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Eagles 53-man roster prediction: Post-NFL Draft edition (2019)

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Early guess at who makes the final cut.

Super Bowl LII - Philadelphia Eagles v New England Patriots Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

I’ve spent this week projecting the Philadelphia Eagles depth chart for the 2019 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 a pre-OTAs prediction of who will actually make the final cut down to 53.

A lot of position battles have yet to be fought but this early 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 our projection looked like at this time last year.)

OFFENSE

QB: Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, Clayton Thorson (3) [3]

We don’t know exactly when Wentz will be ready to practice but we do know he’ll be ready to play Week 1. Much different scenario than last year at this time. Wentz is poised to have a strong season if he can just stay healthy. Sudfeld should be able to fend off Cody Kessler and enter the season as Wentz’s primary backup. This will be Sudfeld’s second full offseason with the Eagles so that should help him. There’s been some talk that Thorson could land on the practice squad but I don’t think Philadelphia spent a fifth-round selection on him for that to happen. Thorson is on track to be Wentz’s backup in 2020 assuming Sudfeld leaves in free agency.

RB: Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood (4) [7]

Howard has averaged 18.1 touches per game so far in his career. Things are going to be different for him in Philly. Howard will still have a significant role in this running back rotation (especially in the red zone) but he won’t be the high volume player he’s previously been. Sanders is in line for a sizeable workload if he can be as good as the Eagles envision him to be. His playing time could also drop if pass blocking and/or fumbles remain an issue. It’s unclear exactly how healthy Clement is after he finished the 2018 season on IR. If he’s good to go, he should reprise his 2017 role as a rotational player. It feels like Smallwood is going to be the Eagles’ fourth running back until the end of time. He’s more proven than the likes of Josh Adams, Boston Scott, and Donnel Pumphrey.

WR: Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, JJ Arcega-Whiteside (5) [12]

Jeffery, Jackson, and Agholor are your clear and obvious starters. Jeffery and Wentz are on track to have a full offseason together for the first time since Jeffery signed with Philly back in 2017. Hopefully that helps them get on the same page. Having a legitimate deep threat like DeSean should do wonders for Wentz and the Eagles offense as a whole. There’s a lot of pressure on Agholor to perform as he makes $9.4 million on the final year of his rookie contract. Hollins is back after essentially disappearing from the face of the planet in 2018. His special teams ability should make him a roster lock. We’ll soon see if he can take a step forward as an offensive contributor. JJAW can play on special teams and he should get some playing time in red zone packages since he’s such a good jump ball target. Shelton Gibson, Braxton Miller, Charles Johnson, Greg Ward, DeAndre Thompkins, Marken Michel, and Carlton Agudosi are competing for a sixth spot here. I was close to keeping Gibson but I ultimately took him off since the coaching staff showed no interest in playing him on offense even when the Eagles suffered a billion wide receiver injuries early last year. Miller is a guy to watch as a potential gadget player and Agholor backup in the slot.

TE: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers (3) [15]

Pretty cut and dry here. The Eagles have one of the best tight end rooms in the league with Ertz and Goedert around. Hopefully the offense will actually use more 12 personnel this year after it was so successful (and yet underutilized) in 2018. Goedert is too good to not be seeing significant playing time in addition to Ertz. Rodgers was having a nice preseason before getting hurt in August. Dick Rod is a quality No. 3 tight end who can contribute on special teams. He’s also the emergency long snapper.

OL: Jason Peters, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Andre Dillard, Stefen Wisniewski, Jordan Mailata, Matt Pryor (10) [25]

The Eagles should have one of the best starting offensive lines in the NFL. The biggest question is: when will Brooks be healthy enough to play after suffering an Achilles injury in September? For now, I’m assuming he avoids the PUP list. Wisniewski and Pryor will be competing for the temporary starting job at right guard if Brooks misses time. I have the Eagles keeping five tackles but it makes sense (trust me!) because: JP is 37 and has had trouble finishing games, Vaitai is a free agent after 2019 and could be a trade target up to the NFL trade deadline, and Mailata is still worth developing as a swing tackle to have behind Dillard and Johnson in 2020.

