No surprises here, Hackenberg and Callahan have already been cut and Nate Sudfeld had a pretty impressive preseason relative to his standards. More and more NFL teams are electing to go with two quarterbacks nowadays but given the Nick Foles situation and Wentz’s injury the Eagles have no choice but to carry three; on top of that, Sudfeld is turning out to be an asset.
Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, and Darren Sproles were all locks to make the roster entering camp. The major question has been which running back would earn the fourth spot, and surprisingly nobody has seized that role, leaving a tough decision for the coaching staff.
It comes down to Smallwood, Donnell Pumphrey, Josh Adams, and Matt Jones. Right away the coaches should write-off Jones and Pumphrey. Jones had every chance to earn the spot, but a string of drops and other mistakes have been too much to overcome, and Pumphrey—who lost his rookie season due to injury—has been unable to make any sort of impression that would warrant keeping him in any other capacity than the practice squad.
As far as the battle between Adams and Smallwood, I think the team will go with the more known-commodity. Smallwood is a proven special teams contributor and has flashed at times with the first and second team’s this preseason. Adams is a good candidate for the practice squad.
Jeffrey, Agholor, and the newly-signed Mike Wallace make up the starting receiving corps for the Eagles—all three are obviously locks to make the roster. What has been an interesting storyline to follow all offseason was the roster battle behind those three.
Mack Hollins—who is safely on the roster because of his special teams contributions—has seen his stock drop with a lackluster offseason that began with high expectations. His lack of development and inconsistent blocking unexpectedly opened up the fourth spot on the depth chart, and Shelton Gibson—who was anything but a lock to begin the summer—has rode a 9-catch, 195 yard, and 2 touchdown preseason into earning that spot for himself. Gibson hasn’t just become a lock to make the roster, he’s beginning to carve himself a real role in this offense.
For a while there was a question of whether the Eagles would keep six receivers, but due to injury, the numbers point to the coaching staff electing to do that—at least to begin the season. While I would have bet on Markus Wheaton winning this spot, he hasn’t been able to stay healthy, ruling him out. That leaves it between Kamar Aiken and Deandre Carter. Aiken has produced in this league before and Carter hasn’t, while that normally would be a deciding factor, Aiken was mostly bad in his outings with the Birds, and Carter has been nothing but spectacular. This coaching staff isn’t the type to keep a guy around because he has a little more of an NFL pedigree and “reputation,” I think they’ll roll with the guy whom they’ve watched play at a high-level for the past month.
Ertz and Goeddert were obvious locks entering camp, while Rogers was about a 90% lock. The former Packer was solid as both a blocker and receiver this preseason, and all accounts of him from training camp were positive.
Needless to say, the Eagles succeeded in replacing Trey Burton and Brent Celek.
Peters, Kelce, Brooks, Wisniewski, and Johnson are all locks. Vaitai did everything he could to make the coaching staff question his status as “safe,” but at the end of the day his performance in the playoffs last year trumps his miserable play this summer.
After those six, rookie Matt Pryor has been impressive at guard, and he has positional versatility to play tackle as well. As a sixth-round pick he needed a strong showing to earn a roster spot and he did just that. If you ask me, it looks like Pryor was a steal who will be around for a long time.
Isaac Seumalo has struggled heavily with his snaps at center but otherwise he still has shown enough ability as an interior blocker to warrant giving him another shot. I don’t think anyone would bet on Seumalo to develop into a starter anymore, but he certainly has the ability to cement himself as serviceable depth.
The surprise here might be Mailata, who I believe will end up on the team’s 53-man roster. Mailata was a seventh-round pick and former rugby player from Australia. He’s just learning the tackle position and the game of football in general, but his physical attributes are impressive. Coming into camp he was a popular choice to get cut, best case scenario make the practice squad, but his decent performance has been enough to warrant a legitimate look from the Birds—who need to decide if they want to risk another team plucking him off their practice squad, or simply spend a roster spot on him to guarantee he stays around. My guess is the coaching staff is too high on his potential to risk letting him go, and for that reason he’ll make the roster to begin the year.
Another no-brainer here for the most part; Barnett, Graham, Long, and Bennett are all locks.
After that, Josh Sweat—the team’s fourth round pick from April—immediately made an impression on coaches with his raw athleticism and pass-rush talent. His over-hyped injury history is the reason he slid so far in the draft, but so far he looks more like a second or third rounder and an easy lock to make the team.
They could easily elect to keep just five defensive ends, but the relentlessly consistent performance of Steven Means has made it nearly impossible for Schwartz to move on from him, so fully expect Means to make the roster.
Again, with the Birds already being loaded at defensive line, there wasn’t much drama here. Cox and Ngata are locks, and Jernigan, who won’t be on the original 53-man roster due to injury, is also safely on the team.
After those three we watched a vanilla competition unfold between Elijah Qualls, Destiny Vaeao, and Bruce Hector. Vaeao was with the team last year, and has played well enough to reclaim his spot as the fourth defensive tackle on the depth chart. After him, I fully expect Hector to make the roster, as he simply outplayed Qualls—who I’ve always been high on, but has failed to turn his dynamic skillset into anything of value over his short time in the league.
Hicks and Bradham are obvious locks, although Bradham’s 1-game suspension will temporarily open up a roster spot for someone.
Behind them, Corey Nelson has already been cut and both Nate Gerry and Kamu Grugier-Hill have been impressive this preseason. For a long time there was a chance that one of the two would get cut, but both have earned their spots on the team.
LaRoy Reynolds emergence is what allowed the coaches to quickly move on from Nelson, and I expect him to fill in as a special teamer and as experienced depth. I think Joe Walker is also a player who makes the 53-man roster to start the year, but he’s certainly a candidate to be replaced by Bradham after he returns from suspension. Walker has been mostly solid when asked to fill in at middle linebacker, but he has struggled to stay healthy over his short career.
Darby-Mills-Jones will start at corner for week 1 and likely the entire season (with Jones in the nickel spot).
Avonte Maddox and De’Vante Bausby both flashed talent throughout the preseason, and Rasul Douglas is clearly a serviceable backup in this league. I don’t think either of those three players entered camp as a “lock” to make the roster, but all three have produced enough to warrant a spot. I’m not particularly excited about any of the three long-term, but that’s not of concern here, especially when you take into account the youth of the three starters ahead of them.
Jenkins and McLeod are obviously the starters here, and Graham figures to contribute heavily as a third-safety.
The final spot here is between Tre Sullivan and Jeremy Reeves, and it’s unlikely that the team decides to keep both. The favorite to get the nod is Sullivan, who the team is familiar with, and who possesses good physicality along with improved coverage ability. It’s likely that they view Sullivan as a potential long-term option in the secondary.
It’s starting to look like Chris Maragos will begin the year on the PUP list, which means we won’t see him in an Eagles uniform for the first six weeks of the season (at least). If/when he returns it’s unclear which position group the team would look toward to trim the roster, but at that point in the season any inevitable injuries will make that decision easier.
No surprises here—the special team’s troika has pretty much been set for a while now. Elliot and Lovato return from last year’s team, and Johnston has seamlessly replaced the retired Donnie Long Ball™.