Training camp at the NovaCare Complex is officially underway, with the Eagles reporting on Tuesday and the first on-field action taking place on Wednesday.
We’ll learn a lot about this team throughout camp and the preseason, most notably on the roster margins. There are a handful of recognizable players who will likely get cut before the start of the regular season.
Here’s our 53-man roster predictions as training camp gets underway.
Quarterback: Jalen Hurts, Joe Flacco, Nick Mullens
While the quarterback position is a huge question mark heading into the season, the players who will occupy the quarterbacks room is not. Jalen Hurts will be the man under center once the season begins, with Joe Flacco backing him up, followed by veteran signal caller Nick Mullens.
Running Back: Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Kerryon Johnson, Kenny Gainwell
The Eagles made a number of additions to their running back group this offseason. They acquired Kerryon Johnson and Jordan Howard during the free agency period, and they spent their fifth-round selection on Mephis’ Kenny Gainwell.
There’s a lot to like about this group, but one of the new acquisitions will have to get cut by Week 1. My guess would be that Howard’s the odd man out. He’s steadily declined ever since leaving Chicago, and his skill set doesn’t seem to mesh with the rest of the backs or with what Nick Sirianni wants to do offensively.
Wide Receiver: DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, Travis Fulgham, Greg Ward, Quez Watkins, Michael Walker
The Eagles have a bit of a bloated wideout group heading into camp. The top-four are all but solidified with Smith, Reagor, Fulgham, and Ward. It gets interesting after that.
The final two spots will likely go to Watkins, Walker, John Hightower, or J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. It’s safe to assume JJAW won’t make the cut this year with his non-existant development since being drafted. I think there’s something there with Watkins moving forward, so he makes sense to snag one of those final spots.
That leaves us with Walker and Hightower. If you assumed Hightower would make the roster this year, I wouldn’t blame you. He did some nice things as a deep threat last year, but he was wildly inconsistent. Hightower caught 10 passes on 29 targets last season, which included three drops. His 34.5 percent catch rate was the worst in the league among any pass catcher with at least 20 targets.
Hightower also didn’t play a single special teams snap last season, which could be a defining factor for this final receiver spot. Walker comes in as someone who’s only really played special teams throughout his career. If Hightower impresses during camp, he could end up with that final spot despite not playing special teams. But that’s a big ‘if.’
My guess is Walker comes in and does what he needs to do as a special teamer, while Hightower doesn’t do enough to earn a roster spot.
Tight End: Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz, Richard Rodgers
Now that Ertz has officially reported for camp, the tight end position is pretty straight forward. There’s still a chance he’s dealt before the start of the regular season, especially if a starting tight end around the league goes down. I’d say the chances of Ertz suiting up in midnight green this season sits at 60 percent at this point.
The team has a number of other options to go with at tight end if Ertz does end up leaving. Jack Stoll, Caleb Wilson, Hakeem Butler, and Jason Croom are names to keep an eye on.
Offensive Line: Jordan Mailata (LT), Isaac Seumalo (LG), Jason Kelce (C), Brandon Brooks (RG), Lane Johnson (RT), Andre Dillard, Landon Dickerson, Nate Herbig, Jack Driscoll, Sua Opeta
The most interesting camp battle this year will take place at left tackle, where Jordan Mailata and Andre Dillard are slated to duke it out for the rights to protect Hurts’ blindside. The loser of this battle will still remain on the roster, adding a great depth piece to an already deep o-line.
Outside of left tackle, all the starters along this line are set in stone. Second-round pick Landon Dickerson is a foregone conclusion to make the roster, along with Jack Driscoll and Nate Herbig due to their playing time last year. Sua Opeta also saw some playing time last season, so I feel comfortable with him manning the final spot along the line.
Defensive Line: Brandon Graham (DE), Fletcher Cox (DT), Javon Hargrave (DT), Derek Barnett (DE), Josh Sweat, Ryan Kerrigan, Milton Williams, Marlon Tuipulotu, Patrick Johnson
The defensive line is the heart of the Eagles defense. And it figures to be a strong unit yet again in 2021. The starters and rotational pieces are in place. Graham, Cox, Hargrave, and Barnett will be the starting four, with a combination of Sweat, Kerrigan, and Williams being the first lineman off the bench in passing situations.
Assuming the team opts to keep nine total defensive lineman, rookies Tuipulotu and Johnson have some nice upside worth keeping around as depth pieces. Tarron Jackson is the odd man out here, but he should end up on the practice squad.
Linebacker: Eric Wilson (SAM), T.J. Edwards (MIKE), Alex Singleton (WILL), Shaun Bradley, Davion Taylor
With the addition of Eric Wilson this offseason, this linebacking group is set for the most part. The top-three options will be Wilson, T.J. Edwards, and Alex Singleton.
Shaun Bradley and Davion Taylor, two draft picks from last season, should provide nice depth behind the projected starters. Hopefully, they developed a bit over the offseason and can rival the starters for playing time.
Cornerback: Darius Slay, Steven Nelson, Avonte Maddox, Zech McPhearson, Michael Jacquet, Craig James
With the addition of Steven Nelson just a few days ago, there will be few cuts to this cornerback group. Nelson and Slay will man the outside corner spots, with Maddox sliding into the nickel. Fourth-round pick Zech McPhearson figures to provide nice depth in year one, along with Michael Jacquet and Craig James, who saw some playing time last season.
Guys like Josiah Scott, Nate Meadors, and Grayland Arnold are the likely cuts from this group once camp is over.
Safety: Rodney McLeod, Anthony Harris, K’Von Wallace, Andrew Adams
Keeping only four safeties may seem like a risky proposition, especially if McLeod is unable to strap it up by Week 1. If that’s the case, the team could look to the defensive line to cut down on some roster spots. But if McLeod is good to go, keeping only four safeties is more plausible.
K’Von Wallace figures to play a major role as the third safety in Jonathan Gannon’s defense this year. Andrew Adams was the first signing of the offseason for the Eagles, and he feels like a prime candidate to play every special teams snap.
Specialists: Jake Elliot (K), Arryn Siposs (P), Rick Lovato (LS)
There’s nothing to see here. The team won’t be holding any competitions at their specialist position during camp, so barring any unforeseen collapses from one of these guys, they’ll be the starters heading into the season.