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Philadelphia Eagles 53-man roster prediction: Post-NFL Draft edition (2018)

Early look at who could make the final cut.

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve spent this week projecting the Philadelphia Eagles depth chart for the 2018 NFL season. I started with the offense, moved on to the defense, and then finished up with the special teams unit. Now that the 90-man roster has been sorted, it’s time for an early pre-OTAs prediction of who will actually make the final cut down to 53.

A lot of position battles are still yet to be determined but this projection will provide us with a general sense of what the final roster should look like. We’ll revisit this activity multiple times throughout the offseason. (For fun, here’s a look at what the roster looked like at this time last year.)

OFFENSE

QB: Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, Nate Sudfeld (3) [3]

Wentz has stated all along that he plans to be ready for Week 1. We’ll see if that’s the case, but I wouldn’t be one to bet against the super motivated athletic freak. All signs have been positive so far. If Wentz isn’t ready, the Eagles will simply have their Super Bowl MVP start against the Falcons. It’ll be interesting to monitor Sudfeld’s first full offseason with the Eagles. He showed some positive, albeit limited, flashes in Week 17 last season and Philly’s coaching staff speaks very highly of him. If Wentz is progressing nicely and Sudfeld has a good offseason, Foles becomes more expendable. It’s possible another team comes calling for Foles if they suffer an unexpected injury (ala Teddy Bridgewater in 2016) or they realize they’re just not happy with their quarterback situation (Dolphins?). Foles has stated he eventually wants to be a starter again.

RB: Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, Donnel Pumphrey (4) [7]

Ajayi is arguably the best lead back option the Eagles have had since the days of LeSean McCoy. The Jay Train should benefit from spending an entire offseason with the team. He figures to be motivated as he enters a contract year. It’s great to know Sproles will be back in 2018. He was averaging 4.1 yards per carry and 10.4 yards per reception in a small sample size before get hurt early last season. If those numbers are any indication, he still has some gas in the tank. Plus he majorly helps at punt returner if he’s healthy. At the very least, Clement proved can be a nice rotational back for the Eagles. He certainly showed he has third down back capabilities. Can he prove to be more than that? I wouldn’t rule it out but it’s up to him to prove his doubters wrong again. While the first three guys at this position are virtual locks, the fourth running back spot (assuming the Eagles even keep that many) is up for grabs. I’m giving Pump the edge for now because the Eagles traded up for him in the fourth round last year. They might be willing to give him more time despite the fact he really showed nothing very encouraging last offseason. If I was deciding who I would keep on the 53 (as opposed to predicting what the Eagles will do here), I’d want to keep Josh Adams around. The problem is that Adams is dealing with a foot injury and he could miss some valuable practice time.

WR: Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Mike Wallace, Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson, Marquess Wilson (6) [13]

Jeffery will miss most of the offseason as he recovers from the shoulder injury he played through in 2017. That opens up practice reps for other players at this position. Maybe Agholor will get some looks on the outside. I’d prefer to keep him in the slot. Wallace is an obvious Torrey Smith replacement. Hollins has a chance to earn more rotational playing time with a strong offseason. The Eagles also need him to continue to be a presence on special teams. Gibson REALLY struggled with drops last offseason but he quietly started to gain some momentum late last summer. The 2017 fifth-round pick need to build on that to stick around this offseason. I was only going to keep five wide receivers at first but Jeffery’s injury situation led me to going with six. Plus I think one of Wilson, Bryce Treggs, Greg Ward, or Rashard Davis could be worth rostering. I went with Wilson since he has a connection to Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh from Chicago and he could fit the mold of being this year’s Marcus Johnson.

TE: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers (3) [16]

It’ll be fun to see how Super Bowl winning head coach Doug Pederson implements the GodErtz package into his offense. By now, I’ve written a billion times that rookie tight ends take time to adjust to the NFL (even more so than other positions) so I’m not expecting Goedert to be an instant difference maker. I am expecting him to at least flash in offseason practices. Rodgers will try to stave off the likes of Billy Brown, Joshua Perkins, and Adam Zaruba for a third tight end spot. Maybe the Eagles even keep four. It felt like Brown was on the roster bubble last summer so it’ll be interesting to see if the former college wide receiver can take a step forward in Year 2. For now, Rodgers gets the nod due to his experience and special teams ability.

OL: Jason Peters, Stefen Wisniewski, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Isaac Seumalo, Chance Warmack, Matt Pryor (9) [25]

The starters are set. Some may question how the 36-year-old Peters will perform coming off an ACL injury but he’s another freak that I wouldn’t dare bet against. Big V will get a lot of reps at left tackle with the Eagles taking it easy on Peters in practice. This is a big offseason for Seumalo. After really struggling last year, he really needs to step up this summer. I’m tempted to leave Warmack off because I think he could be trade bait. Philly would save $1.6 million by dealing him. He’s expendable anyway if the Eagles are encouraged by what they see out of much more versatile players in Seumalo and Pryor. Any way you slice it, the Eagles have a really good o-line situation here.

