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Eagles 53 man roster projections: question and answer

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The questions that decide who makes and breaks the 53-man roster

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Yes hello, I am a beat, I have to make a roster projection, here’s who I think they keep, here is a blurb about my logic, and let’s move on.

I’m gonna try to do something a little different with my 53-man roster projection. I’d like to focus, not so much on my logic, but on the logic of the coaching staff/front office as they look at each battle. Of course, I’ll project their answer — but the endeavor here is to highlight the process, not the results.

Quarterback

Is there a better quarterback room in the league?

Well, we start with a freebie. Most coaches would kill to have Philadelphia’s QB1 as their QB1; Philadelphia’s QB2 as their QB2; Philadelphia’s QB3 as their QB3. The entire picture — potential MVP, talented (albeit inconsistent) back-up, developmental piece with proven positive growth — is about as ideal as you can get.

This is quite the no-brainer — so attention will likely be turned to the potential of spending a practice squad slot on — *gulp* — Christian Hackenberg.

Roster: Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, Nate Sudfeld (3)

Running back

What will the market look like in Week 6?

Philadelphia has some initial freedom on their Week 1 53-man, because Tim Jernigan/Chris Maragos will likely start the season on the PUP list, and Nigel Bradham’s suspension will give them some breathing room as well. Accordingly, even though they don’t have to keep a 4th running back, if they feel that Josh Adams is valuable enough to protect from waivers, they can stash him here.

But the more long-term question is this: if/when one of the Big Three falls due to injury, how comfortable are you with Josh Adams stepping into those shoes as even a short-term stopgap? Or, will the running back market be rich enough to acquire a more dynamic option?

If we take a look across current 90-man roster, we can easily see the inevitable cuts of some talented names. San Francisco currently rosters Alfred Morris, Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, Joe Williams, and Jerrick McKinnon; The Jets roster Isaiah Crowell, Charcandrick West, Thomas Rawls, Elijah McGuire, Bilal Powell, and Trenton Cannon; the Vikings have Dalvin Cook, Latavius Murray, Roc Thomas, and Mike Boone. Let’s say Joe Williams, Trenton Cannon, and Roc Thomas all hit the market — the three most likely to, in my eyes: all three have put out better tape, in my estimation, than Josh Adams. Players like Orleans Darkwa, Terrance West, Andre Ellington, and Jamaal Charles are already floating around on waivers.

The point is this: in the event of injury, could the Eagles front office turn to a stopgap solution with more experience — and likely more talent — than Josh Adams? I’d argue yes.

So retaining Adams — or any RB4, for that matter — is a matter of protecting that young player from the jungle of waiver claims next week. From what I can tell, I don’t think this coaching staff values Adams highly enough to make it a priority — but again, the added space on the Week 1 roster does swing things a bit in his favor. Let’s give it to him — but I think he’s an easy cut if need be.

Roster: Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, Josh Adams (4)

Wide receiver/tight end

How do you respond to Alshon Jeffery’s availability?

Knowing Alshon’s availability sure would help here, but we don’t really have that info as it currently stands.

If we go off of the report that Week 3 is circled for his return, then he remains rostered — but you likely still need to hold six receivers, as Mack Hollins hasn’t been seen at practice in a while, and Nelson Agholor only just got back.

That said, another factor comes into play — two, in fact. Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert will likely spend x% of their snaps lined up out wide in Philadelphia’s spread-y, match-up style offense. But what is that x? You and I don’t know, but Doug Pederson and Mike Groh likely have a target number in mind. If it’s high enough — and I think it’s pretty darn high — than your WR6 and even WR5 become so much less valuable, given how little they see snaps.

But then! You have to consider the fact that, with Richard Rodgers downed with a sprained knee, the designated ‘blocking’ tight end...doesn’t exist. Does that force Ertz/Goedert into more blocking snaps? Does that necessitate the retention of a fourth tight end, at least until Rodgers is healthy? Every TE the Eagles have on the roster is a pass-catcher first and foremost.

