DiCecco's Pre-Camp 53-Man Roster Projection
The Eagles on Wednesday will open training camp at the NovaCare Complex amid palpable anticipation and heightened expectations.
Vacant roster spots figure to be at a premium this summer, as the Eagles prioritized retaining several free agents while targeting outside help in key areas and adding seven draft picks to a team aspiring for another Super Bowl appearance.
Here’s one final shot at forecasting the final roster before camp begins.
Quarterback (3): Jalen Hurts, Marcus Mariota, Tanner McKee
With roster spots at a premium, the Eagles could conceivably go with just Hurts and Mariota, stashing either McKee or Ian Book on the practice squad for insurance. But if McKee – a 2023 draftee – shows well throughout the summer and exhibits notable developmental upside, he could force the team to be hesitant about exposing the sixth-round pick to waivers.
Running back (4): D’Andre Swift, Rashaad Penny, Kenny Gainwell, Boston Scott
Perhaps the team’s most perplexing positional outlook given its revamped landscape and abundance of vacancies, the running back hierarchy figures to come into focus over the next few weeks. Swift, acquired in exchange for a 2025 fourth-round pick and swap of seventh-round picks in April, boasts superstar potential when healthy. He and Gainwell are essentially locks. I actually envision the latter shouldering a fairly prominent workload.
Given his third-phase value and established dependability, Boston Scott would seem to have a leg up on his competition. Penny, who boasts perhaps the most impactful skill set and natural ability of the bunch, should be safe, though the snake-bitten former first-round pick can ill-afford an untimely injury and will have to stave off a surging Trey Sermon.
Wide receiver (5): A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Olamide Zaccheaus, Quez Watkins, Britain Covey
Brown and Smith comprise one of the league’s preeminent receiving tandems and should continue to soar to new heights in ’23 – especially Smith. While I fully expect both Watkins and Zaccheaus to survive cutdown day, their roles bear watching in camp. The former, better suited to play on the perimeter, is a big-play – yet enigmatic – speedster eyeing a bounce-back season while Zaccheaus provides a steady, sure-handed option equipped to churn out yards after the catch. Barring an unforeseen development, it would appear that Covey hangs on once again as the Eagles’ punt returner.
As for the conglomerate of young wideouts vying for roster spots, Clemson’s Joseph Ngata has yielded the most intrigue. But don’t forget 2022 holdover Tyree Cleveland (6-2, 205), 25, who boasts 4.4 speed and overlapped with Eagles offensive coordinator Brian Johnson at Florida. Cleveland, who with the Denver Broncos appeared in 23 games over three seasons, primarily cut his teeth as a special teams standout.
Positional depth, particularly on the outside, is a relatively glaring sore spot on an otherwise loaded roster. Things could get interesting if Brown or Smith were to miss any time or need a blow, as the embattled Watkins would be next in line.
Offensive line (9): Jordan Mailata, Landon Dickerson, Jason Kelce, Cam Jurgens, Lane Johnson, Tyler Steen, Jack Driscoll, Brett Toth, Dennis Kelly
The vacant right guard spot currently projects to be the marquee matchup in terms of configuring the depth chart, but with renowned offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland presiding over a unit led by invaluable mainstays Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson, the offensive line once again promises to perform at an elite level.
Regarding depth, Driscoll serves a crucial role as the team’s do-it-all lineman in a contract year while the late-summer addition of veteran Dennis Kelly – at least on paper – gives the unit a proven commodity who can provide snaps at guard or tackle. I also have Toth hanging on, as the Eagles the past two seasons have found ways to keep the former Army product around.
Rookie free agent Trevor Reid could be a player worth keeping tabs on. The former Louisville lineman is an immensely raw prospect and would have to defy insurmountable odds to contend for a roster spot. However, if his tantalizing athletic traits — including a 38-inch vertical, and 10-foot-4-inch broad jump, and an 84 ¼-inch wingspan – translate into sporadic glimpses of ability on the practice field, Reid would be a quintessential practice squad project for Stoutland to mold.
Tight end (3): Dallas Goedert, Jack Stoll, Grant Calcaterra
Largely written off each of the past two summers, Stoll’s distinguished blocking prowess – an invaluable asset to the offense – enhances his job security. He also logged over 200 special teams snaps last season, so he stays. Perhaps the most under-discussed roster battle pertains to the presumed final spot, which likely comes down to veteran Dan Arnold, second-year holdover Grant Calcaterra and former project Tyree Jackson. All three deliver next to nothing as blockers, so I’ll give the edge to the homegrown, 24-year-old Calcaterra due to investment and upside.
