The Eagles have 18 new players on their 53-man opening week roster – draft picks, prestige free agents, third-string knockabouts. Some will decide whether this is a playoff team.Others, you hope, never see the field.
Let’s rank them by expected impact:
1. Ronald Darby. Getting Darby, 23, in a rare August trade cost GM Howie Roseman both Jordan Mathews and a 2018 3rd-round pick. But the Eagles have craved a shutdown corner since Asante Samuel left six years ago.
Darby was wonderful as a rookie in 2015, but lapsed badly his sophomore season. He’ll cover Odell Beckham, Jr., Dez Bryant and Terrelle Pryor twice each this season. It is impossible to overstate how critical he is to the Eagles success.
2. Alshon Jeffery. The Eagles made a great deal signing the top free-agent wide receiver to a one-year, $9.5 million contract.Jeffery needs to prove he can stay healthy and avoid suspension. Meanwhile, Carson Wentz gets a big, physical target renowned for his “catch radius” – a new way of saying if you throw in his general vicinity, he’ll grab it.
3. Tim Jernigan. The Eagles traded for Jernigan after Bennie Logan signed with the Chiefs. But Jernigan plays defensive tackle far different than the run-stuffing Logan. He is expected to rush the passer. Playing next to a double-teamed Fletcher Cox, the opportunity will be there for Jernigan to make sacksand smile with his full set of gold teeth.
4. Derek Barnett. The first-round pass rusher looked terrific in the pre-season. He’s a quick learner, flashing speed and power moves he never showed in college. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz plans a five-man rotation of defensive ends, but Barnett’s rapid growth should earn him extra playing time.
5. LeGarrette Blount. There was excitement when the Eagles signed Blount as a free agent, but it dissipated as fans watched the pre-season. If used as a battering ram in late-game and short-yardage situations, Blount will be successful. If asked to do more, he could be a dud.
6. Torrey Smith. It’s all about speed to give Wentz the deep threat he didn’t have last year. Smith had just one catch this preseason – but it was a 50-yard TD bomb. He is coming off two dreadful seasons with the Niners. Is he cooked, or was it due to being part of a terrible team? We’ll find out.
7. Nick Foles. You hope I’m wrong here. But if Wentz gets hurt, Foles will be the guy needing to hold it together. He’s not the 27 TD-2 INT wonder we saw in 2013. But (if healthy) Foles is one of the better backup QBs in the league. Certainly better than Chase Daniel.
8. Chris Long. Smart, crafty veteran, good teammate, the best Twitter follow (@JOEL9ONE) on the team. He’s a better fit in Schwartz’s 4-3 defense than he was in New England. But, at 32, he’s not likely to see first-team playing time.
9. Patrick Robinson. If he was a competent corner, the Eagles wouldn’t have made the Darby trade. But Robinson, 29, survived the final cut and will see action as a slot defender. I share your lack of confidence.
10. Mack Hollins. The 4th-rounder had an excellent pre-season, but enters the season as the fourth wide receiver. He’ll impress you on special teams and could be a contributor on offense down the road.
11. Dexter McDougle. Late camp pickup from the Jets. Eagles gave him a one-year extension and figure to play him at the nickel.
12. Chance Warmack. A reclamation free-agent guard who’s never showed why he was a 1st-round pick. Looked terrible in the pre-season, but the Eagles still extended him through 2018.
13. Corey Graham. Another in a series of former Jim Schwartz players who’s come here from Buffalo. At 32, the backup safety doesn’t offer much.
14. Rasul Douglas. The 3rd-round pick opens 2017 as the fifth CB on the depth chart. Room for improvement, but seems now like a pass interference penalty waiting to happen.
15. Elijah Qualls. Strong and squat (6-foot-1, 322 lbs.) defensive tackle played well in pre-season. Beau Allen’s return from injury will keep him off the field.
16. Corey Clement. The people’s favorite – a local undrafted running back who earned his way onto the roster. He’ll watch from the bench.
17. Donnel Pumphrey. The people’s unfavorite. A 4th-round pick who looked like a high school JV running back during the pre-season. Eagles are looking down the road with this one.
18. Shelton Gibson. Fifth-round rookie WR made the cut after an unimpressive camp. May never actually dress for a game.