There’s a lot to suss out.

I’d argue that Doug, and his (warranted) belief in his scheme, win out over these issues. Even though Alshon is an irreplaceable player in terms of downfield ability, a pass-catching foursome of Nelson Agholor, Mike Wallace, Zach Ertz, and Dallas Goedert is more than enough to keep the offense humming. (Don’t forget the backs, too!) And by the same token, Ertz and Goedert likely do enough as role/situational blockers to continue running the ball effectively in Richard Rodgers’ absence.

So I’ll keep the most talented/valuable of the fringe players at WR or TE — to me, DeAndre Carter has proven himself worthy of the call. They ask Carter to do a ton of Nelson Agholor-esque stuff in practice, in terms of alignment and responsibilities, which leads to me believe they like him as an injury option. You can sneak Billy Brown/Rashard Davis/Greg Ward onto the practice squad, and while Markus Wheaton likely has Carter beat out on pure talent, his lack of health hurts him there.

Roster: Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Mike Wallace, Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson, DeAndre Carter (6)

Roster: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers (3)

Offensive line

What is Isaac Seumalo? Related: what is Matt Pryor?

The five starters are locked in. Best OL in the game; probably the best unit in the league. Good deal.

Big V is your backup tackle. Yeah, that performance against Myles Garrett was ugly — but it’s been shown that offense can protect him when need be (see: last year). I’m not super high on him, but that’s a shoe-in.

What happens next? Because the name to circle has already heard trade rumors this past week: that’s Chance Warmack. And if you’re solid with him as your backup guard, and Seumalo as your backup center, and then Matt Pryor/Jordan Mailata as young players to protect and break glass in case of emergency, you’re keeping ten offensive linemen.

It’s not tough to justify ten, in my opinion — not with the dearth of OL talent in the league. Your offensive in Philadelphia is predicated on stellar line play, and you need to begin preparing for your 30+ players to start falling off by developing the young’uns.

But, with the Warmack trade rumors, we are forced to consider: is Isaac Seumalo the backup guard, not center? (Remember, Wisniewski has snapping experience in his Oakland and Jacksonville stints.) That would make sense, given that his biggest issue right now as an interior offensive lineman is...snapping. And what about Matt Pryor? Jeff Stoutland told us that they felt comfortable with Pryor at tackle and wanted to improve his guard play — hence the guard alignment during camp. So is he OT4 above Mailata? Or is he OG3 above Warmack/Seumalo?

At the end of the day, you can mix and match a lot of players on the Eagles offensive line — and Warmack isn’t one of ‘em. Does he provide enough value just at guard to take away a sixth linebacker or sixth cornerback? I don’t think so — and the cut savings are about $1M, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Roster: Jason Peters, Stefen Wisniewski, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Isaac Seumalo, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Matt Pryor, Jordan Mailata (9)

Defensive line

Does this group look the same in 2019?

Defensive line is a really easy one. Four EDGEs are absolutely locked, it’s very unlikely this team will phantom IR Josh Sweat after the strong camp he’s had, and this coaching staff would die before they exposed Steven Means to waivers. Joe Ostman and Danny Ezechukwu did nothing to push what we all expected coming into camp.

And two DTs again are locked — 2018 DPOY Fletcher Cox, and free-agent journeyman Haloti Ngata. Destiny Vaeao is also likely a ‘lock,’ in that the coaching staff has given him premiere opportunities throughout all of camp. But he’s also my big question for a group that’s widely figured out.

Vaeao hasn’t done anything in camp to make me believe he’s ready to be even a situational contributor to the pass rush. He has never impressed me with his quickness, power, or hand usage — and again, while I think he’s better, he still doesn’t move the needle much for me as an interior disruptor. He’s a very low ceiling player, in my eyes.

