We may only be halfway through preseason, but by now we have a pretty good idea of who will be on the Philadelphia Eagles final 53 man roster. The players running with the first team are pretty safe bets, the early to mid-round drafts picks are also pretty safe and the players who are playing well with the second team are also likely to make the final roster. It’s those final few spots that are tricky.
Do the Eagles keep those last few players that have more upside, performed the best in preseason or offer the biggest contributions on special teams? I tend to go for upside with these spots as the final roster spots tend to go to players who won’t be active on gameday. So if you like what you’ve seen from Greg Ward during preseason then don’t expect to see him win the spot as the 6th wide receiver over a player like Shelton Gibson who has a higher ceiling.
53 Man Roster Prediction
Quarterbacks(2): Carson Wentz, Nick Foles- The only surprise here is keeping two quarterbacks and not 3. Matt McGloin has been awful in preseason and a player like Dane Evans is someone you can easily stash on the practice squad. Plus, if you lose your top two quarterbacks, the third stringer probably isn’t going to save your season.
Running Backs(4): LeGarrette Blount, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, Donnell Pumphrey- A lot of people are calling for Corey Clement to make this roster, but Smallwood is a much better athlete and offers you about as much power. Pumphrey hasn’t looked great in preseason, but I highly doubt the cut a 4th round pick they traded up to draft that quickly. A year under Sproles will do wonders for Pumphrey. A trio of Blount, Sproles and Smallwood is a nice committee to roll out on Sundays. You’d love to have a feature back here, but this group will do for now.
Wide Receivers(6): Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, Marcus Johnson, Shelton Gibson- A lot of debate with how wide receiver will look after final cuts, but this scenario looks pretty likely in my eyes. The top four are obvious, so it comes down to keep 5 or 6 wideouts and which players round out the roster. Marcus Johnson is an improving special teamer with a ton of straight line speed. He’s consistently made plays all summer long. Gibson has too much speed to give up on at this point. His hands are a major issue, but you’d like to keep him for another year and see how he progresses first, before waving the white flag on him.
Tight Ends(3): Zach Ertz, Trey Burton, Brent Celek- I feel like I’ve been putting this tight end trio here for a decade, but it’s probably their last year together. Ertz will be here through his prime, but Celek and Burton are on their way out. Burton deserves a bigger role and I think he can get it elsewhere, while Celek could retire after the season. This is good because this team needs a pure in-line blocking tight end. Watch the tape of the negative run plays in preseason and you see Ertz getting his ass kicked. It’s my biggest concern going into the season, though I don’t think it dooms them or costs them any games.
Offensive Line(9): Jason Peters, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Dillon Gordon, Stefan Wisniewski, Chance Warmack, Halapoulivaati Vaitai- The starting 5 is the new as last season except Seumalo is the left guard now. Gordon’s growth has been fun to watch this summer and gives the Eagles two solid backup tackles, which is something I was not expecting to see yet. Wisniewski is the backup guard and center on gameday and Warmack should only see snaps if a Brooks or Seumalo go down.
Defensive Ends(5): Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Derek Barnett, Chris Long, Stephen Means- This is the deepest defensive end group in the league and it’s one that will be able to compliment Graham a lot more than they did last season. Barnett has been dominant in preseason and will see more snaps on third down than anyone else here except for Graham. The only debate here might be keeping McCalister, but they probably stick him on the practice squad and hope he doesn’t get picked up off waivers after final cuts.
Defensive Tackles(5): Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan, Beau Allen, Destiny Vaejo, Elijah Qualls- Doug Pederson said on Sunday that he thinks there is a chance Beau Allen will be ready for Week 1 which makes me think stashing him on the PUP list is highly unlikely. I was going to give the final DT spot to Justin Hamilton, but Jonny Page of Bleeding Green Nation talked me out of it. He’s right, Qualls has way more potential and actually had a pretty good showing against Green Bay.
Linebackers(6): Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Mychal Kendricks, Joe Walker, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry- There is no debating this, Hicks and Bradham are the best 4-3 linebacker duo in the league. If they stay healthy this season, then this defense will be at least a top 10 unit. Kendricks has been outstanding this preseason and has maybe hurt his own case to get traded because he is such a valuable backup and third linebacker right now. Walker is a solid special teamer and can push for a bigger role down the road. KGH is basically see Joe Walker above. Gerry is a bit of a project still. He looks a little slow in the open field and is a college safety transitioning to linebacker so it will take some time.
Cornerbacks(5): Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Ron Brooks, Patrick Robinson- This group very much has a before and after Darby feel to it. Before the trade this was the achilles heel that would prevent this team from making the playoffs, but now we’re talking about how this secondary will vault this defense into the top 5 or 10 of the league. Mills looks more natural on the outside this year and with better help around him now, he can press more at the line. Brooks and Robinson are your slot corners and Douglas will fill in as needed, outside or in the slot, as he takes a year to really improve his technique and pick up the new defense. Sidney Jones will be placed on IR and could return to the field a soon as Week 9(IR designated to return) or he could miss the season altogether. It all depends on how quickly he can fully recover from his achilles tear. I would be surprised if Jones didn’t play in at least a couple games this season.
Safeties(5): Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Chris Maragos, Corey Graham, Terrence Brooks- This is a pretty solid group and a big reason why I don’t worry about the situation at corner, even before the Darby trade. Jenkins and McLeod are a top 5 safety duo at the very least. Maragos makes the roster again as a special teams ace. Graham will be the 4th safety active on gameday because of his versatility in coverage both on the back end and covering in the slot. Brooks is a good run defending safety who has flashed at times this summer and rounds out a pretty solid group here.
Special Teams(3): Caleb Sturgis, Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos- Sturgis is the only player here who requires any explanation. He didn’t receive any competition this summer which is a shame, because he’s struggled a bit with his accuracy. I think there’s a change he will get replaced by another veteran at some point in the regular season, but that all depends on how he kicks during the season.