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Eagles Mailbag: Figuring out which undrafted free agents will make the roster

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Time for some Eagles Q&A.

NCAA Football: Illinois at South Florida Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the return of the Bleeding Green Nation mailbag! Every week I’ll be taking some of your Philadelphia Eagles questions and answering them here in this post. As always, thanks to everyone who sent me a question on Twitter (@BrandonGowton).

@ThomasFox_IV and @eagles_edits_1 both ask: Which UDFAs do you think will make the Eagles’ 53-man roster?

Shame on you both for not reading my 53-man roster prediction. (Just kidding, I posted that after your questions were asked.)

I currently have two undrafted rookie free agents making the roster: Jeremy Reaves and Bruce Hector. The Eagles are relatively thin at these positions so the opportunity is definitely there. Philly is clearly invested in these guys as well. They brought in Reaves for a pre-draft visit and gave him some guaranteed money. Speaking of guaranteed money, the Eagles gave Hector the highest amount of any of their UDFA signings.

Reaves projects as a third, fourth, or fifth safety. He hard-hitting ability should make him stand out. At the very least, he should be able to help on special teams.

As for Hector, I think Jim Schwartz / Chris Wilson had an eye on him for the Eagles’ Wide-9 alignment. The book on him is that he’s a good fit for a “upfield, one-gapping defense” which describes the Eagles’ scheme. Hector fits in as a third or fourth defensive tackle while Jernigan is out.

Josh Adams is another undrafted rookie free agent with the opportunity to make the final team as a fourth running back. His foot injury situation makes me less certain about projecting him to make the 53. We’ll see.

If the Eagles weren’t so deep at defensive end, Joe Ostman could have a shot to stick. Maybe he’ll find a role anyway as the next Bryan Braman-type player. I genuinely enjoy watching him play.

Toby Weathersby has an outside chance to stick as a reserve tackle/guard. I think he ends up on the practice squad instead, though.

@Ronald22052148 asks: Will Sidney Jones come in to camp as the starter or will it be a open competition from day 1?

I can’t imagine Jones will come into camp as the unquestioned starter. Make no mistake: Jones’ potential is intriguing. And the Eagles clearly like him. Howie Roseman said he was a top 10 talent on their board leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft.

But this is still a 22-year-old rookie with no real NFL experience who is coming off an Achilles injury. That doesn’t scream “no questions asked” starter to me, especially when the Eagles just won a Super Bowl with Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby on the outside.

I’ve written this a lot by now but I think the Eagles plan to have Mills and Darby on the first team with Jones coming in when Mills shifts to the nickel corner spot. That’s how things will start, at least.

It’s very possible Jones can play his way into a full-time starting role with a strong summer. But that’s the thing: he’s going to have to earn it. I don’t see it being handed to him. Despite what the haters might say, Darby is no slouch, and Jim Schwartz loves Mills. Those dues aren’t going to the bench without a fight.

@ShitStokesSays: Is it possible we’re overstating Darren Sproles’ ability to make plays ? Offense got better once he went out I don’t recall many big plays when he was in last year and he’s coming off an ACL tear.

It’s fair to wonder about Sproles’ effectiveness considering he’s (nearly) a 35-year-old running back coming off an ACL injury. But I wouldn’t bet against him. It wouldn’t be the first time he’s overcome the odds.

I disagree with your premise. Sproles was still effective in his limited playing time last year. He was clearly the most effective running back on the team with 4.1 yards per carry and 10.4 yards per reception. And he didn’t have the benefit of playing behind an offensive line that found stability after Stefen Wisniewski became the solidified starter at left guard. Most of Sproles’ playing time came when the mightily struggling Isaac Seumalo was still playing.

Sproles has value as another weapon in this offense. There’s a reason why Super Bowl winning head coach Doug Pederson was constantly going to Howie Roseman’s office to ask for Sproles’ return.

@E_Creator asks: Why are the Giants talked about like they’re going to do anything this season? I keep seeing that they could bounce back this season even though they’re relying on Eli Manning to do it. They are gonna be screwed even harder in the future because they’re gonna look back at this time and realize they should have started rebuilding instead of trying to win now with a terrible roster.

Great question.

