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Philadelphia Eagles 2017 opening day roster looks improved upon this time last year

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Better, worse, or the same?

Miami Dolphins v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

What does the current Philadelphia Eagles opening day roster look like compared to last year’s version? Has the team improved, stayed the same, or gotten worse? Read on for a position-by-position breakdown.

QUARTERBACK

2017: Carson Wentz, Nick Foles

2016: Carson Wentz, Chase Daniel

Verdict: BETTER.

Last year at this time, Wentz was thrust into the starting lineup despite the fact the Eagles originally planned to sit him for most of the 2016 season. And also despite the fact that Wentz suffered a rib injury in the first preseason game that kept him out until Week 1. Wentz looked really good in training camp this year so there’s certainly reason to be optimistic about his progress. As far the backup quarterback position goes, I do believe the Eagles mishandled that spot to some extent. Still, Foles is an upgrade over Daniel ... assuming he’s fully healthy.

RUNNING BACK

2017: LeGarrette Blount, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement, Donnel Pumphrey

2016: Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Kenjon Barner, Wendell Smallwood

Verdict: SAME.

Ryan Mathews is a more talented player than Blount, but Blount might be an upgrade in the sense that he can stay healthy and not fumble the ball as much as Mathews. Sproles is still Sproles. Smallwood might take a step forward this year. We still have to see him: 1) prove he can stay healthy and 2) improve in pass protection. Clement and Pumphrey are depth guys at best this season. If Smallwood takes a big step forward, this position will be improved. For now, I remain skeptical. I’m gonna say it’s not better or worse than last year, just the same.

WIDE RECEIVER

2017: Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, Marcus Johnson, Shelton Gibson

2016: Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham, Josh Huff, Bryce Treggs

Verdict: BETTER.

Dear God, last year’s group was just so awful. DGB, Huff, and Treggs aren’t even on an NFL 53-man roster (Treggs is on Philly’s practice squad). The Eagles actually have a legitimate No. 1 now along with one of the better deep threats in the league. Agholor had a good summer and maybe he can be something. If not, at least he’s not counted on to be a No. 1 or No. 2 guy. Hollins and Johnson earned their spots on the roster with strong summers. Gibson will likely be inactive for all 16 games barring injury.

TIGHT END

2017: Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton

2016: Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton

Verdict: BETTER.

How is this unit better despite being the same group of guys, you might ask? Well, it’s simple: THIS IS ERTZ’S YEAR! Okay, so there’s always some humor involved when I say that, but for real, I think he should have a real productive season. With Matthews out of the picture, Ertz will have a lot more opportunities working the underneath passing game over the middle of the field. So I think that’s at least a slight upgrade. But if you think that’s dumb and you think this group deserves to be listed under “same” then I don’t blame you.

OFFENSIVE LINE

2017: Jason Peters, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Stefen Wisniewski, Chance Warmack

2016: Jason Peters, Allen Barbre, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Isaac Seumalo, Matt Tobin, Stefen Wisniewski, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Josh Andrews, Dillon Gordon

Verdict: BETTER.

The only change to the starting lineup is Seumalo. Philadelphia’s 2016 third-round pick played well as a rookie and showed some nastiness in offseason practices this year. I’m optimistic about him. Kelce is a concern. We’ll see how he holds up after struggling at times last season. The obvious reason why the Eagles’ offensive line is upgraded, though, is due to Johnson’s lack of a 10-game suspension. That’s pretty big! Need I remind you the Eagles were 5-1 with him in the lineup last year compared to 2-8 without him? You could certainly make the case Johnson is one of the most valuable players on offense outside of Wentz.

DEFENSIVE END

2017: Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Derek Barnett, Chris Long, Steven Means

2016: Brandon Graham, Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry, Steven Means, Marcus Smith, Bryan Braman

Verdict: BETTER.

I don’t think anyone can dispute this one. Barwin just wasn’t a good scheme fit for the 4-3 defense. The combination of Curry and Barnett is a significant upgrade on him. Philly has great depth at this spot to pair with strong starters.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

2017: Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, Beau Allen, Destiny Vaeao, Elijah Qualls

2016: Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Beau Allen, Destiny Vaeao

Verdict: BETTER.

Logan is a very good player, but he’s not much of a pass rusher. Jernigan has more than twice the amount of career sacks Logan has despite being three years young and despite playing in 16 fewer games. Jernigan could prove to be a real nice player in Jim Schwartz’s scheme. There’s no question the depth is better at this position. Vaeao, a 2016 UDFA signing, now has more experience under his belt. Qualls had a great preseason.

LINEBACKER

2017: Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Mychal Kendricks, Najee Goode, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Joe Walker

2016: Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Mychal Kendricks, Stephen Tulloch, Najee Goode, Kamu Grugier-Hill

Verdict: SAME.

I guess this is about the same in the sense that you feel good about the starters but there are question marks when it come to depth. Kendricks had a good preseason, which is encouraging, so there’s potential for upgrade here. But for now I’m not so sure it’s remarkably improved. So I’ll go with same.

CORNERBACK

2017: Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson, Dexter McDougle, Rasul Douglas, [Sidney Jones]

2016: Leodis McKelvin, Nolan Carroll, Ron Brooks, Jalen Mills

Verdict: BETTER.

Opinions may vary on Darby, but at the very least I think everyone can agree he’s a starting NFL cornerback. He figures to be an upgrade over last year’s starters, one of which (McKelvin) isn’t in the league anymore. Carroll was signed to start for a desperate Dallas defense. Brooks is out of a job. Mills struggled as a rookie and still has a lot to prove, but at least he had a good summer. Robinson won’t be mistaken for a good player but he’s struggled the least in the slot. McDougle and Douglas likely won’t be big contributors right away. There are definitely still concerns about the corner position. I still think it’s upgraded. Note that Sidney Jones is in brackets since he’s on the NFI list and therefore will be out at least the first six weeks of the season.

SAFETY

2017: Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Corey Graham, Chris Maragos, Jaylen Watkins

2016: Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Jaylen Watkins, Chris Maragos, Terrence Brooks

Verdict: BETTER.

The starters haven’t changed. The big upgrade here is the depth at the position. Graham is a starting caliber safety in the league. To have him as a third option is a nice thing. He gives Philadelphia more flexibility when it comes to nickel packages and such. Last year, Watkins was the third safety. Now he’s fourth or fifth. Graham is an upgrade.

SPECIALISTS

2017: Caleb Sturgis, Donnie Jones, Rick Lovato

2016: Caleb Sturgis, Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos

Verdict: SAME.

The big change is the long snapper situation. I know some might be skeptical of Lovato, but he hasn’t made a mistake so far. But now I just jinxed him, crap.

In all seriousness, though, thoughts and prayers go out to Dorenbos at this time. We miss you, Jon.

OVERALL

Out of 11 positions listed here, I have the Eagles “better” in eight and the “same” in three. None of the positions look worse, although if you had to pick one, I’d argue it could be running back.

There’s no question the Eagles have improved — on paper. But that won’t mean jack if they don’t go out and prove it in the games. Today is the time for the Birds to starting proving themselves!

Poll

Do you think the 2017 Eagles roster is better, worse, or the same as last year’s group?

This poll is closed

  • 96%
    Better
    (472 votes)
  • 1%
    Worse
    (6 votes)
  • 1%
    Same
    (9 votes)
487 votes total Vote Now