Two games into the preseason and the landscape has changed considerably for the Philadelphia Eagles. Roster cuts have already began to factor in to the minds of Doug Pederson and company while the birds recent acquisitions of Dorial-Green Beckham and Stephen Tulloch have shifted momentum..but just how much? Here’s my latest 53-man roster prediction:
Quarterbacks: 3 (3) Sam Bradford, Chase Daniel, Carson Wentz
This shouldn’t be a shock by now, while Wentz won’t dress to start his rookie season, his presence on the roster is imperative to his growth. The quarterback roles were among the first cemented in the team and should remain unchanged barring any injury setbacks, .
Running backs: 4 (7) Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Kenjon Barner, Wendell Smallwood
There have been so many storylines concerning the Eagles backfield that it can be difficult to see through the smoke at times, but there is a clear structure in place for the most part. Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles (who just signed a contract extension) will head the committee effort while the much more physical Kenjon Barner who has averaged 5.75 yards per carry in preseason will take the load off of fragile shoulders. Rookie running back Wendell Smallwood makes the team despite missing significant time in both Training Camp and preseason and will almost become a “project” running back for the Eagles..someone who mirrors the elusive style of Ryan Mathews, can catch like Darren Sproles and be physical like Kenjon Barner could prove to be a huge asset for the Eagles in 2016.
Wide receivers: 6 (13) Jordan Matthews, Reuben Randle, Dorial Green-Beckham, Chris Givens, Nelson Agholor, Paul Turner
After trading for 2015 second round pick Dorial Green-Beckham, the Eagles released former Buffalo Bill T.J Graham, painting a clearer picture at the position. Jordan Matthews and Reuben Randle should retain starting roles ahead of DGB who is likely to compete for a heavy role in Pederson’s Offense.
Chris Givens has proven to be a reliable target for Sam Bradford and Nelson Agholor will view this season as a new chapter and a new chance to shine after an impressive if not inconsistent preseason.
The main surprise here is Paul Turner. The Eagles released Xavier Rush in their first wave of roster cuts but it’s unlikely Turner meets the same fate. The undrafted rookie out of Louisiana has had a fantastic Training camp and led the team in receiving in both preseason games. He may not have the size of DGB or speed of Chris Givens, but Turner has showcased his ability to become a reliable pair of hands..something that the Eagles desperately crave.
Tight End: 3 (16) Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, Trey Burton
Celek and Ertz signed new contracts during the offseason, cementing their starting roles. Trey Burton on the other hand has been the breakout star of Training camp, making big plays almost every day. His role could run far beyond being a backup Tight End after a Training camp that has seen some efficiency both in the slot, in 3-TE sets and making secure catches where it counts.
Burton could see an increased Offensive role in 2016, but the Eagles could choose to release McFarland and Pantale in favor of strengthening some of the weaker positions on the roster.
Offensive Line: 9 (25) Jason Kelce, Stefen Wisniewski, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Jason Peters, Allen Barbre, Isaac Seumalo, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Matt Tobin
With the news of Lane Johnson’s suspension adding to the struggles projected to be faced by the Offensive line in 2016, I’m expecting the Eagles to carry an extra man or two into the regular season. Versatility may be key, but efficiency is just as important..and with Jason Peters dealing with a degenerative injury, the Eagles need to be prepared to “Plug n Play” in any situation.
There isn’t really a surprise other than Matt Tobin, who the Eagles could choose to retain for depth purposes. All of the drafted rookies and free agency acquisitions make the final roster as expected..but the addition of Matt Tobin shows an intent to help keep the fortress standing while not being in a position to improve it further.
Defensive End: 5 (30) Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham, Connor Barwin, Steven Means, Bryan Braman
Rotation at Defensive End is going to be a crucial factor in the success of the Jim Schwartz Defense in Philadelphia, so fittingly, the birds need to ensure that they have enough depth to ensure that the explosiveness does not drop off if an injury problem arises or throughout the duration of a game.
Surprisingly, Marcus Smith doesn’t make the roster. Even after an impressive outing against the Steelers, I think that Steven Means has had the better preseason thus far and capitalized on the unfortunate concussion Smith sustained. Training camp has seen the two battle it out over the backup spot, but ultimately I think that Means has the edge here.
Bryan Braman also had a thunderous play and in my opinion is undoubtedly one of the most ruthless DE’s on the roster. Smith seems to be effective in short bursts before falling quiet, Braman has the potential to become an impact player when called upon..and that’s what the Eagles need.
Defensive Tackle: 4 (34) Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Mike Martin, Destiny Vaeao
I’m projecting the Eagles to go slightly lighter at Defensive Tackle, purely because of how dominant the interior duo of Logan and Cox are primed to be in such an aggressive Defense. Former Titan Mike Martin seals the backup spot while undrafted rookie Destiny Vaeao makes the final roster after beating Taylor Hart and Beau Allen to the finish line. The coaches love what both Vaeao and Shittu bring to the table.. watching these two battle it out over the next two preseason games is going to be fun, but I think Vaeao just has the slight advantage here.
Linebacker: 5 (39) Nigel Bradham, Jordan Hicks, Mychal Kendricks, Stephen Tulloch, Quentin Gause
There’s been a lot of debate about the shape of the linebacker corps following the arrival of Stephen Tulloch, where does he fit in? Does he start? All we know as of right now is this. The Eagles will roll with Bradham, Hicks, Kendricks and Tulloch..but that fifth spot is what’s up for grabs. Najee Goode, Quentin Gause and Myke Tavarres are those looking to claw a roster spot from the clutches of one another..and ultimately I think Gause will win the fifth spot. The 6’1, 235 pound linebacker hits well..and hits hard. Something Schwartz adores in his linebackers.
Cornerback: 7 (46) Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, Nolan Carroll, Eric Rowe, Jalen Mills, Aaron Grymes, C.J Smith
The Eagles also go a little heavier at cornerback given how many passing yards the team seem to concede, think of it as a release valve for the wide nine scheme. With that in mind, limiting the damage has to be a priority..so having a blend of ballhawks, hard hitters, man coverage specialists and an abundance of potential is crucial.
I can see the cornerback corps rotating heavily in 2016, Brooks and McKelvin lead the way before the more conservative yet just as effective Rowe and Carroll can come in and blanket cover if needed. Jalen Mills and Aaron Grymes, the two Training camp standouts will see a fair amount of action in 2016..but if the injury bug strikes, NDSU undrafted rookie C.J Smith will have earned himself a spot after an impressive preseason.
Safety: 4 (50) Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Blake Countess, Jaylen Watkins
Jenkins and McLeod are looking to become one of the best Safety tandems in the NFL, but if rotation is needed for any reason, the Eagles need to be sure in their backups.
Jaylen Watkins has had a phenomenal camp, something I have loved seeing after stating how he could help stop the NFC East receivers from running the Secondary ragged, in an All-22.
Rookie Blake Countess hasn’t been as impressive as Watkins, but his versatility and upside will mean that learning under guys like Jenkins and McLeod, he is in the best spot possible to one day develop into a starter.
Special teams: 3 (53) Cody Parkey, Jon Dorenbos, Donnie Jones
SHOCK: Cody Parkey wins back his kicking spot after sitting in the backseat throughout the offseason. After being thrust into the starting role following a stray punt that concussed Sturgis, I feel that Parkey has established some momentum and can use it to “kick” himself back into gear.
Jon Dorenbos and Donnie Jones retain their 2015 roles as Long Snapper and Punter, completing the Eagles 53-man roster.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports