in as the starting safeties for the Eagles. Jenkins will miss the preseason opener and Maragos will take his spot in the lineup. Eagles rookie safety Countess will be competing with Ed Reynolds, Jaylen Watkins and Nick Perry for the final safety spot.

The Eagles selected Countess in the sixth-round of the 2016 draft. The team appeared to be very high on the former Auburn defensive back, but Watkins has shown signs of potential transitioning fully to safety.

Punter: Donnie Jones (51)

This is no surprise. Jones is the only punter on the Eagles roster currently and hasn’t shown signs of slowing down.

Kicker: Caleb Sturgis (52)

The kicker competition for the Eagles is a hot topic surrounding the team. Cody Parkey was beyond impressive in his rookie season, but was lost early in the 2015 season to groin tear. So far early in training camp, Sturgis has outperformed Parkey in the kicking competition.

If the season was to start tomorrow, Sturgis clearly has the upper leg of the competition. The preseason performances by both kickers will determine who becomes the Eagles kicker in 2016.

Long snapper: Jon Dorenbos (53)

Dorenbos is the longest tenure Eagle currently on the roster. He’s been the team’s long snapper since 2006, but did noticeably struggle in 2015. The team brought in rookie long snapper, John DePalma, to give Dorenbos some competition. Dorenbos seems to have a firm grasp on the position so far in training camp.

Practice squad: linebacker Joe Walker, linebacker Quentin Gause, defensive end Alex McCalister, running back Byron Marshall, cornerback Denzel Rice, wide receiver Paul Turner, defensive tackle Aziz Shittu, center Bruce Johnson Jr., offensive guard Darrell Greene and wide receiver Marcus Johnson (10)

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