Now that the Philadelphia Eagles officially have their 90 man roster set, it’s time to take a way too early look at the potential 53 man roster that will be set the day after the final preseason game. You will see a lot of surprising cuts this summer as the Eagles go through some radical changes on offense and defense and have brought in a very solid undrafted class to compete with the other 74 players on this roster.
There is also the never-ending Sam Bradford saga, the position battles in the secondary and at left guard and some questionable depth at both linebacker and defensive line. It’s always tough to predict a 53 man roster this early when you have a completely new offense and defense being installed plus a new head coach leading the roster. Roster turnover is expected which leads to a lot of recent draft picks getting cut.
Do you guys like Beau Allen, Allen Barbre, Taylor Hart and/or Josh Huff beat out some of the cheaper free agent and undrafted free agents for roster spots this year?
Here is how I think the Eagles 53 man roster will play out 3 and a half months before it actually gets decided:
Quarterbacks(3): Sam Bradford, Chase Daniel, Carson Wentz- I was really close to leaving the number at two and keeping Bradford off my 53 man roster, but Bradford has no reason to holdout anymore unless he really wants to retire. His dream of being traded to Denver is now dead since they spent a first round pick on Paxton Lynch.
Bradford will come back once these camps become mandatory, Daniel becomes the backup and Wentz will spend the year developing. I don’t see Bradford back next season, but for now this will be the QB dynamic in Philly. Keeping Bradford helps the Eagles win more right away and makes sure that first round pick they sent to Cleveland in the 2017 draft isn’t a high pick.
Running Backs(4): Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, Kenjon Barner- This is a position a lot of people expect the Eagles third round pick to be spent on. Instead the Eagles spent their third on a guy who probably starts at left guard at some point this season. This isn’t an offense that needs an elite back to carry it.
This offense utlizes an athletic left guard to pull, a right guard to block with power and a ton of versatility from their backs to give the defense a lot of different looks. Pederson did a great job of that with the Chiefs last year and should keep that going with this group in 2016.
Mathews is your all-purpose, every down back, Sproles and Smallwood are your speedy backs who can play a little wide receiver as well and Barner contributes on special teams and can fit into any RB role if needed.
I think the 2017 draft could yield a top running back for the future, but it is still unclear if this group views that position as a priority or a spot the offensive line and scheme can allow to thrive if they focus on scheme fits later in the draft.
Wide Receivers(6): Nelson Agholor, Jordan Matthews, Reuben Randle, Chris Givens, Cayleb Jones, Byron Marshall(OW)- This is the most underrated position group on the Eagles roster. Matthews and Agholor are legitimate number one and two wide outs in this league. Fans should be excited to see them play in a scheme stresses route running and fundamentals, not just tempo.
Randle and Givens were both solid free agent pickups to add to the mix. Randle is a nice possession receiver to mix in and allow Matthews to play in the slot in 11-sets.
Jones was one of the Eagles 16 UDFA pickups and a guy can develop and get a good special teams contribution this year. He can take over the Randle role, who is only signed for this season.
Marshall is a dangerous receiving back who can also play wide receiver, much like Smallwood. Both players give the Eagles too versatile players on offense who can line up wide, in the slot or in the backfield. Pederson did this with Jamal Charles and De’Anthony Thomas in 2015 and now he can do this with Sproles, Marshall and Smallwood in 2016.
Tight Ends(3): Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton- Versatility is key with this tight end group. The Eagles have three tight ends who are solid blockers and make an impact as recievers as well. Burton is the least dangerous receiver from this group, but he thrives on special teams and can take on the full back role if needed.
Offensive Line(9): Jason Peters, Stefan Wisniewski, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Isaac Seumalo, Dennis Kelly, Allen Barbre, Darrell Greene- The way NFL teams are building their offensive line groups now is with five starters and just three or four backups who can play at least 2-3 different spots on the line.
