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August 23, 2017

Eagles 53-man roster projection after four weeks of training camp

Eagles NFL

The first 28 days of Philadelphia Eagles training camp (including 21 practices and two games) are in the books. Here's who we project to make the final 53-man roster, which we've been updating every week (inactive Week 1 players in red).

Quarterback (2): Carson Wentz, Nick Foles

After missing a big chunk of training camp, Foles missed the Eagles' second day of joint practices against the Dolphins on Tuesday.

"Just precautionary," Pederson explained about Foles' absence on Tuesday. "Just giving him another rest. Nothing serious, nothing major. Just keep resting that thing. He got a lot of throws in these last couple days, so we just wanted to take a little off him today."

However, Foles said thereafter that he would not be participating in the Eagles' third preseason game on Thursday against the Miami Dolphins, after missing the first two games against the Green Bay Packers and Buffalo Bills. That hardly feels like it's "precautionary." The Eagles spent a lot of money to (A) get rid of Chase Daniel this offseason, and (B) sign Foles himself. At some point, it'll be fair to question whether Foles can be relied upon this season to be the Eagles' backup quarterback.

If not, the Eagles are going to have to sign a third quarterback, because Matt McGloin certainly isn't the answer. But this has become a concerning situation to keep an eye on.

Looking forward to next offseason, I believe that the Eagles will resume their philosophy of drafting a quarterback most years to develop behind the scenes as their third quarterback.

Running back (4): LeGarrette Blount, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, Donnel Pumphrey

As we mentioned yesterday amid the "LeGarrette Blount might get cut" rumors, Blount counts for a measly $1.25 million against the Eagles' cap this season. They would incur $400,000 in dead money if they cut him. Are the Eagles really going to cut a low-cost guy who scored 18 touchdowns a year ago in favor of an undrafted rookie free agent such as Corey Clement, who had eight carries for 34 yards against third stringers in a preseason game. I mean... Really?

Blount aside, Sproles and Smallwood are locks. The notion that Smallwood won't make the team because he missed two preseason games is nonsense. He has easily been the Eagles best "true" (non-Sproles) running back in camp, and in my view, it hasn't even been close. He's not getting cut. No way in hell.

Clement has shown that he's a hard runner, but he isn't fast, he doesn't catch the ball well, and he still has to come a long way in pass protection. Guys like that are a dime a dozen. He could still make the team, however, if the Eagles found a way to stash the struggling Pumphrey on IR.

For now, we'll keep Pump up on the 53.

Wide receiver (5): Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, Marcus Johnson

Previously, I had seven (!) receivers making the team, although one spot (Bryce Treggs') was merely a temporary one. In this version, we'll also drop Greg Ward from the final 53, and the Eagles will have to hope he makes it through waivers. The other five spots are obvious.

Tight end (3): Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton 

Billy Brown has made a case for himself to make the roster, and in years past when the Eagles' depth wasn't as good, he probably would. However, it's just too difficult to keep him on, numbers-wise.

There's a good chance Celek won't be on the team next year, and Burton is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. Therefore, it makes sense to keep Brown and try to develop him for next year. Brown is going to be a very difficult decision for the Eagles, and whether or not they should risk exposing him to 31 other teams. Brown is my 54th guy, as in, if the Eagles were to trade another player or lose someone to injury, he'd be my first guy up.

Offensive line (9): Jason Peters, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Stefen Wisniewski, Dillon Gordon, Chance Warmack

For the low cost of one Matt Tobin, the Eagles moved up from the seventh round to the fifth round in the 2018 NFL Draft. Tobin was unlikely to make the team anyway, so that was a nice trade.

The starting five along the offensive line is set, with Halapoulivaati Vaitai serving as the swing tackle, and Stefen Wisniewski as the first interior lineman off the bench.