DEFENSE

DE: Brandon Graham, Michael Bennett, Derek Barnett, Chris Long, Steven Means, Josh Sweat (6) [31]

Graham will miss some practice time this offseason but he told the Inquirer he expects to be ready to return for training camp. That’s good news. Give him a life-time contract extension, Eagles. We’ll have to see how Bennett’s legal situation impacts his availability. For now, he projects as a starter. I’m looking forward to seeing if the 21-year-old Barnett takes step forward in Year 2. Long is a really nice third or fourth defensive end to have. Means, who turns 28 in September, could be trade bait as he’s entering the final year of his deal. Trading him would also free up a spot for Joe Ostman. I’ll keep Means on the team for now due to his experience but that’s something to watch. Sweat isn’t bound to get much playing time as a rookie due to all the good players ahead of him on the depth chart.

DT: Fletcher Cox, Haloti Ngata, Elijah Qualls, Bruce Hector (4) [35]

I don’t have Tim Jernigan listed here since I think he could open the season on the NFI/PUP list (scroll down for more explanation). With that said, Cox and Ngata figure to be the starters early on in the season. Qualls has the potential to step up into Beau Allen’s old role as the No. 3 DT. Hector received the most guaranteed money of any Eagles UDFA signing and he fits Jim Schwartz’s scheme so I’m projecting him to stick as well. I’m leaving off Destiny Vaeao because he really just doesn’t do much for me. I wouldn’t rule out the Eagles signing another veteran at this point (such as Cedric Thornton or Courtney Upshaw).

LB: Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Corey Nelson, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Paul Worrilow, Nate Gerry (6) [41]

The Eagles have really only used two linebacker sets a majority of the time under Schwartz. Hicks and Bradham figure to be those top two guys. Nelson was brought in to replace Mychal Kendricks and his $7.6 million cap number in case you haven’t figured that out by now. Kamu is a special teams beast. He legitimately deserves some Pro Bowl recognition for his efforts there. Worrilow has the versatility to play multiple positions but specifically provides depth at the MIKE spot. I don’t think the Eagles are ready to give up on Gerry just one year after selecting him in the fifth round. Plus he showed some potential in practices last year. He gives the Eagles even more depth at WILL.

CB: Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, Avonte Maddox, Rasul Douglas (5) [46]

Darby should be better this year after spending an offseason in the system and being healthy. He figures to be motivated since he’s playing for a pay day. Mills is beloved by Schwartz. He’s not about to be heading to bench without a fight. I wouldn’t count on Jones instantly being named a starter. The Eagles are high on their 2017 second-round pick (as am I), make no mistake. But he still has to go out and earn his playing time. He might get looks at first team outside corner if/when Mills shifts inside to play the slot. Maddox is another contender for the nickel job, though his lack of experience there (only 40 slot snaps in his final two years at Pitt) could mean it’ll take him some time to make the transition to playing inside more often. Douglas is buried on the depth chart here but he provides the team with good depth on the outside. I was tempted to keep D.J. Killings here but I just didn’t have the room. Just remember I told you to keep an eye on him.

S: Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Tre Sullivan, Jeremy Reaves (4) [50]

The starters are obvious. The backups are not. Will the Eagles really cut Chris Maragos? I certainly don’t enjoy leaving him off but the 31-year-old isn’t reliable when it comes to actually playing on defense. Not to mention cutting him would save $1.75 million. Sullivan really showed promise last year with his big hits in the preseason and his strong coverage skills in practice. Eagles vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas specifically name-dropped Sullivan during a pre-draft presser. That’s a good sign for his stock. The Eagles liked Reaves so much that they used a top 30 visit on him and gave him some guaranteed money as an undrafted free agent signing. The problem with my prediction at this position is that Sullivan and Reaves are remarkably unexperienced options if one of the starters goes down. Don’t count out the Eagles bringing Corey Graham back. His No. 24 jersey is even being kept available!

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Jake Elliott (1) [51]

Hopefully Elliott works on improving his short game. We already know he’s excellent from deep.

P: Cameron Johnston (1) [52]

The Eagles could look to challenge Johnston by signing a veteran. For now, he’s punting unopposed.

LS: Rick Lovato (1) [53]

Lovato proved that he’s a capable Jon Dorenbos replacement in 2017.

INJURED PLAYERS

Tim Jernigan seems like a prime candidate for the non-football injury (NFI) list since he could potentially miss the first half of the season ... at least. Jernigan won’t immediately count against the Eagles’ 53-man limit if he’s on this list. The trade off is he’ll be required to sit out for the first six games.

...

Practice Squad (10): RB Josh Adams, WR Greg Ward, WR Rashard Davis, TE Billy Brown, OT Jordan Mailata, C Jon Toth, DL Aziz Shittu, CB Randall Goforth, LB Asantay Brown, S Stephen Roberts