Defensive end (3): Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, Derek Barnett
Primed for league-wide acclaim, Sweat, who last season recorded double-digit sacks for the first time in his five-year career, should further benefit from the team’s tidal wave of pass rushers. Nearly a year removed from the debilitating knee injury that sidelined him for all but one game in ’23, Barnett supplies a talented unit with experience. The 2017 first-round pick appeared in 65 games (45 starts) and conceivably arms new coordinator Sean Desai with additional optionality. Keep an eye on third-year pro Janarius Robinson, an intriguing, measurable-laden pass rusher who redshirted last season and was seemingly stashed for this moment.
“SAM” linebaker (3): Haason Reddick, Nolan Smith, Patrick Johnson
Typically an afterthought, Johnson fulfills a crucial third-phase role while also moonlighting on defense, logging 324 snaps over the past two seasons. While he hardly figures into the defensive equation, Johnson – who has appeared in 33 games (two starts) over his two seasons – serves as a reliable depth piece. It’s also worth mentioning that Kyron Johnson, a moderately intriguing 2022 sixth-round pick, tried his hand at off-ball linebacker during OTAs amid a crowded edge contingent. But Johnson, a primary special teams performer as a rookie, was evidently demoted for the playoffs and rendered inactive. He will likely need to reclaim his third-phase role to stick around.
Defensive tackle (6): Jordan Davis, Fletcher Cox, Jalen Carter, Milton Williams, Marlon Tuipulotu, Moro Ojomo
The projected four-man rotation is as lethal as any across the NFL. Williams, once again relegated to No. 4 in the pecking order following the selection of Carter, offers multi-positional value. Say what you will about Tuipulotu, but the former sixth-round pick compiled a significant number of snaps last year before his season ended prematurely in mid-November. In a limited capacity, Tuipulotu should conjure productive snaps.
Ojomo, the Eagles’ seventh-round selection in April, forces the team’s hand into keeping six with a productive summer. The former Texas lineman offers multi-alignment appeal and herculean play-strength power. Sneaking him through waivers could prove to be a risky proposition.
Linebacker (4): Nic Morrow, Nakobe Dean, Christian Elliss, Shaun Bradley
Perhaps unfairly, the Eagles are placing a burden on Dean, the second-year linebacker. All signs point to Dean, a decorated collegian boasting supreme athleticism and intelligence, being up to the task of heading a maligned unit despite accounting for just 34 defensive snaps last season. The skepticism and concern, however, surround his supporting cast, led by veteran Nic Morrow, who the Bears failed to retain in the wake of a career season. Pairing Morrow, 27, opposite Dean constitutes the soundest plan of attack as of now, but the dire depth could influence an upgrade in the coming weeks.
A late-season revelation for a beleaguered special teams unit, Elliss should have ample opportunity to parlay his OTA momentum into sustained production in camp. The third-year linebacker could potentially challenge Morrow for a starting spot. Bradley likely survives, at least initially, due to special teams.
Cornerback (6): Darius Slay, James Bradberry, Avonte Maddox, Zech McPhearson, Kelee Ringo, Josh Jobe
Cross-training McPhearson at nickel cornerback – a role I pegged him for coming out of Texas Tech – should only aid his roster push, especially considering the scarcity of Maddox’s availability (60 games, five seasons). The third-year cornerback is also a key component on special teams, establishing himself as one the league’s preeminent gunners.
Fourth-year vet Greedy Williams, who carries a team-friendly salary, was omitted in favor of Jobe due to Williams’ volatile availability, moderate investment, and abbreviated special teams experience over his three seasons. As a depth defender, special teams essentially becomes a prerequisite, and Jobe – who contributed 220 third-phase snaps last season in 11 games as the gunner opposite McPhearson – accounted for 76 percent of the team’s total. Jobe also potentially represents future cost-effective depth.
Safety (4): Terrell Edmunds, Reed Blankenship, Sydney Brown, K’Von Wallace
Uninspired as the positional landscape might be, there’s far less cause for concern at safety compared to the barren linebacker room. Edmunds, a former first-round pick who has appeared in 79 career games (75 starts), brings knowledge to a largely inexperienced room. While Edmunds provides little in terms of turnover production, the former Steeler should open the season as a starter.
Expectations are perhaps unreasonably high for Brown, as the learning curve for rookie defensive backs can be steep, which favors Blankenship’s starting prospects. The concern here is that an Edmunds-Blankenship tandem would be redundant, potentially leaving the middle of the field vulnerable in coverage.
Wallace might never ascend to the starting ranks, but his special teams value – and availability – is apparent. The latter can’t be said for veteran Justin Evans, his primary competition.
Jake Elliott (K), Arryn Siposs (P), Rick Lovato (LS)
– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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