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July 30, 2018

Eagles 53-man roster projection after the first few days of training camp

We're only four days into training camp, and have another two weeks to go, in addition to four preseason games. And so, the Philadelphia Eagles are still a long way from figuring out who will occupy their final 10 or so roster spots. Still, with the players having their first day off from camp, here is an early look at how I see the roster shaking out.

Quarterback (3): Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, Nate Sudfeld

If you read my daily practice notes, you already know that I think it's a near certainty that Wentz is going to start Week 1. Hell, he may even play in a preseason game. Meanwhile, Foles could still be traded to a Super Bowl contender that suffers an injury to its quarterback, but I view that as a low percentage possibility. Sudfeld is the No. 2 of the near future, whether that be in 2018 with a trade of Foles, or in 2019 after Foles moves on to a new team.

Running back (4): Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, Darren Sproles, Donnel Pumphrey

Ajayi, Clement, and Sproles are locks. And actually, the speed and agility that Sproles has shown at his age after recovering from an ACL tear of his own is every bit as impressive as Wentz's recovery. Sproles' quickness looks no different than in previous seasons in camp. He's back.

The real camp battle here is for the No. 4 RB job, which is between Donnel Pumphrey, Wendell Smallwood, Matt Jones, and Josh Adams. None of the backs in that group have really made a statement yet, so we'll give Pumphrey the edge, seeing as he was a fourth round pick a year ago. Currently, I'd rank them like this:

  1. Donnel Pumphrey
  2. Matt Jones
  3. Wendell Smallwood
  4. Josh Adams

To note, Adams still hasn't had any meaningful participation yet. He seems destined for the practice squad.

Wide receiver (6): Alshon Jeffery, Mike Wallace, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson, Markus Wheaton

The first four guys are locks, with a bunch of players competing for the final two spots. Gibson feels like a very good bet to make the roster. Last offseason, he turned in one of the worst training camp performances I've ever seen, and he made the team anyway because the team believed in his long-term ceiling. He still has a long way to go, but has been greatly improved (again, a low bar), which should be enough to make the team again. Wheaton has had a good camp so far, and is a veteran with some nice upside.

One notable omission here is Greg Ward, who the team seems to like, seeing as they mention him unprompted fairly regularly. His competition is Wheaton, who I think has simply done more to this point in camp. Ward still has practice squad eligibility, and the team should be able to safely stash him away there.

Tight end (3): Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers

Ertz and Goedert are locks, and Rodgers is pretty close. He has proven to be a steady, capable tight end, while none of the other tight ends in camp have stood out.

Offensive line (9): Jason Peters, Stefen Wisniewski, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Matt Pryor, Chance Warmack, Jordan Mailata

The starting five plus Vaitai are all obviously locks, and Pryor is rapidly becoming one. And then it gets interesting. 

Isaac Seumalo, not listed above, is NFL roster-worthy, especially considering he can play all five OL positions (plus jumbo tight end), but he struggled last season, losing his starting job at LG. He would likely be the third center behind Kelce and Wisniewski, as he has had issues with his snaps in camp. There are no shortage of teams in desperate need of OL help, and perhaps a change of scenery would do Seumalo some good. He makes a lot of sense as a trade possibility.

As for the remaining spot, Warmack hasn't had a good camp, but he's a Jeff Stoutland favorite, so I imagine he'll survive. Mailata is years away from becoming a player who will ever see the field, but after spending two draft picks on him (remember, the Eagles traded up to get him), I don't think they'll expose him to waivers after his rookie camp.

Defensive line (9): Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Haloti Ngata, Derek Barnett, Chris Long, Michael Bennett, Josh Sweat, Destiny Vaeao, Elijah Qualls

Graham, Cox, Ngata, Barnett, Long, and Bennett are all going to make the team. Beyond those six guys, a lot can happen:

• Sweat is an intriguing young pass rusher with extreme athleticism, but he's probably not ready to get any meaningful snaps this season. I think the team would love to IR him with some kind of phantom injury, but it takes two to tango on that, and it's debatable whether Sweat would be agreeable, as he may think he'd get playing time on other rosters. There's almost no chance the team would release him.

• Vaeao doesn't offer much in the way of desirable traits, but he has experience in the Eagles' scheme and could serve as a placeholder until Timmy Jernigan returns.

• Doug Pederson has praised DT Aziz Shittu on multiple occasions, which is confusing. Maybe the team is trying to give Elijah Qualls a kick in the ass? Anyway, we'll project Qualls here for now, but will pay a little more attention to Shittu going forward.

• Steven Means has had to scratch and claw to make the roster the last two seasons, but with the addition of Sweat, it's going to be even harder for him to make it this year. Means' best chance at making the club again will be if (a) the team IR's Sweat, or (b) Graham isn't recovered from his ankle surgery by Week 1.

UPDATE: As a reader astutely noted, Nigel Bradham is facing a one-game suspension to start the season, so the Eagles will have one extra roster spot available for a week. Given that fact, we'll keep Means here.

Linebacker (6): Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Nate Gerry, Corey Nelson, Kamu Grugier-Hill, LaRoy Reynolds

There are no surprises with the first five players listed, but I like LaRoy Reynolds' chances of beating out Joe Walker for the sixth linebacker spot. Reynolds is an experienced special teams player, and the Eagles have to replace guys like Bryan Braman, Chris Maragos (who is still injured), and Trey Burton. Reynolds has also been chippy in practice, and is a very energetic player.

Cornerback (6): Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, De'Vante Bausby, Avonte Maddox

It remains to be seen how Jim Schwartz will use his corners on game day, but projecting the above six players to make the roster feels pretty easy.

Safety (4): Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Corey Graham, Tre Sullivan

Yes, I still believe the Eagles are going to sign Graham at some point, and as we mentioned in our practice notes on Sunday, the team seems to really like Sullivan, who has had a good camp.

In previous seasons, on a roster not as stacked as this one, I might have had undrafted free agent Jeremy Reaves cracking the final 53, but there are simply not enough roster spots. I think the team will try to sneak him onto the practice squad.

Specialists (3): Jake Elliott, "Punter to be named later," Rick Lovato

Cameron Johnston has really struggled in camp, and I don't think the team can trust him to be their punter this season. In my view, it's more likely that they'll wait for 53-man cutdowns to pick up a punter released by another team, or, you know, Donnie J'owns is still out there.

PUP/NFI list 

  1. Timmy Jernigan (NFI)
  2. Chris Maragos (PUP)

Practice squad

  1. RB Josh Adams
  2. WR Greg Ward
  3. WR Rashard Davis
  4. TE Josh Perkins
  5. OL Darrell Greene
  6. OL Aaron Evans
  7. DE Joe Ostman
  8. DT Bruce Hector
  9. CB D.J. Killings
  10. S Jeremy Reaves

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