Eagles Pre-Training Camp 53-Man Roster Prediction
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The rookies and selected veterans get to work Monday in South Philadelphia but you don't need to wait six weeks or so to figure out what your 2016 Eagles roster is going to look like.
Yep, it's time for that always fun exercise in futility, the pre-training camp 53-man roster puzzle.
Here's who we at 973espn.com expect to be on hand when Cleveland visits Lincoln Financial Field for Week 1 on Sept. 11
Quarterbacks (3): Sam Bradford, Chase Daniel, Carson Wentz.
A stone-cold mortal lock here with the bigger question being the Eagles' plan to put Wentz in bubble wrap for the entire season in an attempt to serve two masters: stay relevant in the short-term while building for the future. There isn't even a fourth camp-arm around because the No. 2 overall pick needs all the reps he can get in camp.
Running backs (4): Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, Kenjon Barner
Even though he's a Chip Kelly guy Barner received a lot of the offseason work with the ones because Sproles stayed in San Diego until minicamp and Mathews was having his usual issues staying on the field at times. This is going to be a committee-style setup and the rookie Smallwood should see a decent amount of action, especially if he improves as a pass blocker. Undrafted rookie free agent Cedric O'Neal is a good bet for the practice squad.
Tight ends (4): Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton, Chris Pantale.
The top three are set and make this one of Philadelphia's deepest positions. Pantale's versatility and ability to play the fullback position earns him not only a spot on the 53-man roster but likely a position on the gameday 46.
Wide receivers (5): Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Rueben Randle, Chris Givens, Josh Huff.
With Agholor's legal fate decided, he can begin to concentrate on improving as a player again, something very important because he needs to seize control of the No. 2 spot behind Matthews. Randle and Givens are veterans who serve a purpose on this team and even though Huff is never going to be much of a receiver in the base offense, his kick-returning skills will keep him around. Rookie free agent Cayleb Jones should make some noise in what is a weak group and the PS is almost a given for him.
Offensive line (9): Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Allen Barbre, Jason Peters, Lane Johnson, Stefen Wisniewski, Isaac Seumalo, Matt Tobin, Halapoulivaati Vaitai
Unless the Eagles feel they can sneak Vaitai through to the practice squad, he will earn the final spot ahead of veterans like Dennis Kelly and Andrew Gardner. Tobin's versatility and his ability to be the swing tackle on game days makes him a tick more valuable than the other vets in the mix. If, however, the Eagles feel they can get the raw Vaitai on the PS that buys another season for Kelly.
Probing deeper is Seumalo wins the left guard spot, something complicated by the fact he missed all of the offseason work because Oregon State is on the quarters system, all of a sudden that kicks Barbre down to the versatile sixth man and puts Kelly back in the mix for a roster spot over Tobin, whose lone advantage is probably that versatility.
Defensive ends (6): Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Marcus Smith, Bryan Braman, Alex McCalister.
Six defensive ends may seem like a lot but although the 240-pound McCalister needs a full year to add weight to his frame his pass-rushing potential will force the Eagles to redshirt him on the active roster. Meanwhile, this should be Smith's final opportunity to prove he can be a contributor while Braman sticks around due to his special-teams acumen.
Defensive tackles (4): Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Mike Martin, Beau Allen
Martin showed he was healthy enough in the spring and is a much better option as Cox's backup that the 3-4-centric Taylor Hart.
Linebackers (6): Jordan Hicks, Mychal Kendricks, Nigel Bradham, Najee Goode, Joe Walker, Myke Tavarres
The depth is incredibly shaky here and this is the most likely position in which the Eagles will likely look outside the organization in hopes of bolstering the position. If they stay in house, however, Tavarres' athleticism gives him the inside track on the final spot over Rutgers product Quentin Gause.
Cornerbacks (5): Leodis McKelvin, Nolan Carroll, Ron Brooks, Eric Rowe, Jalen Mills
McKelvin had a great spring and solidified himself as the team's top corner while Schwartz seems smitten with both Brooks and Mills. Rowe, meanwhile, is in the doghouse but his second-pedigree will certainly keep him on the roster over JaCorey Shepherd and Denzel Rice,
Safeties (4): Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Chris Maragos, Jaylen Watkins.
Watkins' ball skills give him the edge over Ed Reynolds and rookie Blake Countess for the the final roster spot at the position. Even though Maragos ran with the third-team a fair bit in the offseason, when push comes to shove he's too valuable on ST to jettison especially when you can get a young player like Countess through to the PS.
Specialists (3) : kicker: Cody Parkey, punter: Donnie Jones and LS: John DePalma
If healthy Parkey is the better kicker than Caleb Sturgis while Jones is as solid as ever at punter. As good as Jon Dorenbos was on "America's Got Talent," it's time for him to start the full-time magic career courtesy of the West Virginia rookie DePalma.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen