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Eagles 53-man roster prediction: Pre-training camp edition

Who will make the final cut?

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles-Minicamp Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The first Eagles training camp practice of 2017 is set to take place on Monday, July 24. It'll just be quarterbacks, rookies, and a few select veterans practicing for three days before the rest of the team shows up for the first full team practice on Thurdsay, July 27.

The Eagles will bring 90 players into training camp. As the summer winds down and the regular season approaches, however, the Birds will eventually have to cut their roster down to the 53-man limit. Jobs will be won and lost based on how players perform this summer. Here's an early look how the Eagles' final 53-man depth chart could play out. We'll update these projections weekly throughout camp.

OFFENSE

QB: Carson Wentz, Nick Foles (2) [2]

Wentz is the franchise. Foles is the backup. The only question here is if the Eagles will keep three quarterbacks. I think Matt McGloin has a chance to earn a third spot if he has a strong summer. If not, the Eagles will keep Dane Evans on the practice squad and roll with two on the 53.

(Eagles training camp position preview: Quarterback)

RB: LeGarrette Blount, Darren Sproles, Donnel Pumphrey, Wendell Smallwood (4) [6]

The Eagles will employ a running-back-by-committee approach for the second year in a row. Blount is the obvious leader of the committee. He figures to get a bulk of the carries along with a lot of red zone/short-yardage work. Blount likely won’t be utilized on third down due to the fact he’s not much of a pass catcher. That’s where Sproles and Pumphrey come in. The former will also get a decent number of carries while the latter probably won’t see an extensive role in the backfield. Smallwood is the wild card of this group. If everyone else ahead of him on the depth chart is playing well, he might not see a ton of snaps. If Blount struggles after handling a big workload in 2016, however, the opportunity is there for him to step up.

(Eagles training camp position preview: Running back)

WR: Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, Marcus Johnson (6) [12]

Jeffery is a legitimate stud No. 1 wide receiver as long as he can stay on the field. Smith is trying to revive his career after struggling in San Francisco. It was encouraging to see him look good in spring practices. People get upset when I mention JMatt might get traded so I won’t even bring that up at all. He’s a solid slot receiver whose efficiency could increase given the talent increase at his position. Agholor’s playing time figures to take a hit this season. He looked good this OTAs and minicamp but he has a long way to go before being a “sure thing.” Hollins should contribute on special teams right away. The Eagles like Johnson, who runs a 4.3 40-yard dash, so keep an eye on his progress this summer. I’m projecting Shelton Gibson is this year’s Alex McCalister in the sense that suffers a “phantom injury” and ends up stashed on the injured reserve list as a rookie.

(Eagles training camp position preview: Wide receiver)

TE: Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton (3) [15]

This is the year Ertz breaks out, I swear. I do think the continuity between him and Wentz could help. Ertz looked good in spring practices this year and Wentz targeted him often. Celek is probably in his last camp with the team. He’s pretty much a pure blocking tight end at this point. Burton is a nice role player who can also contribute on special teams. Anthony Denham and Billy Brown could be challenging for a four tight end spot. I’m keeping them off for now.

(Eagles training camp position preview: Tight end)

OL: Jason Peters, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Allen Barbre, Stefen Wisniewski, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Chance Warmack, Dillon Gordon, Tyler Orlosky (11) [26]

The only starting job up for grabs is the left guard position. Seumalo appears to be the favorite there, though Barbre is in the mix as well. If Barbre doesn’t win the job, he’ll be the backup at every position except center. Wiz is the backup behind Kelce. Big V shouldn’t play at all this year if things go according to plan. Warmack sticks due to the Jeff Stoutland connection. Along with providing depth at tackle and guard, the Eagles could use Gordon as an extra blocking tight end and/or fullback. Philadelphia opts to stash Orlosky on the roster because they like his long-term potential.

(Eagles training camp position preview: Offensive line)

DEFENSE

DE: Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry, Chris Long, Steven Means (5) [31]

Graham was arguably the Eagles’ best defender last year. He’ll be counted upon heavily again this season. Barnett and Curry figure to split time opposite of Graham. The feeling here is Barnett will catch some people by surprise. I’m really interested to see how he looks when the pads go on. Long is a reliable veteran depth role player. Means has proven he can rush the passer. He needs to show he can play special teams in order to stay active on game day. Goodbye to Marcus Smith.

(Eagles training camp position preview: Defensive end)

DT: Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, Destiny Vaeao, Elijah Qualls (4) [35]

Cox and Jernigan are gonna EAT this year. The Eagles will be in trouble otherwise. Vaeao is what he is: a backup defensive tackle. Qualls might not be ready to contribute in a major role right away but he’ll earn a depth job due to his potential.

(Eagles training camp position preview: Defensive tackle)

LB: Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Mychal Kendricks, Najee Goode, Joe Walker, Kamu Grugier-Hill (6) [41]

Hicks reportedly suffered a hand injury in late June so it’ll be interesting to see if he’s fully ready for camp. Bradham won’t be imprisoned but he’s still potentially facing discipline from the NFL. I have the Eagles going heavy at linebacker in anticipation of his potential suspension. I still think Kendricks could be traded but for now he’s here. Goode is a versatile backup who can contributes on special teams. Walker showed promise last summer as a backup MLB. Grugier-Hill was low key good on specials last year. Gerry looked good in coverage in the spring but now the former safety has to prove he can handle shedding blocks and tackling in the NFL. Like Gibson, I think the fifth-round rookie could end up on injured reserve after stubbing his toe in a gardening accident.

(Eagles training camp position preview: Linebacker)

CB: Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson, Rasul Douglas, Aaron Grymes, Ron Brooks (5) [46]

Mills is probably the only player locked in as a starter here. The coaching staff really likes him. His teammates think he’s poised for a breakout year after struggling as a rookie. Robinson is the favorite to start opposite of Mills. The veteran corner could lose his job to Douglas, however, if the rookie really steps up this summer. Douglas was often around the ball in the spring, but he also struggled at times. Grymes could potentially be the team’s new starting slot corner. He likely would have made the roster offseason if he didn’t get hurt in the preseason. The final corner spot(s) comes down to Brooks and C.J. Smith. For now I’ll lean with Brooks since he’s a Jim Schwartz guy and Smith can be stored on the practice squad.

(Eagles training camp position preview: Cornerback)

S: Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Terrence Brooks, Chris Maragos (4) [50]

Jenkins and McLeod are good starters who will have to cover up for not so good corners. Brooks had a much better spring than Jaylen Watkins. He’s the early favorite for the third safety job. Maragos is the special teams captain.

(Eagles training camp position preview: Safety)

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Caleb Sturgis (1) [51]

Sturgis had a strong spring. He’s the undisputed kicker heading into 2017. The Florida alumnus is a free agent after this season.

P: Donnie Jones (1) [52]

Could this be the last training camp for Jones? He turned 37 earlier this month.

LS: Jon Dorenbos (1) [53]

Dorenbos turned 37 today. Happy birthday to Jon!

(Eagles training camp position preview: Special teams)

INJURED PLAYERS

Beau Allen and Sidney Jones will be candidates for the PUP/NFI lists. It’s unclear when Allen will be ready to return, though there’s hope he can play Week 1. It’s even less clear if/when Jones will be ready this season.

The expectation is that the Eagles will cut Ryan Mathews once he’s healthy enough to pass a physical. They could also waive him with an injury settlement, but they’d save less cap space by doing that.

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Practice Squad (10): QB Dane Evans, RB Corey Clement, WR Greg Ward, TE Billy Brown, OG Darrell Greene, LB Don Cherry, DE Alex McCalister, DT Winston Craig, CB Mitchell White, CB C.J. Smith