DiCecco’s Too-Early 53-Man Eagles Roster Projection
With free agency and the NFL Draft now in the rear-view mirror of an unprecedented offseason, rosters have largely taken shape, as teams continue forge ahead through uncharted territory. The lack of OTAs makes forecasting the 53-man roster a bit more challenging when assessing the roster, but we pieced together our roster predictions, which include a couple surprises.
(Carson Wentz is guaranteed to be the starter, but will he be looking over his shoulder at second-round pick Jalen Hurts).
Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, Jalen Hurts
This one is pretty cut and dried. Sudfeld will serve as the immediate backup to Carson Wentz, but I fully expect the Eagles to take advantage of the 48-man gameday roster and activate all three quarterbacks. Interested to see how the team chooses to deploy the uber-athletic Hurts on offense.
RUNNING BACK (4)
Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Corey Clement, Elijah Holyfield
Sanders will shoulder the majority of the workload, but Scott proved to be a capable second option down the stretch last season. The diminutive runner ignites the offense with his tough running and elusiveness in the open field. Beyond Sanders and Scott, however, there is much uncertainty. Super Bowl hero Corey Clement re-signed after briefly testing the free-agent waters and will enter training camp as the odds-on favorite for the No. 3 job, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the Eagles add a veteran running back in the coming weeks to push the Glassboro native.
(Editor’s note: Adam Caplan reported on the latest Inside the Birds podcast that the Eagles have interest in Carlos Hyde).
Holyfield boasts appealing physical tools and arguably greater upside than his counterparts, so I like him to stick as the downhill bruiser who can grind out the tough yards.
WIDE RECEIVER (6)
DeSean Jackson, Jalen Reagor, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Marquise Goodwin, Greg Ward, John Hightower
(PUP: Alshon Jeffery)
The Eagles addressed their glaring speed deficiency during the offseason revamp, but questions remain about Goodwin’s durability and how quickly rookies can get ahead of the curve during an abbreviated offseason. I suspect Arcega-Whiteside, who will be counted on to take a significant step forward in his second season, will hit the ground running after a turbulent rookie campaign. Quez Watkins falls victim to a numbers game in this scenario, but likely resurfaces on the practice squad.
TIGHT END (2)
Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert
Practice squads can now hold up to 12 players, and two of those players can be added to the active roster on game week, so the Eagles would be wise to stash one there for flexibility purposes.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9)
Andre Dillard, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Matt Pryor, Jordan Mailata, Jack Driscoll, Nate Herbig
(IR: Prince Tega Wanogho)
The talented, albeit raw Tega Wanogho underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in January, so he likely won’t be in the immediate plans. Aside from Mailata, the reserves all possess some semblance of versatility. Pryor, who played fairly well in his limited opportunities last season, can take on Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s swing tackle role. Driscoll played tackle at Auburn, but best projects as a guard/center at the next level, while second-year pro Herbig also offers guard/center versatility.
DEFENSIVE END (5)
Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat, Genard Avery, Shareef Miller
(PUP: Daeshon Hall)
The lack of depth at edge rusher is mildly concerning. Barnett has yet to live up to his first-round billing, and while Sweat flashed in his limited snaps, he’s best suited as a rotational end. Avery, who was acquired for a fourth-round pick at last year’s trade deadline, was used sparingly but will almost certainly have a role in sub packages. Miller, a 2019 fourth-round pick, essentially redshirted as a rookie — appearing in only one game – so it is unclear where he is in his development.
I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of another Vinny Curry reunion, as the unit sorely lacks proven reinforcements behind Graham and Barnett.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE (5)
Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Malik Jackson, Hassan Ridgeway, Raequan Williams
The top four are etched in stone, but if recent history has taught us anything, the Eagles can never have enough depth along the interior. Whether it has been Destiny Vaeao, Bruce Hector, T.Y. McGill or Albert Huggins, the team has had to rely on deep reserves for stretches due to injury.
I was surprised that Williams, a 42-game starter for Michigan State, went undrafted. He compiled five sacks in his final campaign and showed well in East-West Shrine Bowl practices. The former Spartan has a skill set worth developing, so the Eagles would be better off burying him on the depth chart over Anthony Rush than attempting to pass him through waivers.
Nathan Gerry, T.J. Edwards, Duke Riley, Jatavis Brown, Davion Taylor, Shaun Bradley
The Eagles added to the second level during the offseason, signing Jatavis Brown in free agency and drafting Taylor and Bradley last month. Brown spent his first four seasons with the Chargers, starting 23 games, but his lack of size and injury history likely limit him to sub packages and special teams. Taylor, an immensely raw third-round pick, boasts tantalizing athleticism, but has a lot of work to do before he becomes a viable option on defense. The wild card here is Riley, a rangy, special teams maven that came over in an early season trade with the Falcons. With nearly a full season to familiarize himself with the playbook, Riley is a player I anticipate playing a key role on defense in 2020.
Rodney McLeod, Jalen Mills, Will Parks, K’Von Wallace
The trio of Mills, Parks, and Wallace will be competing for a starting spot in training camp. Mills, who played some safety at LSU, is making the transition from cornerback. The multi-faceted Parks comes over from the Denver Broncos in search of a starting role, and the rookie Wallace possesses an intriguing skill set that should keep him in the mix throughout the summer. However it ultimately shakes out, I expect all three to see the field on defense and serve as core third-phase performers.
Darius Slay, Sidney Jones, Avonte Maddox, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Cre’Von LeBlanc, Elijah Riley
I am a firm believer that the Robey-Coleman signing will prove to be one of the Eagles’ better offseason additions. He’ll man the nickel role, while LeBlanc backs him up and plays a key role on special teams.
The Eagles restructured Rasul Douglas’ contract last week, but after three seasons, the team has a large enough sample size to know what he is at this point. If the Eagles can’t unload Douglas in a preseason trade, there is a chance they cut ties to make room for a younger developmental project – such as Elijah Riley. Riley (6-0, 225) is a tough, instinctive defender with plus ball skills who has the range to play anywhere on the back end.
K-Jake Elliot; P-Cameron Johnston; LS-Rick Lovato
Nothing to see here.
-Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a contributor to InsideTheBirds.com. He also writes for Pro Football Network.