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August 26, 2020

Eagles could have a dozen or more rookies on their final 2020 roster

When the Philadelphia Eagles cut down to 53 players on September 5, there's a decent chance that they could have a dozen or more rookies on their initial active roster, which would be more than they have ever had during the Doug Pederson era.

 YearRookie count Who were they? 
 2016Carson Wentz, Isaac Seumalo, Wendell Smallwood, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Jalen Mills, Paul Turner, Dillon Gordon, Destiny Vaeao, C.J. Smith
 2017Derek Barnett, Rasul Douglas, Mack Hollins, Donnel Pumphrey, Shelton Gibson, Elijah Qualls, Corey Clement 
 2018Dallas Goedert, Avonte Maddox, Josh Sweat, Matt Pryor, Jordan Mailata, Bruce Hector 
 2019Andre Dillard, Miles Sanders, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Shareef Miller, Nate Herbig, T.J. Edwards 

Of course, the Eagles made 10 selections in the 2020 NFL Draft, after making only 5 picks in each of the two previous drafts. However, there's a reasonable chance that all 10 of their 2020 picks could make the final 53-man roster.

Locks: Jalen Reagor, Jalen Hurts, Davion Taylor, K'Von Wallace, Jack Driscoll, John Hightower, Shaun Bradley, and Quez Watkins.

On the bubble: Prince Tega Wanogho and Casey Toohill.

Both Wanogho and Toohill have shown ability in camp. Wanogho's biggest competition for a roster spot is probably Jordan Mailata, who has been getting first-team reps at LT whenever Andre Dillard has been out. Mailata hasn't looked good, however, despite being in his third year with the team. 

Toohill is fighting to be chosen as the fifth DE among a group that includes roster-worthy Joe Ostman, and a pair of guys the team spent fourth-round picks on in Shareef Miller and Genard Avery. 

In our most recent 53-man roster projection, we had both Wanogho and Toohill making the team.

As for the undrafted free agents, it was assumed by many that those guys would be screwed by not getting ample chance to show what they could do in a truncated offseason program. However, there's a good chance that at least two undrafted free agents could make the team, and possibly more. The leading candidates, in my opinion, in descending order:

  1. TE Noah Togiai: We covered Togiai in a little more depth in our Tuesday practice notes, but the short version is that he has impressed the coaching staff, and now has a golden opportunity to win the third tight end job with Josh Perkins out indefinitely.
  2. S Grayland Arnold: Because he's shorter than ideal and didn't test well athletically at the Combine, Arnold went undrafted, but he produced in college, he had a draftable grade from the Eagles, and he has been physical in camp.
  3. C Luke Juriga: At a minimum, Juriga is a near certainty for a spot on the practice squad, due to his lofty guaranteed money, and signing bonus. I can't say that I've zeroed in and closely watched his blocking in camp, but I can say that I can't recall him having any bad snaps, which is more than I can say of most backup centers I've seen pass through the NovaCare Complex. So that's a good start, I guess.
  4. RB Adrian Killins: While Killins hasn't had any super-impressive moments, the team is clearly giving him a close look, as he has gotten his share of reps at running back, wide receiver, and both returner spots. (I would currently have Killins pegged for the practice squad.)

Cool, so a lot of rookies will make the team. Is that good?

To begin, let's get the obvious point out of the way first. If a bunch of these young guys turn out to be good players, then yes, it's great! If in two years, half of them are no longer in the league, and the fan base wishes that a few more would be gone as well, then no, that's not ideal. 


It's probably better to say that re-loading with youth in bulk was necessary.

After 53-man cutdowns in 2019, we found that the Eagles had the second-oldest roster in the NFL. An analysis of the Eagles' very old roster led us to conclude that the team could not continue to make a small number of draft picks anymore, or they would run a serious risk of a major rebuild in a few years.

They did. Part II is now to develop them, and so far, just about all of the Eagles' rookie draft picks (with maybe the exception of third-round project Davion Taylor) have at least shown something, unlike previous immediately recognizably overmatched rookies like Clayton Thorson, Donnel Pumphrey, Shelton Gibson, Elijah Qualls, and others.

The other benefit, of course, is financial. If, say, a dozen rookies make the roster, then more the one-fifth of the team will be under contract for at least four years on very low salary cap numbers. The Eagles will have some maneuvering to do to get under the 2021 salary cap, and one vehicle for achieving that will be to sort of "kick the can down the road" by converting some highly-paid veterans' salaries into signing bonuses, and spreading those cap hits into future years. That becomes much easier to do if a nice handful of these rookie players become positive contributors while taking up little room on the cap until 2023.

The downside is that if you keep a dozen rookies, about a half-dozen of them will have to suit up on game day. Most (Reagor aside) would be relegated to special teams duties, but some might be forced into action prematurely if when the Eagles suffer injuries.

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