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Philadelphia Eagles 53-man roster projection: Pre-training camp edition 2018

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Predicting how the summer might turn out.

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

The first Philadelphia Eagles training camp practice of 2018 is set to begin tomorrow at noon on Thursday, July 26. The team is currently bringing 88 players into 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 in practices and preseason games.

Here’s an early look how the Eagles’ final 53-man depth chart could play out. We’ll update these projections on a weekly basis throughout the summer.

OFFENSE

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

The Eagles have the best quarterback situation in the NFL. Wentz has shown “best player in the league” potential. Foles is the reigning Super Bowl MVP. Sudfeld looks to have the makings of a solid No. 2, at worst. The big question here, of course, is if Wentz will be ready for Week 1. I wouldn’t be one to bet against him. Wentz has made a habit of proving his doubters wrong. If Foles gets traded, which seems unlikely, that could potentially open up a spot for Joe Callahan as a third quarterback.

RB: Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, Matt Jones (4) [7]

It’ll be interesting to see how the Eagles split up their backfield touches this year. On one hand, the team could look to give Ajayi a huge workload in what could be his final year with the team. On the other hand, the Eagles have always employed a frequent rotation with Doug Pederson and Duce Staley in charge. Sproles and Clement aren’t chopped liver. Both of them figure to be better contributors in the passing attack than Ajayi does. Jones gets the nod for now because we’ve heard the Eagles’ coaching staff likes him. Donnel Pumphrey will make a push for the fourth job. Pump could help his case by flashing return skills in addition to contributing on offense. Wendell Smallwood is probably in his last summer with the team while Josh Adams could be a redshirt candidate if he doesn’t get healthy soon.

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

I’m excited to see if Jeffery can be even more effective than he was last year now that he’s not going to be playing through a torn rotator cuff. Agholor was so legit in the slot last season that I have no doubt he’s for real. Wallace won’t light the world on fire but he should be a solid contributor. Hollins can be counted on to make the most of his limited opportunities. Gibson is the current front-runner for the fifth job but the field is competitive. I kept Treggs because he deserved to make the team last year and unfortunately got caught in a numbers crunch. The gap between Treggs and the likes of Markus Wheaton, Greg Ward Jr., Rashard Davis, and now Kamar Aiken isn’t very big. This should be a good battle in the sense that it’s anyone’s job for the taking. The players offer different skill-sets as well. Wheaton and Aiken have proven NFL experience but they’ve struggled in recent years. Ward Jr. has made good progress since converting from quarterback last year. The diminutive Davis was an elite punt returner in college. May the best men win.

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

This is pretty simple. Ertz is the starter. He’s established himself as one of the best players at his position in the league. Super reliable. Goedert will get some playing time but expectations need to be kept in check. Rookie tight end production is historically modest. At the very least, though, Goedert could be a nice new red zone weapon. Rodgers has the most experience of any Eagles tight end not named Ertz. He can take over Trey Burton’s role as a role-player on offense who mostly contributes on special teams. Billy Brown, Josh Perkins, and Adam Zaruba sure didn’t do a whole lot to stand out during spring drills. One of them could end up on the practice squad.

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

The Eagles arguably have the best starting offensive line in the NFL. They also arguably have the best depth situation. Though I question his ability as a long-term starter, Big V has showed he can be a swing tackle. You could do worse than Warmack at guard. Seumalo can play any position on the o-line. Hopefully he can be less disastrous than last year if called upon. He probably won’t get the chance. I’m thinking the Eagles think Pryor can be their next Allen Barbre. For now, he’s a deep reserve.

DEFENSE

DE: Brandon Graham, Michael Bennett, Chris Long, Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat (5) [30]

What a stacked group of pass rushers. Hopefully Graham will be healthy enough to start by Week 1. BLG and Bennett are going to terrorize some quarterbacks this season. Long, a strip-sacking specialist, should resume his role as a great contributor off the bench. Ditto for Barnett, who hopefully takes a step forward in Year 2. I left Steven Means off here because I’m projecting the Eagles package, say, him and a 2019 sixth for a 2019 fifth. Don’t get be wrong, I love Means. But he’s turning 28 in September and he’s on the last year of his deal. I wouldn’t be mad if they kept him around. He certainly becomes more expendable if Sweat has a nice summer, though. Then the Eagles can keep Joe Ostman on the practice squad for even more depth.

