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Reexamining Eagles roster battles ahead of training camp

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There can only be one!

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

Back in May, I looked at some of the top Philadelphia Eagles roster battles and took a shot at predicting how they would end up. Since that post, the Eagles have gone through OTAs/minicamp and some coaches have spoken, so it’s a good time to revisit some of those battles.

Boston Scott vs Josh Adams vs Wendell Smallwood vs Donnel Pumphrey

Scott had one heck of a spring, and the coaches have noticed. In one press conference, Pederson talked about Scott as if he’ll be around for a while, speaking of him as a replacement for Darren Sproles, both as a punt returner and pass-catching running back.

Josh Adams, the 2018 leading rusher for the team, has his work cut out for him if he hopes to make the team again. Not only is he nursing a shoulder injury that ended his 2018 campaign, but he offers almost no flexibility in terms of his skill set. He is not the straight-ahead rusher that Howard is, nor the shifty back that Sanders is, can’t make plays in the passing game like Clement can, and doesn’t return punts like Scott does.

Wendell Smallwood has seemingly been a coaching staff favorite over the past few seasons despite the fact he is not particularly good at anything. The feeling here is that Smallwood has somewhat overstayed his welcome and unless he manages to secretly break one of Jordan Howard’s legs in his sleep, Smallwood’s time in Philly is rapidly coming to an end.

Donnel Pumphrey has been fighting to stay healthy since entering the league, and quite frankly, has been on borrowed time for way too long.

If the Eagles keep just one of the four to pair with Corey Clement, Miles Sanders, and Jordan Howard, my money is on Boston Scott.

Jordan Mailata vs Matt Pryor vs Nate Herbig vs Iosua Opeta vs Ryan Bates

While it’s uncertain how many total offensive linemen the Eagles will keep, it is certain that they won’t be able to keep all of them. Mailata, the 22-year-old former Rugby player who was drafted by Philadelphia in 2018, offers a lot of intrigue, but will he ever develop into an actual NFL caliber offensive lineman? The team used a roster spot on him last year without any plans to get him live-game-action, and it’s hard to see them doing that too many more times if Mailata isn’t taking significant steps forward.

Pryor, who was drafted just one round before Mailata, is in a similar category. He is somewhat buried on the depth chart underneath Stefen Wisniewski, who lost first-team guard reps to an offensive tackle, in Big V. Pryor will likely make the team again this year, but his metaphorical leash is not too long, at this point.

Competing with Pyror and Mailata for a roster spot are a couple intriguing 2019 UDFA guards in Nate Herbig and Iosua Opeta. Herbig, who was initially projected to be drafted, had a poor showing at the combine and his draft stock plummeted because of it. Some draftniks praised the Eagles for getting good value by signing Herbig, but will he do enough in training camp to make the final roster?

Opeta, on the other hand, is a small school guy, who surprised the draft community by destroying the combine. He was celebrated for his high level of play in college and started every game in 2018 for the Weber State Wildcats. The ceiling is seemingly high for the young guard, but will he be given an opportunity to shine?

The fifth name to keep an eye on here is Ryan Bates, another UDFA out of Penn State, who was expected by some to be drafted on day 3. Bates likely doesn’t offer any upside more than just depth, but he is a name to keep an eye on.

If the team keeps just two of the five, the safe bet is that they’ll keep their draft picks, Mailata and Pryor, however, it is very intriguing to me that they would spend their time and money on three priority UDFA guards if they truly felt comfortable with their current depth. Of all of the expected roster battles this summer, this is one I am most excited to see play out.

Vinny Curry vs Josh Sweat vs Joe Ostman vs Daeshon Hall

Vinny Curry is back ladies and gentlemen, but after having a career year in 2017, the seven-year veteran did not look too hot down in Tampa Bay last year. Curry will likely make the roster, but his position is far from guaranteed, as he has a few talented young players breathing down his neck.

In BLG’s original 53-man projection, he left Sweat looking for a job. In his more recent version, however, the athletic 22-year-old made the cut. Sweat was a player praised by head coach Pederson at the conclusion of OTAs, and the feeling here is that he’ll be given a second shot with the team.

Joe Ostman and Daeshon Hall are dark horse candidates to make the roster, but only if they can shine during training camp. Ostman, who spent the 2018 season on the practice squad, has had a small following since he went undrafted in 2018 and has been praised by many, including PFF. Hall, on the other hand, got playing time last season and shined in limited opportunities. Both have their work cut out for them, but neither should be ruled out as the season rapidly approaches.

Blake Countess vs Andrew Sendejo vs Tre Sullivan

While Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod are locked in as the starters, the Eagles safety depth is far from a sure thing. The team brought back Countess, who will likely make the team in a “Chris Maragos” type of role, but his future is somewhat dependent on what the coaches think of Sendejo and Sullivan.

Sendejo has the pedigree of good safety, starting three of the past four seasons for the Minnesota Vikings, but he’s on the wrong side of 30 and has a 2020 4th-round compensatory pick linked to his name. While 4th round picks are a gamble in their own right, it’s hard to imagine Sendejo still on the Eagles in 2020 and beyond.

Tre Sullivan, my personal favorite of the three thanks to his hard-hitting, early 2000’s style of football, is the third guy in this equation. If he makes the team, he’ll surely be filling in the “Corey Graham” role as the rotational third safety. He’s been floating on the fringe of the roster for two years now and you have to wonder when the Eagles will stop giving him chances.

Countess feels like the easy pick here, with his ability to excel on the special teams units, but from there it’s anyone’s guess. The Eagles are almost certainly not going to keep three safeties, thanks to Superman, I mean, Avonte Maddox, so safety will be a position you should keep your eye on over the next month and a half.

Nate Gerry vs Paul Worrilow vs L.J. Fort vs T.J. Edwards

The final positional battle worth monitoring comes at the linebacker position where behind the starters, Nigel Bradham, Kamu Grugier-Hill, and Zach Brown, there are four players surrounded by question marks.

Nate Gerry leads the bunch after having a heck of a spring, taking first-team reps at times. The former college safety offers some of the coverage skills needed after the team allowed Jordan Hicks to walk in free agency.

Paul Worrilow is still recovering from a torn ACL that happened a little over a year ago, but he’s a player who has some experience that could be valuable.

The two new additions here are former Pittsburgh Steeler L.J. Fort and priority UDFA signing T.J. Edwards. I’m thinking just two of these four will make the cut, so it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in training camp.