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August 31, 2018

What they're saying about the Eagles: Predictions for the final 53-man roster are in

Congratulations to all of Eagles nation for making it through yet another preseason. It's never an easy task to go from the excitement of football returning to the "Are we there yet?" mentality of the fourth preseason game, but we are through to the other side. Christian Hackenberg will never pollute your television screen again.

A lot of uncertainty remains down at the NovaCare complex, even as plans for the Week One opener against the Falcons begin to take shape. Doug Pederson will allegedly decide on his starter for the first game sometime today, but the outside world will be kept in the dark until the last possible moment. Carson Wentz's readiness is the week's big story without a doubt, but with Alshon Jeffery likely to miss time and other contributors sitting out large chunks of the preseason, it could be a tough start for the Birds.

It's still full steam ahead for Howie Roseman and Co., as they attempt to finalize a roster suitable for a Super Bowl defense. The Eagles have a target on their backs this season, and they have to be prepared to receive every team's best shot.

So farewell to the preseason, and hello to meaningful football.

53-man roster projection with analysis

Sheil Kapadia | The Athletic

We'll start with the sort of thing football writers around the country are doing right now, putting their thinking caps on in an effort to predict the shape of the final rosters. Checking in first is The Athletic's Sheil Kapadia, whose instincts tell him the Eagles will go heavy at defensive line and wide receiver.

Jeffery will miss at least the first two weeks of the season, according to an ESPN report. That will leave a gameday rotation of Wallace, Hollins, Agholor and Gibson. The question is whether the Eagles will keep a sixth receiver. I like what I’ve seen from Carter this summer. He’s a shifty slot receiver who plays with a competitive edge and can make contested catches. Plus, he looks like he can contribute on special teams. I don’t know if Carter will stick around once Jeffery gets healthy, but I think he makes the initial 53-man roster. []

Not the worst guess in the world, if you're asking me. Sheil also believes Josh Adams will be the fourth running back for Philadelphia, a guess that has picked up steam in recent weeks based on the way the Eagles have divided up responsibility.

Life on the bubble

Tim McManus | ESPN

Speaking of Carter, his drive to make the Eagles extends a bit past the usual dose of self-interest. Having lost his brother to a tragic heart condition, Carter vowed to make an NFL roster way back in 2013 while his younger brother Kaylan was on his deathbed.

Sure makes it hard to root against the kid.

In the summer of 2013, his younger brother, Kaylan, went into cardiac arrest during a weightlifting session and fell into a coma. Kaylan, 17, was entering his senior season with the Enoch Eagles in Modesto, California. He was a standout running back and defensive back and aspired to play ball both in college and the NFL. But he had an undetected disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which can make it more difficult for the heart to pump blood. 

 He remained in a coma for two months before he died. On his deathbed, DeAndre made a promise to his little brother and best friend that he would make it in the NFL in his honor. 

 "It was both of our dreams to play in the NFL and have successful careers," he said. "I felt like I had a duty to do everything that he wanted to do that he never got an opportunity to." 

It's why Carter keeps getting off the mat. He's lost track of how many times he's been cut since joining the league as a 5-foot-8 undrafted free agent out of Sacramento State in 2015. Five? Six? 

Six is the answer. First by the Baltimore Ravens, then the Oakland Raiders, and twice by the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers. In late July, he was signed by the Eagles. The move seemed simply to be a matter of adding camp depth, but Carter has been making noise, and after a four-catch, 73-yard performance against the Cleveland Browns in the third preseason game, buzz has picked up about him possibly making the 53-man roster. []

What does Aaron Rodgers' contract mean for Carson Wentz?

Reuben Frank | NBCSports Philadelphia

While most people are stressing patience as it pertains to the health of Wentz, there are some reasons for the Eagles to feel a little pressure to get Wentz back into fighting shape. One of those is a long-term issue: Wentz is going to get major paid at some point, and that will put stress up and down the roster, forcing Roseman into some difficult decisions moving forward.

And with Rodgers landing what is reportedly the biggest deal in NFL history, it's not hard to see a future in which Wentz receives an all-time level deal.

Elite quarterbacks don’t come along very often, and Wentz was having an MVP season when he got hurt. Even missing the last 2½ games of the season, he set a franchise record with 33 touchdowns and became only the fifth QB in NFL history with 33 or more TDs and seven or fewer INTs in a season. 

Not coincidentally, Rodgers and Ryan are among the other four, along with Tom Brady and Brett Favre. And as guys like Cousins, Ryan and Rodgers sign deals worth close to or in excess of $30 million per year, it just drives the market up. And just makes Wentz richer and richer. 

So $30 million per year is a good starting point for Wentz, but his actual average salary will probably be higher. Probably somewhere between where Ryan and Rodgers currently are. 

This is why the Eagles must continue drafting well. They simply won’t have the cap space to sign a ton of expensive free agents once the Wentz deal is done. []

Brent Celek says goodbye to Philadelphia

There are few athletes in recent memory that personify a "Philadelphia guy" better than Brent Celek. Beloved in the locker room and the community, asked to shift roles as his career wound down, Celek always showed up ready to work and ready to lead.