DEFENSE

DE: Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry, Daeshon Hall, Shareef Miller (5) [30]

Graham, Barnett, and Curry are locks are the Eagles’ top three defensive ends. Chris Long returning would cement the top four ... but it’s hard to expect him to be back based on what he’s been saying. If Long isn’t back, I’m not sure what the Eagles do beyond the top three. I think it’s possible they could add another veteran like Derrick Morgan or William Hayes. Or maybe they just stick with the young guys, which is what I have them doing here. Leaving Josh Sweat off this projection might be one of my least popular projections but I just don’t feel like he’s a lock. He didn’t show much as a rookie and there are concerns about his ability to stay healthy. Hall flashed in limited opportunities last year; I think he’s a dark horse candidate to make the team. Miller is a fourth-round pick so he’s making the team. Maybe the Eagles keep six guys here and maybe it’s Sweat over Hall. For now, enjoy my hot take that Sweat is gone.

DT: Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, Timmy Jernigan, Treyvon Hester, Hassan Ridgeway (5) [35]

The Eagles probably don’t need both Hester and Ridgeway on the 53 but I kept both due to uncertainty about Jernigan’s status. Is it safe to assume he’s going to be able to play a major role after nearly suffering a career-ending back injury last offseason? He only played 45 snaps in 2018 and he had back spasms flare up on him at one point. Here’s hoping Jernigan will be healthy. The trio of Cox, Jackson, and Jernigan should be able to generate a lot of interior pressure. Hester and Ridgeway are quality backups.

LB: Nigel Bradham, Zach Brown, Kamu Grugier-Hill, L.J. Fort, T.J. Edwards (5) [40]

Bradham, Brown, Kamu, and Fort feel likes locks. There’s been talk the Eagles could cut Fort to prevent them from losing a 2020 fourth-round comp pick but I don’t think that’ll happen. Fort received $1.9 million guaranteed and Howie Roseman said he was a player they had been targeting in advance of free agency. The fifth (and sixth?) linebacker spots are up in the air. Paul Worrilow could get the nod because he’s experienced and versatile ... but he’s also coming off an ACL injury. Canadian Football League tackling machine Alex Singleton is worth keeping an eye on. Nathan Gerry might get to stick around. I ultimately went with Edwards here because I think he has a high enough floor to contribute now and there’s at least some theoretical upside with the 22-year-old.

CB: Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Avonte Maddox, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, Cre’Von LeBlanc (6) [46]

I think this position is easy to figure out in the sense that all of these guys should make the 53-man roster. The hardest part is figuring out roles ... and health. It seems possible Darby and Mills aren’t going to be ready to play by Week 1 so that could mean Maddox, Jones, and/or Douglas could be starting on the outside. Then there’s the question of who’s playing the slot. If Maddox is seeing time outside, that could open up time for LeBlanc, who played well down the stretch last year. But maybe it’s Maddox manning the nickel cornerback position instead. We’ll gain more clarity about this spot throughout offseason practices.

S: Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Tre Sullivan, Blake Countess (4) [50]

There’s speculation that Jenkins’ reported absence from the Eagles’ offseason workout program stems from him wanting a new contract. The Eagles should find a way to keep Jenkins happy because he’s incredibly important to their success. Philadelphia’s defense missed McLeod when he went down in Week 3 last year. Hopefully he’s healthy. Sullivan saw significant playing for the Eagles in the playoffs so it’s not unthinkable they could trust him to take a step forward as their No. 3 safety. It’s also not the most comforting choice ... but the Eagles could always use Maddox at safety as well. Countess is bound to stick around as the new Chris Maragos: a special teams ace who can also play safety in a pinch. Andrew Sendejo is notably not listed here because the Eagles can cut him to save $800,000 and ensure they keep a 2020 fourth-round comp pick.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Jake Elliott (1) [51]

Hoping to see Elliott improve on short kicks.

P: Cameron Johnston (1) [52]

Hoping to see Johnston improve on directional punts.

LS: Rick Lovato (1) [53]

More like Rick Lockvato.


PRACTICE SQUAD

RB Josh Adams, WR DeAndre Thompkins, TE Joshua Perkins, OL Ryan Bates, OG Sua Opeta, DE Joe Ostman, DT Bruce Hector, LB Alex Singleton, CB Jamalcolm Liggins, S Godwin Igwebuike