Peters and Johnson are your starting tackles. We may see Johnson at left tackle at some point, but I think it’s more likely they start at the some spots they were at last year. I also think Peters rebounds this year now that he is away from the up-tempo obsession.
Jason Kelce remains the starting center and Brandon Brooks was brought in to be the power blocking guard. Brooks is a very good athlete for his size(330 pounds, 1.71 10 yard split at his pro day) too. He was a quality starting guard in Houston just starting to see his potential. I see him as a top 5 interior linemen in this league this season.
The depth here is all about versatility. Seumalo will compete at left guard, but also will be the top backup center as well. Barbre and Kelly can play any spot put center and will be top reserve tackles on this roster. Greene was one of the top run blockers in college and has a real good shot of earning a backup guard role on this team.
Defensive Line(9): Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Vinny Curry, Connor Barwin, Mike Martin, Marcus Smith, Alex McCalister, Aziz Shittu- This group is all about evaluating which holdovers can fit into the new scheme and bringing in new guys who are also great fits. Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and Marcus Smith as 4-3 defensive ends will yield much better results than what we are used to. Curry and Graham and both make a run at 10 sacks this season, at least, and Smith should become a competent backup now in his third NFL season.
I thought Barwin was a player they would trade. He isn’t a natural pass rusher, but he is versatile enough to play both defensive end and SAM linebacker. He’s also a great locker room guy. It sounds horribly cliche, but you needs guys like especially during a coaching and quarterback change.
McCalister and Shittu are undersized and poor fits for most schemes, but here they get to come in on sub-packages and just worry about rushing the passer. McCalister is sub-package rusher I am most excited about. He’s long(6-6, 36 inch arms) with outstanding athleticism and bend for the position. He’s not a complete player at this point in his young career, but as a wide-9 end in this defense he is going to get consistent disruption in the backfield.
Linebackers(6): Mychal Kendricks, Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Najee Goode, Joe Walker, Myke Tavarres- This is a very think linebacker group that has three of their top four players coming in with significant injury history. Kendricks has dealt with calf and hamstring injuries whole both Goode and Hicks have suffered season ending torn pectoral injury in thier short NFL careers.
If healthy, this can be a very good group. Kendricks at WILL, Hicks at MIKE and Bradham as the SAM are all ideal fits. Goode is the versatile backup who can play any spot. Walker and UDFA Tavarres are great athletes still learning the position. Relying on them as starters in 2016 could spell disaster, but I love their potential and immediate impact on special teams.
Secondary(10): Eric Rowe, Nolan Carroll, JaCorey Shepherd, Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, Blake Countess, Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Jalen Mills, Chris Maragos- I couldn’t separate these players from corners to safeties because 8 of these 10 defensive backs can play multiple positions. Only McLeod and Maragos are strictly safeties.
The competition here is going to be the best battle to watch this summer. The number two corner, top reserve safety, the slot corner and the dime back are all up for grabs and at least four different players are contenders for each spot. This is the deepest the Eagles secondary has been since 2004.
Remember back in 2009 when the Eagles were trying to prove Macho Harris could be a starting safety in this league or in 2011 when Jaiquawn Jarrett was trying to prove the same thing? Or even back in 2010 when Trevard Lindley was trying to be an outside starting corner on a playoff team?
McKelvin might be the 5th best corner on this roster and that is really saying something. I don’t know who is going to win these position battles right now, but the amount of competition in the back end should benefit the entire defense.
Special Teams(3): Cody Parkey, Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos- As what was supposed to be last year. All three players have competition this year, but with a healthy Parkey I see this three holding onto the three most critical special teams roles.
Parkey should be out his temp from last year, Caleb Sturgis, who really struggled with his accuracy on all kicks. Jones should easily handle Ryan Quigley, who typically struggles with getting enough hangtime on his punts to help his coverage unit out. John DePalma is the competition at longsnapper, but unless Dorenbos shows much decline than he has the last couple seasons I see him holding onto his spot. He’s the most likely of the three to lose their position, but it’s still pretty likely.