And after an 11-year career in midnight green, Celek only saw one way to end things, according to a letter he penned for the Eagles' website: as a champion.

I can clearly remember the day I was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles. I was in the basement of my parents’ house. So many friends and family members over, and lots and lots of food. I didn’t eat much. Not sure if I was going to get drafted, I waited, feeling panicked. I mean, I wasn’t even invited to the combine. Then the phone rang: It was a 215 area code. As I answered, the person on the other end of the line said he was a representative of the Philadelphia Eagles and that he was going to hand the phone over to Coach Andy Reid. Listening to Coach Reid say they were selecting me with the 162nd pick was life-changing. I vowed to him, and to the organization, that from that day forward they were going to get all of me. Nothing less. 

 Eleven years later I was part of a team that won the first Super Bowl in Philadelphia history. It has been an amazing journey - a journey that is now coming to an end. It’s a big decision, but it’s not a tough one: Though I know I’m still capable of playing football at a high level, and though I had offers to continue my NFL career, my heart told me that this was the time. The bottom line was this: When I thought long and hard about the prospect of putting on another uniform, it just seemed wrong. In the end, I couldn’t do it. My career began, and ended, with the Philadelphia Eagles - and man, did we go out in style. []

Did Josh Adams do enough to earn a roster spot?

Jeff McLane |

Shifting back to present day Eagles, Adams has what is probably the strongest case for a roster spot behind the core three guys. With Donnel Pumphrey perpetually hurt, Wendell Smallwood representing a known and uninspiring quantity, and Matt Jones looking miserable during most of his preseason reps, it wasn't going to take much.

Did he offer enough to convince the coaches? That's up for debate.

Adams didn't show much as a receiver. He finished with two catches for 2 yards. He had one pass sail through his hands in the flat when he took his eyes off the ball. But, overall, he was never given much of an opportunity to show his capabilities in the passing game and on special teams. 

 "I really wanted to make a bigger impact on special teams," Adams said. "Felt like I could have done better in that area." 

If he has a strength, it's his vision and patience. He isn't afraid to wait for his blocking to develop before making his move. The highest compliment would be to say that he runs like the Steelers' Le'Veon Bell. 

Adams isn't in Bell's class. But the Eagles aren't the only NFL team to see promise in the 21-year old. He received the highest roster bonus among the league's undrafted rookies. 

 The 6-foot-2 Adams will need to alter his running style. He runs upright and that makes him an easier target. But even when there's contact, he keeps his legs churning and doesn't fumble – at least he didn't during the preseason. []

What carries over from the preseason?

Dave Spadaro |

The answer to that rhetorical is usually, "Not a whole lot!" but there are certainly trends to follow and players to keep an eye on. I think a lot of people came out of preseason bullish on Dallas Goedert's chances to impact the team this season, and rightfully so with how well he fit into an Ertz-like role.

For my money, though, the most important thing we saw in the preseason was a stout defense. And with uncertainty at QB to start the year, their performance will likely loom largest in determining their early season record.

Jim Schwartz’s defense has pieces. There is a lot of speed here, there’s some depth, and you can see how much more advanced the players who have been in the scheme for a couple of seasons have become. Defensive end Steven Means stated his case, emphatically, with three quarterback sacks against the Jets, so the question is can the Eagles keep both Means and Sweat, giving them six defensive ends on the 53-man roster? Pass rushers and cornerbacks. The Eagles have a lot of both, rare treasures in the NFL. 

The immediate question is replacing linebacker Nigel Bradham in the opener. Bradham, of course, is suspended for off-the-field actions from July 2016. His absence creates a void in the defense against a strong Atlanta offense. []

Did the Eagles tip their hand on who's starting next week?

Zack Rosenblatt |

There were plenty of people — yours truly included — who read into Nate Sudfeld's absence Thursday night as an indication the Eagles would be starting Nick Foles in Week One. Why throw your backup into harm's way if you know he might be one big hit away from playing in a meaningful game next week?

Doug Pederson quickly put that theory to bed after the game.

The logic: If the Eagles felt the need to keep Sudfeld out for the preseason finale rather than provide him valuable game reps, it would stand to reason they were keeping the young quarterback fresh and ready to be the No. 2 quarterback against the Falcons. That, implying that Wentz would remain inactive and Foles would start. 

Pederson quickly put out that fire in his postgame press conference at Lincoln Financial Field after the Jets game. "Not at all," he said. 

"Not at all." "I've seen a lot of Nate (Sudfeld) already," Pederson said. "He's played a ton this preseason. He's played a ton of football. And really, I needed to get a fair assessment of" training camp arms Joe Callahan and Christian Hackenberg. 

He's not lying -- Sudfeld had played 86 snaps in three games while attempting 74 passes. He was sacked nine times, too. []

The proof will be in the pudding. Six days stand between the Eagles and the season opener, and the mystery lingers. Hold on to your butts.

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