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September 03, 2017

Analysis of the Eagles' practice squad

Eagles NFL

Leading up to – and after – the finalization of the Philadelphia Eagles' 53-man roster, there was a lot of hand-wringing over which bubble players may or may not make it through waivers, thus affecting whether the Birds could keep them on the practice squad.

Unlike recent seasons, the Eagles had better depth in camp this year, and had players worth poaching. As it turns out, the Eagles did have a player poached, and it was one that they liked, in C/G Aaron Neary. Otherwise, the rest of the Eagles' cuts surprisingly made it through waivers.

Here is the Eagles' finalized 10-man practice squad, with analysis:

C/G Josh Andrews: Andrews has been with the team for the last two years, and has appeared in 16 games, mostly on special teams. He injured his hand in camp and had very little chance of making the roster as a result. Instead of taking up a spot on the 53-man roster, the Eagles were able to get him on the practice squad.

TE Billy Brown: I was certain Brown would be poached for his upside as a pass-catching tight end. Brown was a receiver in college, so that element of his game comes naturally. Assuming no other teams try to sign him to their 53-man roster at some point this season, the Eagles will have a year to get Brown up to speed as a blocker and as a special teams contributor. 

LB Nate Gerry: Gerry was the only Eagles 2017 draft pick not to make the roster at cutdowns. He did show some ability in coverage, but the team obviously felt that there was no room for him, with Najee Goode, Kamu Grugier-Hill, and Joe Walker beating him out.

OL Dillon Gordon: Fearing some other team might poach Gordon a year ago, the Eagles kept him on the 53-man roster all season. However, after a poor preseason, Gordon was unable to retain his spot on the main roster, but will stick as a practice player.

DT Justin Hamilton: Hamilton has to be a little annoyed that he did not make the club after a year good camp and preseason, but the Eagles' desire to keep Elijah Qualls over him makes sense. Seeing as Hamilton is on his fourth team and has never appeared in a game, it was unlikely that anyone would poach him. The Eagles have to feel good about being able to land him on the practice squad after an encouraging offseason.

RB Byron Marshall: Marshall outplayed Donnel Pumphrey and Corey Clement in the preseason, but here he is on the practice squad. Bad for him, good for the Eagles.

CB C.J. Smith: Smith was looking like a lock at one point to make the roster, but the additions of Ronald Darby and Dexter McDougle pushed him down the depth chart.

QB Nate Sudfeld: Sudfeld was formerly with the Redskins, so there may be some gamesmanship by the Eagles here, trying to obtain information about Washington's offense. The Eagles play in Washington Week 1.

WR Bryce Treggs: Treggs was perhaps another surprise player to make it through waivers. At a minimum, he has speed, which the NFL obviously covets. He had a good camp after a shaky rookie season last year.

WR Greg Ward: Ward showed real promise at a slot receiver during camp, and at one point was looking like a decent candidate to make the roster. After transitioning from quarterback to wide receiver, the Eagles will have a chance to help him continue to learn the position.

Overall, the Eagles look like they may actually have some legitimate practice squad talent worth trying to develop, unlike previous seasons.

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