I believe the Eagles will give Jeff Stoutland the chance to continue to develop Warmack, but he won't be active on game day, barring injury. And then there's Dillon Gordon, who is a lock to make the team, but his status on game day will be interesting. The Eagles typically only like to keep seven offensive linemen active on gameday, But Gordon also plays some fullback.

One of the pleasant surprises of camp has been Taylor Hart, who doesn't look out of place at all at tackle, after having moved there from defensive end. He could potentially make the roster as a 10th offensive lineman if the Eagles really like what he has done in his transition to the offensive side of the ball.

Defensive line (10): Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry, Chris Long, Steven Means, Destiny Vaeao, Justin Hamilton, Elijah Qualls

The best battle to watch here is Steven Means vs. Alex McCalister. Means is clearly the better player right now, but McCalister has flashed at times. If the Eagles think they can get McCalister on the practice squad, that decision will be easy. If not, McCalister could beat out Means on upside alone, however, he's not ready for any kind of meaningful role at all right now.

I decided to keep five defensive tackles. Justin Hamilton had a great camp and is deserving of a roster spot, while Elijah Qualls could be poached if the Eagles cut him, so I think they'll keep both guys.

At some point Beau Allen will be rejoining the team, which will beef up the line some as well, but the team has repeatedly refused to give any meaningful update on his likelihood of playing this season. As such, my read is that he won't be back anytime soon.

Linebacker (6): Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Mychal Kendricks, Nathan Gerry, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Joe Walker

After a pair of good preseason games, MYCHAL KENDRICKS IS JUST TOO GOOD TO TRADE NOW. I kid, of course. If the Eagles can get something decent enough in return for him, they should do it, as we've stated repeatedly. 

After watching the tape, his preseason performance last week against Buffalo may have been a little overrated. His interception came on a tipped pass, and was something of a gift, and his tackle for loss came on a horribly run screen play by the Bills in which nobody blocked him.

I guess the point here is that a couple of preseason games should not cloud what Kendricks has shown he is over the last three seasons.

In the Eagles' scheme, Kendricks is not an ideal fit. Jim Schwartz's scheme requires linebackers who can cover, which is simply something Kendricks doesn't do well. Yes, the Eagles lack quality depth otherwise, but it's not as if Kendricks is quality depth himself, in this scheme. Can criticism be placed on Schwartz for not developing his scheme around the skill sets of his players, instead of the other way around? In the case of Kendricks, maybe, but for the most part, Schwartz is utilizing his players correctly, and Mychal Kendricks is not a player worthy of changing your scheme to accommodate. 

So we'll see if he's still on the roster Week 1.

Also, to note, the Eagles have made a habit of releasing Najee Goode at 53-man cutdowns, then signing him after Week 1 so his salary isn't guaranteed. I think they'll go that route again this year.

Cornerback (6): Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson, Ron Brooks, Rasul Douglas, C.J. Smith

In our last version, I had Patrick Robinson out with the trade for Ronald Darby. In this version, I have him in. Over the last week, Robinson has moved inside to the slot with the first team defense. That's a role that suited him well two seasons ago in San Diego, and got him paid by the Indianapolis Colts last year. Additionally, Ron Brooks has not proven to be durable, so the Eagles may want some veteran insurance in the slot.

Safety (5): Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Corey Graham, Chris Maragos, Terrence Brooks

As we noted last week, I would give Terrence Brooks the edge over Jaylen Watkins as the fifth safety at the moment, but I don't think it's a runaway. Brooks is more physical, but Watkins is better in coverage, and can also play some corner. What will the Eagles prefer?

Specialists (3): Caleb Sturgis, Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos

Layup.

NFI (Non-football injury list): DT Beau Allen, CB Sidney Jones

Practice squad (10): QB Dane Evans (but more likely some other team's released QB), RB Corey Clement, WR Greg Ward, WR Shelton Gibson, TE Billy Brown, OL Darrell Greene, OL Tyler Orlosky, DE Alex McCalister, LB Don Cherry, CB Aaron Grymes


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