August 17 was the first day of padded practices for the Philadelphia Eagles. With the cancellation of preseason games this year, these upcoming practices will be crucial for player evaluations.
Fourteen practices are allowed, placing rookie draft picks and free agents in the spotlight. As the home opener draws closer, the Eagles 53-man roster projections are in.
Quarterbacks: Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, & Jalen Hurts
Coming out of the 2019 season with a personal best of 4,902 passing yards, 30 touchdowns, and 8.2 average yards per attempt, we’re all waiting to see what Wentz brings this season. Sudfeld has been with the Eagles since 2017 and will be the primary back-up. However, he’s on a one-year contract; therefore, if Wentz misses an extensive portion of the year, Hurts would be the smarter option.
Running backs: Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Corey Clement, & Elijah Holyfield
Sanders and Scott are definite. Although both suffered from lower-body injuries last week, a source states they will be ready to go. With both players missing some practice, Clement got extra time in.
After suffering injuries in the last two years, it will be essential for him to remain healthy. The battle for the last spot lies between Holyfield and two undrafted rookie free agents, Michael Warren and Adrian Killins. Plain and simple, Warren is strong, and Killins is swift, but Holyfield has a Philly advantage as he was with the Eagles last season.
Wide Receivers: DeSean Jackson, Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, John Hightower, & Quez Watkins
Unfortunately for Alshon Jeffery, injuries have put a holt to his playing game. He will not be ready for the season. Marquise Goodwin has also opted out due to the coronavirus pandemic. That being said, the Eagles are counting on Jackson. Reagor, a rookie, has proven his worth in training camp and has been learning multiple receiver positions. Ward was the Eagles’ most consistent receiver in 2019 and should see a top spot this year. Arcega-Whiteside may see some rotational play.
Tight Ends: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, & Noah Togiai
The Eagles led the NFC East in 2019 with two tight ends in eight games, so technically, this can be done again. The third spot should have gone to Josh Perkins, but unfortunately, he endured an upper-body injury in training camp and will be out indefinitely. Given the current pandemic, it may not be wise to go into the season without a back-up, therefore Togiai could make his way on the roster.
Offensive Line: Jason Kelce, Jason Peters, Lane Johnson, Jordan Mailata, Andre Dillard, Isaac Seumalo, Matt Pryor, Prince Tega Wanohgo, Jack Driscoll, & Nate Herbig
Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson will return as elite players. Peters resigned with the Eagles this year as right tackle, and although he must switch from a left-handed stance, he’s more than able to pull it off. Andre Dillard will replace Peter’s original position at left tackle. Typically, Brandon Brooks would be a front runner, but he is out for the season with a torn Achilles.
Defensive End: Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat, Vinny Curry, & Genard Avery
No one should be surprised by the first four. Vinny Curry was brought back on for a one-year contract deal. As for Avery, the Eagles traded a 2021 fourth-round pick for him, which leads me to believe he’ll make the cut.
Defensive Tackle: Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Malik Johnson, & Hassan Ridgeway
This line proves why the Eagles defense is one of the best in the league, with three of the NFL’s
top 20 interior defensive linemen making the roster. Ridgeway gets the last spot. He started in five games last season and had two sacks and four hits on the quarterback, making him a practical replacement.
Linebackers: Nathan Gerry, T.J. Edwards, Duke Riley, Davion Taylor, & Shaun Bradley
In 2019, Gerry played more defensive snaps than the two prior seasons, so he is a front runner, along with Edwards. Riley spent last year in the defense and can offer special teams coverage, similar to Bradley.
Cornerbacks: Darius Slay, Avonte Maddox, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Rasul Douglas, Cre’Von LeBlanc, & Trevor Williams
Slay is the best outside corner that Eagles have seen in a while. Maddox will play the opposite of Slay and gets a lot of love from the coaching staff for his versatility. As of August 24, Trevor Williams has re-signed with the team. I think he’ll take Sidney Jones’ spot as he has been injured for the majority of his Eagles’ tenure.
Safety: Rodney McLeod, Jalen Mills, Will Parks, & K’Von Wallace
A great deal of confidence lies in these four men. McLeod will take on the leadership role that Malcolm Jenkins once ensured. It’s possible that Grayland Arnold, an undrafted rookie, could be added to this list, as the Eagles have taken a liking to him. Sadly though, 2020 has not made it easy for newcomers.
Special Teams: Jake Elliott, Cameron Johnston, & Rick Lovato
These are definite. Elliott, the Eagles kicker, is under contract until 2024. He’s reliable. Johnston is one of the top ten punters in the league. Lovato, the Eagles’ Pro Bowl long snapper, will remain with Philly through 2023.
Two weeks remain before the roster must be cut, so we’ll have to see where things pan out. In PFF’s annual ranking of all 32 teams, the Eagles ranked No. 9. The pressure is on.