The last Eagles’ preseason game is looming, and with it the roster cuts that will rob us of some of summer’s brightest stars and solidify the status of others. Let the great guessing game begin.
QB (2): Carson Wentz, Nick Foles
No shockers here. Foles hasn’t been seen practicing or playing all that much this summer due to injury. Everyone has certainly seen enough Matt McGloin that he should feel comfortable in his role. If Foles isn’t ready to go when the season begins, he could lose his spot here, but whoever takes his place won’t be someone already on the Eagles’ roster. Rookie Dane Evans should land on the practice squad.
RB (4): Darren Sproles, LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood, Donnel Pumphrey
Sproles’ role on the team is in no danger. He remains the most dangerous threat out of the Eagles backfield and in the return game. Blount hasn’t had an impressive pre-season, but then again pre-seasons have little in common with smashing into tired defenders in second halves.
The Eagles remain high on Smallwood, so he is the young running back of choice here. Pumphrey hasn’t looked ready to play in the NFL this season, but the Eagles risk losing their fourth round pick if they try and slip him into the practice squad. He’s probably safe.
The most effective runner this summer has been undrafted free agent Corey Clement. That might seem like good news for the rookie, but a closer look at the careers of Kenjon Barner, Raheem Mostert, Henry Josey in Philadelphia actually suggest the opposite. Clement is probably an undeserved cut in a crowded backfield this week.
WR (6): Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, Marcus Johnson, Bryce Treggs
Jeffery and Smith have spent the summer looking like they are the exact upgrades at wide receiver they were intended to be. Agholor’s flashy camps haven’t translated into preseason production, but Hollins has looked capable of filling some of the RAC across the middle work left available by Jordan Matthews’ departure.
The Eagles’ other rookie draftee, fifth round pick Shelton Gibson, has improved but still been outshone by the other young receivers working for the roster. Johnson and Treggs have shown up in the Preseason games and Johnson in particular looks to have spent his rookie practice squad season improving greatly. Treggs isn’t quite as one-dimensional as his rookie version either.
Gibson and rookie quarterback-convert Greg Ward are prime candidates to find practice squad spots on the team if they’re left off the 53.
TE (3): Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton
This is the only group that has looked the same for the past few seasons. Ertz, like Hollins, is a prime candidate to see some increased work in Matthews’ absence. Celek, the second-most prolific receiving tight end in team history, remains a necessity as a blocker. And Burton will look to prove the second-round tender the Eagles placed on him this off-season was warranted. Former rugby player Adam Zaruba looks like an unlikely presence at this point, but undrafted rookie Billy Brown might make the practice squad. He’s another player that’s more receiver than tight end, which is a crowded role in Philadelphia.
OL (9): Jason Peters, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Stefen Wisniewski, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Chance Warmack, Dillon Gordon
The Eagles have been jettisoning offensive lineman this off-season, a sign that they feel pretty okay with the depth on the squad. Allen Barbre and Matt Tobin were two of their most versatile backups, but they should be okay on the interior with Wisniewski and Warmack and Vaitai backing up Johnson. Keeping Gordon around adds the option to leave Johnson on the right side of the line should Peters go down. The starters here have been locked in since Barbre was traded.
DL (10): Chris Long, Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Timmy Jernigan, Steven Means, Beau Allen, Elijah Qualls, Justin Hamilton
The strength of the Eagles squad sees a glut of players make the team as a result. There’s never been any doubt to the status of the first six names on this list, but Barnett in particular has shone during his rookie preseason. Means has been a flashy backup for awhile now, and is a step ahead of second-year pro Alex McCallister who essentially redshirted in 2016. He’s another practice squad candidate.
The backup defensive tackle competition is made even more crowded by the sudden return to healthy status of Allen, the Eagles’ lead backup at the position the past few years. Qualls has had a good rookie camp and come on towards the end of it — a good sign. Hamilton is worth keeping around over a less impressive player at a less competitive roster spot.
LB (6): Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Mychal Kendricks, Nathan Gerry, Najeh Goode, Kamu Grugier-Hill
Hicks and Bradham are the surefire starters here and the only locks to make the roster. Kendricks has long been a trade/cut rumor victim because of his expensive contract and diminished playing time in 2016 under Jim Schwartz. His extensive playing time this Preseason is possibly a sign of where the Eagles see his status (a backup) but he’s turned it into an opportunity. As Schwartz said “I don’t know if you can have any more production than him.”
Goode has been the primary backup linebacker for a few seasons now, and should stay above Joe Walker and Don Cherry at the middle spot. Gerry and Grugier-Hill have been showing promise and should fill out the roster as backups outside and competition for Kendricks.
DB (10): Malcolm Jenkins, Nelson McLeod, Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Aaron Grymes, Corey Graham, Jaylen Watkins, Patrick Robinson, Chris Maragos
The safeties are a lot further established at this point than the corners here. Jenkins and McLeod have never been in doubt. Graham has looked like a fixture since his arrival and the Terrence Brooks trade bodes well for Watkins. Both Graham and Watkins are helped by their ability to play cornerback.
Ron Brooks release Wednesday makes the battle to watch between Robinson, Grymes, and McDougle, whom just arrived from the Jets in the Brooks trade. They’re competing for playing time primarily in the slot, with Darby and Mills established on the outside, but also for roster spots.
Tre Sullivan, an undrafted rookie safety, is probably the best practice squad candidate in the secondary. It’s worth remembering that if or when second round pick Sidney Jones becomes healthy this season, that will take a spot away from someone here.
Special teams: Caleb Sturgis (K), Donnie Jones (P), Rick Lovato (LS)
The lone special teams surprise. A shout-out to departed long snapper Jon Dorenbos, formerly the longest tenured Eagle and holder (with Harold Carmichael) of the consecutive games played record at 162. His streak was brought to an end by injury last season.