Projecting the Eagles’ 53-man roster: the Pre-Training Camp Edition
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Ninety different Eagles players will report to training camp Wednesday, a little over one month ahead of the deadline to cut the roster to the league-mandated 53-man limit.
Between Jim Palmer stories Jim Schwartz likes to say the offseason is for teaching and training camp is for evaluation so here is our first look at how the report card looks come Sept. 1.
Pay attention because a certain someone from 973espn.com -- cue Paul Heyman -- is the reigning, defending undisputed champion in the annual beat writer roster-prediction pool.
And with that bit of unnecessary self-promotion out of the way, here you go:
Quarterbacks (3): Caron Wentz, Nick Foles, Nate Sudfeld
The best QB room in football or as Mack Hollins might say, the MVP, the Super Bowl MVP and the future MVP. Hyperbole aside the Eagles have an ascending superstar at the position, the best insurance policy in the business and a solid developmental prospect. The only question is whether or not Wentz will be the same guy coming off a torn ACL and LCL on Dec. 10 of last year against the Los Angeles Rams.
Running Backs (5): Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, Darren Sproles, Donnel Pumphrey, Matt Jones
Ajayi, who is entering his walk year, has already been called the leader of the committee approach by Doug Pederson and Sproles is back from a torn ACL for one last season. Clement clearly isn't standing still after turning from UDFA to Super Bowl hero in his rookie season while Pumphrey will likely get another shot with 2019 in mind. Jones, a former starter in Washington, has talent and if he can hold onto the football in August, he will also make the team.
Wide Receivers (5): Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Mike Wallace, Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson
The first four are locked in and the fifth spot is usually reserved for the guy who can help the most on special teams giving Gibson the edge over players like Markus Wheaton, clearly the best receiver in the back-end mix, as well as Bryce Treggs and Greg Ward.
Tight Ends (3): Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers
There is a very clear demarcation line between the veteran Rodgers as No. 3 and second-year project Billy Brown.
Offensive Line (9): Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Stefen Wisniewski, Lane Johnson, Jason Peters, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Chance Warmack, Isaac Seumalo, Matt Pryor
The best O-Line in football gets Peters back at left tackle, meaning Vaitai reverts to the game-day swing tackle role which means impressive depth. Wisniewski's versatility inside also helps a lot because he can move around seamlessly in case of injury. Warmack remains a Jeff Stoutland favorite from their days together at Alabama and the Eagles like the long-term potential of Pryor, who can fit in at right guard or right tackle down the line. Kepp an eye on Seumalo as a potential August trade candidate. He's a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none player to this point.
Defensive Line (10): Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Haloti Ngata, Michael Bennett, Derek Barnett, Chris Long, Josh Sweat, Destiny Vaeao, Elijah Qualls, Steven Means. (Tim Jernigan - NFI List)
Jernigan will more than likely start the season on the NFI list due to offseason back surgery, opening up a roster spot on the back end. When he returns you have to decide on Means, who is one of the best practice players you will ever see but is buried at defensive end, perhaps the deepest position group anywhere in the NFL, or Qualls, a second-year project inside. Overall, the group remains one of the NFL's best and deepest units with the starters (Graham, Cox, Ngata, Bennett) and key reserves (Barnett, Long and Vaeao) all more than capable. The versatility of Graham and Bennett, who can both play inside, only adds to the toolbox.
Linebackers (5): Jordan Hicks, Corey Nelson, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry, LaRoy Reynolds. (Nigel Bradham - suspended list, Paul Worrilow - injured reserve (ACL))
This is the one glaring question mark with little proven depth behind Hicks and Bradham, who will start the year on the suspended list. Luckily for the Eagles Bradham will miss only the opener against the Falcons. Nelson figures to take over the Mychal Kendricks role as the third LB and starter in the base defense. Gerry made some strides in the offseason and is a player to watch while Reynolds is a high-level special teams player. This, however, is the position where the Eagles will be culling over the league's leftovers at cutdown time
Cornerbacks (6): Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox, De'Vante Bausby
With Bradham on the suspended list for Week 1, it gives you an extra roster spot and because Atlanta is on the schedule using it on an extra CB makes sense. The speedy Bausby will be in the mix for regular playing time with a solid training camp and will almost be insured one game-day check.
Safeties (4): Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Tre Sullivan, Chris Maragos
Another depth issue here and Corey Graham likely remains on Schwartz's speed dial. Sullivan will need a strong camp to earn trust as the third safety while Dave Fipp will pound the table to keep Maragos, one of the best special-teams players in the NFL.
Specialists (3): Jake Elliott, Cameron Johnston, Rick Lovato
Don't race down to Atlantic City for any futures bets at this position. There will be no competition in camp for any of the three although Fipp admitted he will be looking at other punters around the league in case Johnston falters.
Practice Squad (10): RB Josh Adams, WR Greg Ward, WR Anthony Mahoungou, TE Billy Brown, OL Aaron Evans, OT Jordan Mailata, DT Bruce Hector, DE Joe Ostman, CB D.J. Killings, S Jeremy Reaves
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen