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Eagles 53-man roster projection ahead of 2020 training camp practices

Who’s gonna make the final cut?

NFL: AUG 09 Preseason - Steelers at Eagles Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Philadelphia Eagles training camp is already underway but the team hasn’t actually begun practicing just yet. That’ll change this week when the team holds their first unpadded practice session on Wednesday.

With no preseason games this year, practices will be especially critical in the player evaluation process. Jobs will be won and lost on the fields at the NovaCare Complex.

Read on for an early look at how the Eagles’ final depth chart could play out. Note that we’ll update these 53-man projections throughout the summer. Also, check out the latest BGN Radio podcast for even more analysis and Jimmy Kempski’s perspective on how the 53 is shaping up.

OFFENSE

QB: Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, Jalen Hurts (3) [3]

I think that Wentz guy is a lock to make the team. Sudfeld is poised to be the primary backup from the get-go, though that could change over time. His experience in the Eagles’ system — he’s been with the team since September 2017 — gives him an advantage over Hurts as an in-game replacement. If Wentz has to miss an extended period of time, Hurts is the preferable option since Sudfeld could very well leave in free agency after this year. It’s unclear if the Eagles truly plan to use Hurts in a Taysom Hill role, as has been rumored. One would imagine he already has his hands full in his transition to being an NFL quarterback. The Eagles haven’t said whether they’re going to quarantine a quarterback, though maybe they’re counting on Josh McCown being available on short notice. Kyle Lauletta seems like a good bet for the practice squad.

RB: Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Corey Clement, Elijah Holyfield (4) [7]

Sanders is primed to have a special season as the first true lead back of the Doug Pederson era. Scott played well down the stretch in 2019 and deserves to be used as the Eagles’ Darren Sproles replacement. Scott should be a factor in the passing game, including screen plays. Clement needs to stay healthy after battling injuries the past two years. If he can get back to form, he could be a good role player who also helps out on special teams coverage. There’s a battle for the fourth running back spot between Holyfield and the two undrafted rookie free agents: Michael Warren and Adrian Killins. Fans have become smitten with Killins’ speed but the Eagles might prefer to keep a more physical pounder in the Jordan Howard mold. It’s also still possible the Eagles will look to sign a veteran like Devonta Freeman or Isaiah Crowell.

WR: DeSean Jackson, Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, John Hightower, Quez Watkins (6) [13]

The Eagles are really counting on Jackson to stay healthy because there’s a whole lot of inexperience behind him. The 33-year-old had a great connection with Carson Wentz last year and there’s reason to believe the two can pick up where they left off. Reagor is learning both the Z and X receiver positions and it’s possible he starts at the latter. Reagor doesn’t have prototypical X size but he’s strong and made a habit of making contested catches at TCU so he might be able to make it work. No matter where he lines up, the Eagles are clearly counting on their 2020 first-round pick to produce. Ward is the favorite to start in the slot after playing well late in 2019. JJAW should see some rotational playing time if he’s not outright starting at X. It’d be great to see him step up in Year 2 but it’s hard to merely count on it happening. Expectations should be kept in check for Day 3 rookies Hightower and Watkins ... especially given the shortened offseason. Marquise Goodwin was in the mix to make the roster before opting out. Deontay Burnett, who is only older than Reagor and Watkins, might be able to sneak on the team.

TE: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert (2) [15]

Just two tight ends when the Eagles are going to run a lot of 12 personnel? It’s not insane. The 2019 Eagles led the NFL in 12 personnel and only had two tight ends active for eight games. It’s possible the Eagles will keep Josh Perkins on the 53 since they seem to like him for some reason but I have him and Noah Togiai sticking on the practice squad. I’m thinking the Eagles could look to take advantage of the league’s new 55-roster rules and promote one of those two (probably Perkins) for game days. It’d be preferable to see them find an upgrade at third tight end. Maybe they can get one on through the waiver wire.

OL: Andre Dillard, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Jason Peters, Lane Johnson, Matt Pryor, Jordan Mailata, Jack Driscoll, Prince Tega Wanogho, Nate Herbig (10) [25]

Dillard will start out as the left tackle but how long will he leash be if he struggles? Key question to ask with his predecessor back in the building. Seumalo is a quality starter and possibly the backup center. Kelce is chasing his fourth straight first-team All-Pro season in what could be his last year in the NFL. Peters to guard is a big projection that might work out but there’s no guarantee that’s the case. The Eagles can expect Johnson to be an elite level player for them yet again. Pryor could the top backup at any non-center spot, unless the Eagles kick Peters out to either tackle position and shift Pryor to right guard instead. Mailata isn’t a lock to make the team but the Eagles might not want to give up on the 23-year-old’s potential just yet. The lack of preseason games hurts the Australian native. Driscoll is starting out at right tackle and could make Mailata expendable ... same goes for PTW. The Eagles liked Herbig enough to keep him on the roster all year despite not really playing him. He gives the Eagles more interior depth. Sua Opeta could push for a roster spot. Luke Juriga is a name to watch considering the Eagles gave him the largest guarantee out of their 13 UDFA signings. That’s been a good sign for players in the past such as Herbig, T.J. Edwards, Josh Adams, etc.

DEFENSE

DE: Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat, Vinny Curry, Joe Ostman (5) [30]

The top four are locked in here. Sweat could move ahead of Curry to be the third defensive end. I should probably have Genard Avery as the fifth guy here since the Eagles curiously traded a 2021 fourth-round pick for him. But the coaching staff wasn’t so inclined to play him last year and Ostman looked really good to me last year before getting hurt. He was even getting practice reps in the Joker role with the first team defense! Maybe the Eagles keep Ostman as a sixth or just stash him on the practice squad. Casey Toohill needs to add more strength to play in the NFL so he could also be stashed on the practice squad or on injured reserve with a phantom injury. 2019 fourth-round pick Shareef Miller is very much in danger of never playing a defensive snap for the Eagles.

