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August 27, 2017

Doug Pederson names four roster battles yet to be settled

Eagles NFL

With a few practices and one preseason game left to go, the Philadelphia Eagles have a handful of roster battles yet to be determined. On Sunday, Doug Pederson named four.

"Well, I think the corner nickel position is going to be an interesting battle this week," Pederson said. "Even the running backs. It's exciting. I thought they all did a great job the other night (against the Dolphins), so it'll be interesting to see how that plays out. We have a couple young tight ends that'll be interesting to see in this last preseason game. 

"And then when you look on offense again, there's a couple young offensive linemen, Dillon Gordon, Taylor Hart, guys like that that are competing for spots."

Our own analysis at each spot:

Nickel corner

After the Eagles traded for Ronald Darby, that moved Patrick Robinson out of the starting lineup and into the slot. Robinson played primarily in the slot for the San Diego Chargers in 2015 before signing for good money with the Indianapolis Colts in 2016 to play outside, where he struggled. Ron Brooks has not been able to stay healthy, which could be a concern for the Eagles.

Running back

LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood, and Darren Sproles are all going to make the roster, barring some kind of trade, which could hypothetically affect Blount. 

The remaining spot would be between Donnel Pumphrey and Corey Clement. Pumphrey was a fourth round pick that the Eagles clearly wanted to get involved in the offense, based on a high number of snaps with the first team offense during the spring and the start of camp. However, after a disappointing camp and preseason in which Pumphrey has experienced ball security issues, his roster spot is not safe.

Ideally, the Eagles could find a way to get Pumphrey on injured reserve, which would give him some time to adjust to the speed and size of the NFL. In the meantime, Clement would slide right in as the fourth running back.

Tight end

Pederson mentioned young tight ends, as in plural. I don't see that. I do, however see one intriguing talent in Billy Brown, who has looked natural catching the football after converting to tight end from wide receiver.

In 2016, Brent Celek signed a contract extension that essentially served as a pay cut. This offseason, he took a million dollar pay cut, reducing his salary from $4 million to $3 million. In 2018, Celek is scheduled to count for $5 million against the cap, $4 million of which the Eagles would save if they released him. There's no way Celek will ever see that money, which means that he'll either be taking another pay cut, retiring, or being released. That's just the business of the NFL.

It's also not a lock that Trey Burton will return in 2018. He will make $2,746,000 as a restricted free agent this season, and is an unrestricted free agent in 2018.

Brown is a poach candidate, as in, another team could try to grab him off of waivers if the Eagles tried to stash him on their practice squad. It might make more sense for the Eagles to keep Brown on the 53-man roster, develop him over a season, and potentially give him a bigger role in 2018 if Celek and/or Burton move on.

Offensive line

When Taylor Hart converted from defensive tackle to offensive tackle, most assumed that he had no chance of making the roster. Somewhat surprisingly, Hart hasn't sucked at OT, and it would appear that Pederson believes that Dillon Gordon's roster spot isn't safe as a result.

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