Honestly, I feel like the Giants are projected to bounce back every year. And it never happens, outside of a fluky 2016 season in which they clearly overachieved. It was very easy to project their fall back to Earth in 2017.

Part of the reason their downfall was predictable was due to the fact they have a washed up Eli Manning playing behind a bad offensive line.

Now, the Giants brought in some new additions during the offseason that should help their 37-year-old passer. Nate Solder and Will Hernandez were among the big o-line additions. Saquon Barkley could be a difference-making weapon for New York’s offense. Maybe the Giants will try to emulate the 2014 and 2016 Cowboys by taking the ball out of Manning’s hands.

That could lead to some success. But Manning’s limitations will ultimately limit this team’s ceiling. Again, this is a player who has a 84.6 passer rating over the past five seasons. For perspective, Geno Smith — whom Manning was BENCHED for at one point in 2017 — had a passer rating of 84.5 last year. Manning’s yards per attempt have dropped every year since 2014. He’s very much a declining player.

Normally I’d make a joke here about how the Giants could always go on an unexpected Super Bowl run. But Tom Coughlin isn’t the head coach anymore. Pat Shurmur is literally one of the most uninspiring people I’ve ever been in the presence of. I really just don’t see how he’s going to lead the Giants to any kind of greatness.

@tripfall123 asks: Who will have more touchdowns this season, Mike Wallace or Mack Hollins!? Also why not turn Jordan Mailata into a fullback!? Joking, but imagine that...

Mike Wallace. Mack Hollins is literally unstoppable, yes, but Wallace is the better player at this point in their respective careers and he’s going to get more playing time. He’s the safer bet.

As for the Mailata thing, I’d love to see them test that out in the preseason.

@Willing2GoHamm asks: Cedric Thornton or Courtney Upshaw? Who would you sign as a rotation player?

I’m really fine with either, but I’d prefer Upshaw. He’s younger, more versatile, and probably offers a little more juice than Thornton when it comes to generating interior pressure. Either way, I do think they should look into adding a vet at this position. Timmy Jernigan’s recovery could last longer than the four-to-six month timeline that’s been reported.

@deuseiswild asks: Any chance Taylor Hart makes the roster because of his ability to play on both sides of the ball?

Interesting thought, but I don’t think so. Hart’s only making the team if he clearly stands out as the No. 4 offensive tackle. He figures to get his fair share of reps with the Eagles taking it easy on Jason Peters in practice.

Hart was on the bubble to make the team last year. I thought he played surprisingly well in the summer for a DT converting to OT. Hart even had a brief stint on the regular season roster after Peters went down and before the Eagles brought in Will Beatty.

Hart likely would’ve been kept on the practice squad if he was eligible, but he was not.

@Bair12 asks: Yanny or Laurel?

It’s Laurel. And the dress is blue and black. And the Eagles are Super Bowl champions.

The TRUE answer to the Yanny vs. Laurel debate

The TRUE answer to Yanny vs. Laurel (Volume on)

Posted by Bleeding Green Nation: For Philadelphia Eagles Fans on Monday, May 21, 2018

@PatrickMCausey asks: If the Sixers sign LeBron James this offseason, what are the chances he plays two sports ala Bo Jackson/Deon Sanders and plays TE for the Eagles?

Well, LeBron did say Carson Wentz is his favorite player. I think he needs to prove that by playing for the Eagles as well as the Sixers next season.

Wentz to LeBron for six. Then LeBron tosses the ball to Phillies outfielder Mike Trout in the stands. Trout is sitting next to LeBron’s Sixers teammates: Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Kawhi Leonard.

@JackFritzWIP asks: WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE COUNTERPOINT MOMENT?

For the uninitiated, Jack Fritz hosts BGN Radio’s Counterpoint podcast. It’s not bad. Jack even does mailbag segments, which he learned how to do from posts like this one.

There are so many favorite moments that it’s really hard to pick one. One thing that sticks out is when someone asked you if you were concerned about the Eagles having a “brain drain” due to Frank Reich and John DeFilippo leaving for promotions this offseason. You didn’t realize what the questioner was actually asking about so you Google’d “brain drain” and read the definition out loud. (Hat tip to Brendan Ekstrom who first tipped me off about this moment.)

The moments where I’ve been on the pod are obvious highlights as well.