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Eagles 53-man roster prediction as training camp begins

Taking stock before the action begins.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles training camp is HERE! Players are reporting to the NovaCare Complex today ahead of the team’s first practice on Wednesday, July 28. As always, Bleeding Green Nation will be bringing you complete camp coverage over the next month.

Before we fully dive into the action, though, let’s take the time to run through everyone’s favorite summer activity: a 53-man roster prediction. You know, to get an early look at how the Eagles’ final depth chart could play out. We’ll update these projections throughout the summer to reflect meaningful developments from practices and preseason games. Not to mention relevant transactions along the way.

For even more training camp preview content, because I know you just can’t get enough, be sure to check out Jimmy Kempski and me going through a position-by-position roster analysis on BGN Radio.

OFFENSE

QB: Jalen Hurts, Joe Flacco (2) [2]

It’s impossible to ignore all the Deshaun Watson trade rumors out there but the timeline for a deal is unclear. For now, we’ll project Hurts as QB1. It’s a big year for the second-year signal-caller as he tries to prove he’s the Eagles’ franchise quarterback. The bar will be very high for him to clear as the Eagles will likely look to pivot away from him if they have any doubt about him after this season. The Eagles inexplicably gave Flacco $3.5 million guaranteed coming off a horrendous stint with the New York Jets. There’s nothing to be gained by him playing, so let’s hope we don’t have to see that. Nick Mullens is on the bubble for a QB3 spot. The minimum contract player honestly should be the backup instead of Flacco. On the fence about this but I’ll say he’s retained on the practice squad, which is more logical than rostering him.

RB: Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Kerryon Johnson, Kenny Gainwell, Jason Huntley (5) [7]

We’ve said it a billion times: Sanders was good as a runner but bad as a pass-catcher last year. It’d be nice to see him looking much better in the passing game during camp. Scott is a solid option as either RB2 or RB3. He might be more effective than ever if/when the Eagles can rediscover how to run an effective screen. Johnson’s third-down back skills make him an intriguing role player at the very least. He might be able to earn an RB2 workload. There’s excitement to see what Gainwell can become but the feeling here is he’s stuck behind at least three other backs as a rookie. As such, his touches could be few and far between. Five may seem like a lot but Howie Roseman has done it before and Huntley could be the team’s best kick return option.

WR: DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward, Travis Fulgham, Quez Watkins (5) [12]

Five receivers might be too light given how Nick Sirianni has an affinity for the position. Then again, it’s not like it’s only up to him. It’ll be very exciting to watch Smith excel this summer before carrying that over to the regular season. Very confident he’s going to be good from the jump. Historically good, even. Reagor has much to prove after a discouraging rookie season. Many excuses have been made for the 2020 first-round pick thus far. Perhaps Reagor will truly be more effective with Hurts than he was working with Carson Wentz. Ward was running with the first team offense in OTAs. That’s fine if the Eagles are doing that in part to help motivate Fulgham to bring his A-game this offseason. It’s not OK if Ward is actually going to be playing a lot. He’s a nice story and deserves to be on the team but he’s not a top-three receiver on this roster. Getting back to Fulgham, he needs to prove he can bring it every day and earn the coaching staff’s trust. The talent is there; it’s about consistency with him. Watkins flashed in very limited playing time late last season. I could see him having a nice camp but not really having a big role come this fall. Still an important depth option to have around. JJ Arcega-Whiteside misses the cut here because I don’t know what we can possibly learn about him this summer. It looked like he had turned a corner last year ... but that clearly wasn’t the case. John Hightower, who is already 25 despite being in his second year, is also on the outside looking in.

TE: Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers, Jack Stoll (3) [15]

I thought about putting Zach Ertz on here since he’s reporting to camp. But there’s still thought he could be traded or released. It just doesn’t make sense for the Eagles to keep him around. They should clear $8.5 million by moving on and rolling it over to next year. They also need to see what a full season of Goedert as a volume TE1 target looks like before handing him an extension. Dick Rod is a cromulent backup who can also help out on special teams. As an undrafted rookie free agent, Stoll is hardly a lock to make the roster. But he received the highest UDFA guarantee and that’s boded well for other players in the past (Josh Adams, T.J. Edwards, Nate Herbig, Luke Juriga, etc.) On a #JerseyNumberAnalytics note, I actually like Stoll going from No. 85 (after Rodgers took back his older number) to No. 47. That was Trey Burton’s original number.

OL: Jordan Mailata, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Landon Dickerson, Jack Driscoll, Nate Herbig, Brett Toth (9) [24]

Mailata is seen here as the favorite to win the left tackle job. If that happens, Andre Dillard’s value as a backup is limited since he can only play one position. The Eagles could look to trade him to salvage some value. Seumalo figures to start at left guard. Kelce is back for what might be his final season playing for the Eagles. Brooks isn’t a dude to bet against but the reality is he’s coming off multiple major injuries. Johnson is also coming off a significant injury. Yet another blocker coming off injury, it’s unclear exactly when Dickerson will be 100% healthy. NFL insider Mike Garafolo reports the Eagles drafted Dickerson with a focus on guard but he might be used more at center in camp. Will be interesting to monitor him. Driscoll is a candidate to be the top swing tackle with Dillard gone. At the very least, Driscoll projects to be the top backup at Johnson’s right tackle spot. Jeff Stoutland likes Herbig, who did a respectable job last season. Those eight guys feel like locks. After that, there are a number of linemen competing for a spot or two. The Eagles could very well look to go with 10 after a season in which they were required to use 14 different starting lineups. With Dillard out, I have the Eagles keeping Toth — who’s in his first full camp with Philly — for more tackle depth. UDFA signing Kayode Awosika might be able to sneak on the roster but I have him on the practice squad.