He’ll make the roster because he’s clearly a step above Aziz Shittu/Elijah Qualls/Bruce Hector — and Hector will make the roster because he’s the most promising of those three — but neither are exciting rotational pieces for a DL that loves to go two-deep. Now, the usage of Michael Bennett and Brandon Graham as interior pass rushers helps solve this problem (just like using Ertz and Goedert as receivers helps solve the Alshon problem), but I think interior defensive line needs a depth addition in a bad way — if not during 2018 free agency/trade, than in the excellent 2019 draft class.

Roster: Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Chris Long, Derek Barnett, Michael Bennett, Haloti Ngata, Josh Sweat, Destiny Vaeao, Steven Means, Bruce Hector (10)

NFI List: Tim Jernigan

Linebacker

Does Bradham bump a ‘backer?

Again, not tough to figure out what’s gonna happen here. With Corey Nelson cut and Nigel Bradham suspended, there are five rosterable linebackers on this roster as it stands, and there are five spots available on the 53. Easy-peasy, lemon squeezy.

A semi-interesting question regards what happens after Bradham serves his suspension — does a linebacker lose his spot on the roster? What with only two starting linebackers playing in base defense, do you really need six? It’s tricky, because the extra spot opened would likely go to cornerback or safety — to keep the back end of the defense strong — but who do you give it to?

With Nate Gerry giving you LB/S hybrid ability, it’s probably okay to keep one of Joe Walker/LaRoy Reynolds active for game day to contribute on special teams, and one inactive just in case. God forbid it, but Jordan Hicks is always a big injury risk.

Roster: Jordan Hicks, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry, Joe Walker, LaRoy Reynolds (5)

Suspension: Nigel Bradham

Cornerback

Can Bausby survive inevitable returns to the roster?

The defense is so much easier than the offense, man. There are five locks at CB — Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, and Avonte Maddox. Bausby had a strong spring and a decent summer — enough to clearly ID him as a fringe roster candidate. And with space opened up from Timmy Jerningan and Nigel Bradham’s absences, I think he clears the bar as CB6 — I know the coaching staff wants him to.

But how long does he stay there? Bausby never showed me much in terms of special teams ability, so he’s likely an inactive player on game day. Then Bradham comes back — and if he doesn’t kick a linebacker off the roster, and if Jeffery is still unhealthy, he doesn’t kick Carter off the roster either.

So Bausby probably goes.

The Eagles would love to keep themselves deep at corner. They had issues with corner depth last year, and Bausby has the nickel/boundary versatility that Rasul Douglas and Avonte Maddox lack. I think he’s the most difficult player to figure out. Special teams reps would change the game for him — maybe he can play vice. I dunno.

Roster: Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox, De’Vante Bausby (6)

Safety

Keep Chris Maragos injured forever?

Raise your hand if you want to see Chris Maragos take defensive snaps over Tre Sullivan.

Here’s where we’re at. Maragos was valuable for his veteran leadership, his safety depth, his special teams ability. But what if, in his absence, the defensive leadership stays fine (it will), the special teams unit stays strong (it will), and the backup safeties play just fine (ehhh maybe)?

Do you bring Maragos back to cut Tre Sullivan? A younger and more promising player? Do you cut Corey Graham, and just replace middling veteran play with more middling veteran play? Do you cut Maragos a year early, after his contract restructure, despite the fact you already sunk the cost into him?

Admittedly, it’s a Week 7 problem, as Maragos will spend the first six weeks of the season PUPped up. By then, if there are injuries or depth concerns, it’s an easier solution. But right now, I have no idea what the Eagles do with Maragos, especially after they re-worked his deal. Just stash him on IR infinitely.

Note: the Eagles have to keep four safeties. Keeping three provides basically no depth with how much Malcolm plays linebacker/nickel corner. If you see 53-man projections with three safeties, tell me so I can fight them with words.

Roster: Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Corey Graham, Tre Sullivan (4)

PUP: Chris Maragos

Specialists

I have no questions

Jake Elliott the truth.

Roster: Jake Elliott, Cameron Johnston, Rick Lovato