The Best 53
Mosher: Birds Roster Confusing For Now – But There's Method To Team's Madness
The 53-man Eagles roster assembled Tuesday by team personnel chief Howie Roseman with the input of head coach Nick Sirianni and others isn’t the most logical 53.
But for now, it’s the best 53.
Surely, a league-compliant roster that has seven defensive tackles, seven cornerbacks and no punter isn’t really ideal when it comes to drawing up an actual game day depth chart, especially with Week 1 now just Sundays away.
Eventually, the Eagles will have a punter. Eventually, they won’t have a combination of 13 edge rushers and interior linemen.
The first 53 is called the “fluid 53” for a reason.
But there’s no question that Roseman has capitalized on recent changes to practice squad rules regarding size of squad, qualifications, and elevation abilities to ensure that he kept his best 53 on Tuesday.
The rest, he’ll figure out.
“Well, a lot of these guys that we brought that we cut [Tuesday], we’re interested in bringing back,” said Roseman, the team’s longtime executive vice president of football operations, after what he termed one of the most difficult cutdown day decisions in his tenure. “We’ve talked about the roster being 69 guys as opposed to 53 and having flexibility in those spots.”
The Eagles, theoretically, could re-sign punter Arryn Siposs to the practice squad and elevate him to the active roster for the first three weeks, buying them time to upgrade the position and hold onto an extra developmental player at another position – say, for example, cornerbacks Eli Ricks or Mario Goodrich.
Right now, the Eagles lack a backup center who’s snapped in an NFL game. Josh Andrews, who belonged to the first round of releases, could likewise re-sign to the practice squad and be elevated to the active roster for a few weeks until the roster settles out.
Same for punt returner, as neither Britain Covey and Devon Allen made the initial 53. Fourth wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus could handle the duty, or the Eagles could elevate Covey or Allen from the practice squad for six weeks, three apiece.
It typically doesn’t take long for an injury here and there to open a roster spot.
By using the new practice squad rules and viewing the team as 69 instead of 53, Roseman has circumvented traditional roster-building thinking and allowed the team to hang onto prospects who in the past probably wouldn’t have survived the mass axing.
Third-year tight end Grant Calcaterra made the team despite Roseman’s shrewd trade for Albert Okwuegbunam, a big, fast, talented backup tight end who flashed at times enough in Denver to impress Eagles coaches.
Rookie defensive tackle Moro Ojomo, who showed interior burst the Eagles covet before suffering a concussion, is part of a seven-man rotation at the moment.
Ricks, Goodrich and veteran guard Sua Opeta are also among a group that might be unemployed today if Roseman hadn’t dared to be different.
On the surface, there’s some silliness to the overload at defensive tackle, edge defender and cornerback, positions where there just aren’t enough snaps to keep everyone happy.
To have Derek Barnett still on the 53 without a fourth inside linebacker, and to have Marlon Tuipulotu hanging around without a punter or punt returner, seems illogical at first glance, but the roster will change in the next 24-to-48 hours.
The decision to go unnecessarily heavy at positions of emphasis is more of a slow play to give coaches more evaluation time while keeping prospects away from other greedy teams still scouring the wire for upgrades.
“We don’t have to make any of those decisions right yet,” Sirianni said when asked about his punt returner. “We still have time, and we still have, like Howie said, you have 69 guys to choose from.”
– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the “Inside the Birds” podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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