DT: Fletcher Cox, Haloti Ngata, Destiny Vaeao, Elijah Qualls (4) [34]

Cox and Ngata are locked in as the starters with Timmy Jernigan expected to miss a good chunk of playing time. Hopefully Jernigan will be back sooner than later. Everything we’ve been hearing indicates the opposite. The depth behind the starters here isn’t awesome. Vaeao is Just A Guy, at best. I’m only keeping him on here because he was the one getting first team reps with Ngata missing OTAs and minicamp. Qualls has some intriguing upside but his size could limit his status as a full-time player. The Eagles might just look to more heavily use Bennett and/or Graham at d-tackle since they’re so deep at d-end.

LB: Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Corey Nelson, Nate Gerry (5) [39]

If Hicks can stay healthy, it’ll be such a boost for the Eagles defense. He’s a play-maker. The guy has logged seven interceptions, 14 passes defensed, one forced fumble, five fumble recoveries, two sacks, and one defensive touchdown in only 28 career starts. If Hicks can’t stay healthy, at least we know Bradham can step up in his place. Bradham was so solid for the team in 2017. The Eagles’ depth at linebacker behind Hicks and Bradham, however, is mostly unproven. I’m planting my flag on Kamu Island for the WILL job. I’ve liked what I’ve seen out of him in coverage. Nelson and Gerry are right in the mix too, though. Joe Walker and LaRoy Reynolds are firmly on the roster bubble.

CB: Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox, De’Vante Bausby (6) [45]

You can probably lock in Darby and Mills as the Eagles’ boundary starters. Darby can be the team’s best corner if he plays up to his potential. Mills is a favorite of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz so he’s not heading to the bench. It’s possible Mills shifts to the nickel corner role at times if Jones puts together a strong camp. Or Jones could win the slot job himself. Bausby, who really stood out in the spring, will not go down without a fight. Maddox could be used for matchups on smaller/quicker receivers if he proves he’s mentally ready to play. Douglas seems like the odd man out in terms of playing time since he’s only an outside guy.

S: Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Corey Graham, Chris Maragos, Tre Sullivan (5) [50]

Jenkins and McLeod are your 2018 starters. Who will the third safety be? It’s not an insignificant role. Last year, the presence of Corey Graham on the back end allowed the Eagles to move Jenkins all over the formation. The Eagles could look to re-sign Graham. Then again, potentially more enticing options like Tre Boston and Kenny Vacarro are also still out on the market. I have Maragos making it here in part because I feel bad for cutting him. The Eagles could easily be less sentimental than I am. They can save $1.5 million by parting ways with their special teams captain (once he’s healthy). I like Sullivan’s potential as a big-hitter who has also looked adept in coverage.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Jake Elliott (1) [51]

Let’s hope the 23-year-old Elliott remains the Eagles’ kicker for the next 15 years.

P: Cameron Johnston (1) [52]

I’ll give him the nod for now since he’s running unopposed. The Ohio State alumnus will have a chance to prove himself. But if Johnston doesn’t impress, the Eagles could easily look to add a punter from a team that currently has two. Or just bring Donnie Jones back.

LS: Rick Lovato (1) [53]

More like Lock Lovato. Because he’s a lock to make the team. Get it?

INJURED PLAYERS

Timmy Jernigan will likely begin the 2018 season on the non-football injury (NFI) list due to offseason surgery on a herniated disc in his back. Being on NFI means he’ll have to miss the first six games, at least.

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PRACTICE SQUAD (10): RB Josh Adams, WR Greg Ward Jr., WR Rashard Davis, TE Billy Brown, OT Jordan Mailata, DE Joe Ostman, DT Bruce Hector, LB Asantay Brown, CB D.J. Killings, S Jeremy Reaves