DT: Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargave, Malik Jackson, Hassan Ridgeway (4) [34]

The Eagles are loaded at defensive tackle. At least, they better prove to be with three of the NFL’s top 20 interior defensive line contracts on the books. It’ll be interesting to see exactly how this rotation plays out. Cox not having to play as often as he did the past two years could allow him to be more effective when he is on the field. The Eagles’ coaching staff has talked about Jackson getting snaps at edge rusher in addition to the interior. Ridgeway is a solid fourth defensive tackle to keep around, though he could potentially get beat out by Anthony Rush and/or undrafted rookie free agent Raequan Williams. The Eagles had a draftable grade on the latter.

LB: Nathan Gerry, T.J. Edwards, Duke Riley, Davion Taylor, Shaun Bradley (5) [39]

Barring injury, Gerry is going to lead all linebackers in snaps played this season. You might not think so highly of him but the Eagles’ coaching staff thinks he’s tough, athletic, smart, and an emerging leader. Edwards showed promise as a run defender as a rookie but needs to prove himself in coverage. Riley seems poised to be the Eagles’ special teams captain and he might contribute defensively as well. There’s belief that Riley could be a better fit for Philly’s scheme than he was in Atlanta’s. Jatavis Brown wasn’t a lock to make the team but his unexpected retirement is good news for the Eagles’ rookies. Still, it’s hard to count on getting impact from an inexperienced player like Taylor. Bradley figures to see most of his playing time on special teams. The Eagles might opt to keep Alex Singleton and/or add another veteran at this position.

CB: Darius Slay, Avonte Maddox, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Sidney Jones, Cre’Von LeBlanc, Craig James (6) [45]

Slay is the best outside corner the Eagles have had in some time. Schwartz said there’s a competition for cornerback spot across from Slay but I’m not buying it. The coaching staff clearly trusts Maddox more than his competitors; he’ll be the starter there. NRC is the favorite to start in the slot; the Eagles reportedly believe he’s a top five nickel in the NFL. Jones could get playing time if Maddox struggles or gets hurt. Jones would also be the top backup for Slay. Strap figures to be the top backup in the slot, although Jones also has experience there. Rasul Douglas has a better chance of making the roster after accepting a pay cut but I’m keeping James here over him since he’s the superior special teams player. Douglas could still conceivably be moved in a low-return trade. Trevor Williams would’ve been an interesting player to watch here if the Eagles didn’t have to waive him. BGN’s Ben Solak says the Eagles like UDFA signing Michael Jacquet.

S: Rodney McLeod, Jalen Mills, Will Parks, K’Von Wallace, Grayland Arnold (5) [50]

McLeod is the starting free safety. Mills is the strong safety in the Malcolm Jenkins mold. Parks and Wallace could both get playing time in various roles due to their versatility. The former is the early leader for the Corey Graham role as a third safety. The Eagles have Arnold officially listed at “defensive back” but McLeod confirmed Arnold is playing safety while recently praising him ... unprompted. Roseman also talked up Arnold in a couple post-draft interviews and the Eagles gave the Baylor alumnus the fourth highest guarantee out of their UDFA signings.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Jake Elliott (1) [51]

Elliott is under contract through 2024.

P: Cameron Johnston (1) [52]

Johnston is set to be a restricted free agent after 2020. He’ll need to have a good season to earn either an RFA tender or a long-term extension.

LS: Rick Lovato (1) [53]

The Eagles’ Pro Bowl long snapper is signed through 2023.


INJURY

PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM (PUP): Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Brooks

Jeffery is on track to miss at least the first six games of the 2020 season, if not longer, as he recovers from the Lisfranc injury he suffered in mid-December 2019. It really remains to be seen how effective the 30.5-year-old can be as he comes off the least productive year of his career as a full-time starter. One doctor that spoke to BGN was not very optimistic about his outlook.

The Eagles interestingly placed Brooks on PUP instead of injured reserve. Brooks is expected to miss the entire 2020 campaign due to an Achilles injury but maybe the team is holding out a shred of hope he can return very late in the season? Maybe Brooks can return if games get delayed and/or the Eagles make it to the Super Bowl?

Note: An unlimited number of players can now be activated from injured reserve. They’re required to miss at least three games before returning.


But wait, isn’t there a 55-man roster this year?

Yes and no. There’s still a main 53. More details:

Two practice-squad players per week may be elevated to the team’s roster, meaning game-week roster sizes could effectively increase from 53 to 55. And a player elevated from the practice squad to the 55-man roster could be sent back to the practice squad two times without having to clear waivers. [...] The game-day active roster will increase from 46 to 48 players (although one of the extra players must be an offensive lineman, which will give teams more flexibility to have three extra linemen).


PRACTICE SQUAD

Practice squad capacity is now 16 players instead of 10. Unlike before, teams can keep up to six players with no limits on NFL experience. Note that teams can block four practice squad players from being poached on a weekly basis at 4:00 PM ET before a game week.

16-player practice squad: QB Kyle Lauletta, RB Michael Warren, WR Deontay Burnett, WR Robert Davis, TE Josh Perkins, TE Noah Togiai, OG Sua Opeta, C Luke Juriga, DE Shareef Miller, DE Casey Toohill, DT Anthony Rush, DT Raequan Williams, LB Alex Singleton, CB Rasul Douglas, CB Michael Jacquet, S Marcus Epps

Exemption: DE Matt Leo