’21 Training Camp Pre: Who Makes The Cut?
[Editor’s Note: This is the 12th in a series of stories from Andrew DiCecco and Geoff Mosher previewing the Philadelphia Eagles as they head into training camp July 27. In this story, DiCecco projects the 53-man roster. Mosher will give his projection on Wednesday].
Here’s how DiCecco sees it:
Jalen Hurts, Joe Flacco, Nick Mullens
Cut and dry. Mullens hangs on for depth and experience purposes.
Running Back (4)
Miles Sanders, Kerryon Johnson, Jordan Howard, Kenneth Gainwell
I included two “bigger backs” due to Johnson’s injury history. When Miles Sanders was sidelined for four games last season, the absence of a power running game wiped away a critical dimension for an offense that lacked firepower. Keeping Howard, who is outstanding in pass protection, gives them a durable, short-yardage bruiser. The rookie Gainwell assumes the change-up role.
Wide Receiver (6)
DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, Travis Fulgham, Greg Ward, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Quez Watkins
The top three positions appear etched in stone. Though I don’t expect Reagor to suddenly emerge as a volume receiver, I envision this coaching staff deploying him as initially intended, capitalizing on his explosiveness. Smith should thrive on all three levels of the field and become an offensive focal point by midseason. Ward is a tough, sure-handed slot option who doubles as a punt returner. When you’ve struggled to field a competent receiving corps as often as the Eagles have, you don’t just discard a steady known commodity. Watkins sticks due to his innate athleticism and upside, and I think this coaching staff makes better use of Arcega-Whiteside.
Tight End (3)
Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers
Perhaps the best tight end room in football if it holds up. Even with Ertz in the mix, this is the year in which Goedert becomes a household name.
Offensive Line (9)
Jordan Mailata, Andre Dillard, Isaac Seumalo, Dickerson, Kelce, Brooks, Johnson, Nate Herbig, Jack Driscoll
Health permitting, the starting unit has the potential to be among the NFL’s elite. While injuries thrust them into the spotlight last season, Mailata, Herbig, and Driscoll logged valuable experience. Due to their versatility and promise, there’s really no need to keep Le’Raven Clark around.
Defensive End (4)
Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat, Ryan Kerrigan
If healthy, the Eagles should field a formidable quartet of edge rushers. The one battle to watch as far as a starting job is concerned would be Barnett vs. Kerrigan. Barnett has underwhelmed despite numerous opportunities and is now entering his fifth season, while Kerrigan is a savvy veteran with plenty of gas left in the tank. I like Tarron Jackson as a prospect, but I’m just not sure how many vacant snaps there will be for him. Bear in mind, Williams offers positional versatility.
Defensive Tackle (5)
Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Milton Williams, Hassan Ridgeway, Marlon Tuipulotu
Beyond the starting tandem, questions remain. However, Ridgeway has proven to be an effective role player when healthy and Williams should provide fresh legs and explosiveness as a rotational rusher. It’s no secret that teams had higher than a sixth-rounder on Tuipulotu. Given Tuipulotu’s value and where he presumably sits in the pecking order, he can be gradually developed and potentially work his way into the rotation as the season progresses.
Alex Singleton, Eric Wilson, T.J. Edwards, Davion Taylor, Shaun Bradley, JaCoby Stevens
Singleton and Wilson will likely assume the bulk of snaps. T.J. Edwards, largely a one-dimensional player, fills a necessary situational role as the third linebacker. Taylor is likely still another year away from becoming a prominent fixture on defense, but I expect this coaching staff to exploit his innate athleticism at a higher frequency. Bradley isn’t overly athletic or flashy, but rather a tough, fundamentally sound, second-level player with special teams prowess. Barring a phantom IR stash, I think Stevens is too intriguing of a project to expose to waivers.
Darius Slay, Steven Nelson, Avonte Maddox, Zech McPhearson, Craig James
Slay and Nelson man the perimeter while Maddox settles into the nickel role. McPhearson, one of the biggest winners from the Nelson signing, will now be afforded the luxury of being brought along gradually as he transitions to the pro level rather than be forged by fire. James has carved out a role as a standout gunner and is best equipped of the remaining contestants to provide adequate coverage on the outside if pressed into duty.
Rodney McLeod, Anthony Harris, Marcus Epps, K’von Wallace, Elijah Riley
With McLeod coming off of ACL surgery, I went heavy here. Although the veteran plans to play Week 1, it doesn’t hurt to have additional depth on 53 as a contingency plan. Riley has experience playing safety and cornerback, so his youth and versatility gives him the nod.
K: Jake Elliott
H: Rick Lovato
P: Arryn Siposs
– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com
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