DEFENSE

DE: Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat, Ryan Kerrigan, Genard Avery (5) [29]

Dear football gods, can we please finally get BLG to 10 sacks this year? The man deserves it. Barnett is entering camp healthy for the first time since his rookie season. It’s a very big year for the 2017 first-round pick as he tries to earn a long-term contract extension. The Eagles need to take a significant step forward and not merely be average. Sweat is also pushing for a contract ... and potentially more playing time. Could he actually earn a starting role? I don’t think it’s likely but it doesn't seem impossible. Kerrigan’s role in this rotation will be worth monitoring. What’s his snap count going to look like? Is he playing over Barnett and/or Sweat? Avery was working with the linebackers in OTAs but is still officially listed as a defensive end on the Eagles’ roster. Even if he should be listed as the former, he’s still going to be rushing the passer more often than he is lining up as an off-ball defender. Having a bad camp didn’t prevent Avery from making the team last year so the thought is Roseman will keep him around again. Tarron Jackson notably doesn’t make the cut here; he’s instead on the practice squad. Even if Jackson does make it, I don’t see him playing much.

DT: Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Hassan Ridgeway, Milton Williams, Marlon Tuipulotu (5) [34]

It’d be nice to see Cox get back to being an elite difference-maker. If the Eagles get off to a rough start, they should absolutely be looking to sell him prior to the NFL trade deadline. They’ll probably never get more value in exchange for an age 31 season player who might be in decline with 7,442 career snaps under his belt. Hargrave should give the Eagles more than he did last year when he entered the season injured. He has the potential to be a pretty disruptive interior player. Ridgeway probably shouldn’t make the team given his durability issues but he’s been solid when (rarely) healthy. T.Y. McGill might take his spot instead. Williams could conceivably get leap-frogged on the depth chart by Tuipulotu early on considering the latter has a role as a run-stuffer. Williams might take more time to make an impact.

LB: Eric Wilson, Alex Singleton, T.J. Edwards, Shaun Bradley, Davion Taylor, JaCoby Stevens (6) [40]

Wilson is the only lock to start at linebacker. He had a career year with the Vikings last season, excelling in coverage but struggling in run defense. Will we see more of the same here? Singleton is a tackling machine and that could earn him a starting spot. Edwards could also be in the mix to play on defense in addition to special teams. Bradley is a dark horse to step up in a meaningful way. Taylor looked very raw last year; he has a lot to prove before justifying playing time. Stevens is transitioning from safety to linebacker and shouldn’t be considered a roster lock.

CB: Darius Slay, Steven Nelson, Avonte Maddox, Craig James, Zech McPhearson (5) [45]

The Eagles need CB1 to live up to his “Big Play Slay” nickname after failing to deliver much impact in 2020. There’s reason to wonder if he’s simply in decline after two relatively “down” years. Then again, Jonathan Gannon got the most out of an aging Xavier Rhodes last year, so maybe he can do the same with Slay. The recent Nelson signing fills an obvious hole at CB2. At worst, Nelson should be a serviceable stop-gap. At best, he can be a contributor for the next few seasons. Maddox is the favorite to be Philly’s nickel corner. He also might be a surprise trade/cut candidate considering he carries a $2.3 million cap number. The Eagles could clear $2.18 million by moving on, assuming he falls down the depth chart. James had a good camp last year and has previously demonstrated special teams prowess. McPhearson could compete for the slot job but probably will end up providing depth as CB5.

S: Rodney McLeod, Anthony Harris, Andrew Adams, K’Von Wallace, Marcus Epps (5) [50]

McLeod says he’s expecting to play in Week 1 despite suffering an ACL injury in mid-December. We’ll take him at his word for now. Harris is looking to bounce back after having a down year in 2020. If he can get back to 2019 form, the Eagles could have a pretty good starting safety duo. Adams isn’t a lock but I have the Eagles keeping him around since he’s experienced on defense and special teams. Wallace can earn playing time as a role player with a strong summer. Epps is on the bubble and it’s unclear if the new coaching staff likes him as much as the old one did. I have the Eagles going with five safeties in part because McLeod is coming off injury and only Wallace and Epps are signed beyond 2021 here. Along those lines, Grayland Arnold and/or Elijah Riley could be worth keeping around on the practice squad again.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Jake Elliott (1) [51]

Elliott will be monitored closely after struggling in 2020. It’ll be pretty concerning if he doesn’t have a good camp.

P: Arryn Siposs (1) [52]

The Eagles could look to pick up another punter if Siposs struggles but the feeling here is he’ll do enough to earn the job.

LS: Rick Lovato (1) [53]

Lovato is the surest bet from this group.


INJURY

PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM (PUP): Le’Raven Clark

Clark suffered an Achilles injury in Week 13 last year. He likely won’t be healthy enough to compete for a Week 1 roster spot. As such, the Eagles can take it slow with him by placing the veteran blocker on the PUP list. He’ll be required to miss the team’s first six games but can be activated at any point after that. The Eagles might need an extra offensive lineman down the road.


PRACTICE SQUAD

Practice squad capacity goes up to 16 players again this year. Note that teams can block four practice squad players from being poached on a weekly basis at 4:00 PM ET on Tuesday before a game week.

QB Nick Mullens, RB Elijah Holyfield, WR Jhamon Ausbon, TE Caleb Wilson, TE Tyree Jackson, OG Kayode Awosika, C Luke Juriga, DE Tarron Jackson, DE JaQuan Bailey, DT Raequan Williams, LB Patrick Johnson, LB Rashad Smith, CB Michael Jacquet III, CB Shakial Taylor, S Grayland Arnold, S Elijah Riley