Eagles: 3 things we learned with the initial 53-man roster

Howie Roseman put the finishing touches on the Philadelphia Eagles initial 53-man roster Tuesday afternoon, making upwards of 20 waives/releases in order to get to the 53 player threshold.

There were some surprising moves, but at the end of the day, these are the best 53 players within the Eagles organization. The philosophy behind the roster construction wasn’t too different from we’ve seen out of Roseman in year’s past. A heavy emphasis was still put on the big men up front, quarterback is a valued position, etc.

With Nick Sirianni and a completely new coaching staff leading the ship, there were a few minor tweaks to the roster that may not have happened under the previous staff.

Here’s what we learned about this team following the 53-man roster announcement.

Competition mattered in the decision making

All offseason, Sirianni preached how important competition was to him on the practice field. In a handful of the roster decisions, it’s clear that player performance during camp mattered. That probably sounds obvious, but far too often do we see certain players make it over training camp standouts based solely on reputation, salary, or where they were drafted.

Looking at the wide receiver position for example, both Travis Fulgham and John Hightower missed the cut, leaving the team with only five wideouts. Fulgham was a major disappointment all throughout camp, despite coming into the summer as a presumed starter. Hightower, a fifth-round pick from last year, had a quiet camp as well and didn’t do enough to earn a spot.

The emergence of Quez Watkins played a role here as well. His outstanding camp and preseason play undoubtedly earned him a spot on the 53.

Cornerback is another position where it was clear the training camp performances played a role in who made the final cut. Nickel back Josiah Scott was making plays from day one of camp, and he showed up during the preseason games. Before camp, I would’ve pegged Michael Jacquet as the clear favorite to earn that final corner spot. But he played poorly throughout the preseason and was promptly waived.

It’s important for Sirianni to follow his own principles in terms of roster building, especially in year one. The best players will play and be on the 53-man roster, it’s as simple as that. Some of the more political reasons for keeping players didn’t seem to play as large a role in the roster construction this season as it has in prior years, which is refreshing.

Developing the young players is a point of emphasis

Every one of the Eagles draft picks from this past year made the final roster with the exception of sixth-round pick JaCoby Stevens — who will likely be brought back on the practice squad when/if he clears waivers.

While the majority of the starters are veterans, there was a clear emphasis on retaining as many young players as possible to fill out the depth chart. At tight end, UDFA Jack Stoll ended up on the 53 over veteran Richard Rodgers. Stoll did outplay Rodgers for most of the preseason, and he obviously has more room for growth than Rodgers does at age 29.

There will be a handful of rookies and young players who get extended playing time this season. DeVonta Smith, Kenneth Gainwell, and Milton Williams should all have large contributions in 2021. Second year players like Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins, and K’Von Wallace should also play a role in this team’s success.

Sirianni was lauded as a great developer of talent when he was initially hired. With the amount of young potential around him, he’ll have his opportunity to prove that in his first season as the head coach.

Keeping depth along the lines was key

As I stated at the beginning of this piece, building up both the offensive and defensive lines as always been a philosophy of Howie Roseman. For years, this team has had some of the best offensive/defensive line play in the entire NFL.

Looking at the depth they were able to gather this year, I don’t think it’s far fetched to say this may be the best offensive/defensive line combination the Eagles have ever had.

The starting five on offense is one of the best offensive fronts in football. Three Pro Bowlers, a budding star protecting the blindside, and an above average to good starting left guard. It doesn’t get much better than that. But even the depth behind them is outstanding. Andre Dillard, Landon Dickerson, Nate Herbig, Jack Driscoll, and Brett Toth could all start for a number of teams around the league.

Herbig, Driscoll, and Toth got extended playing time last season with all the injuries up front, and both Dillard and Dickerson were high draft picks with starting potential. Obviously Dillard hasn’t panned out exactly as the team envisioned, but he’s a good backup at the most important position along the offensive line.

Defensively, the Eagles are four-deep on the edge and along the interior. Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat, and Ryan Kerrigan should form one of the best pas rushing combinations in the NFL this season. Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave — in all seriousness — may be the best interior duo in the entire league.

Milton Williams has the versatility to play along the interior or on the edge and will be utilized at both positions this year. Marlon Tuipulotu is the weakest link of the bunch, but there’s a good chance he’s replaced by T.Y. McGill once the veteran is off the reserve/COVID list. McGill had a fantastic training camp and preseason this year.

All in all, how can you not love what this team brings to the table along the lines? They’re stacked, that’s all there is to say about the group.

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