NICK FIERRO PRE­DICTS THE EA­GLES’ 2019 SEA­SON-OPEN­ING ROS­TER

Fi­nal ros­ter cuts will force team to slice off some de­serv­ing par­ties

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Nick Fierro

PHILADEL­PHIA — Their ex­tra­or­di­nary depth has been talked about ad in­fini­tum. Now the dead­line looms for re­duc­ing it sig­nif­i­cantly.

The Philadel­phia Ea­gles will need to trim their ac­tive ros­ter to 53 play­ers by 4 p.m. on Satur­day. They will be, to para­phrase Shake­speare, the most un­kind­est cuts of all.

“They’re tough ev­ery year,” coach Doug Ped­er­son said. “We have to make de­ci­sions that af­fect these play­ers’ lives, and it’s dif­fi­cult to face them and talk to them. That’s one of the things too I talk about ev­ery year with [gen­eral man­ager] Howie [Rose­man] and [vice pres­i­dent of player per­son­nel] Andy Weidl and our per­son­nel staff now. We’re al­ways go­ing to look to bring in depth and com­pe­ti­tion at ev­ery po­si­tion and then [look] for the player to make it hard on us as coaches to make these ros­ter moves.

“Ev­ery year it’s hard. This will be no dif­fer­ent.”

But the de­ci­sions this year fig­ure to be more com­pli­cated than ever just be­cause of the sheer num­ber of qual­i­fied play­ers at each po­si­tion.

So let’s get down to our pre­dic­tions for the 53-man ros­ter that will be avail­able to the Ea­gles on open­ing day against the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins. Keep in mind that the orig­i­nal 53 that is turned in Satur­day likely won’t last un­til the opener be­cause any player the Ea­gles would wish to place on in­jured re­serve with a des­ig­na­tion for re­turn would have to be on the orig­i­nal ros­ter and then moved to IR on Tues­day or af­ter.

Quar­ter­back (3): Car­son Wentz, Josh McCown and Nate Sud­feld. They’re pretty much locked into this, bar­ring a

trade (Sud­feld to the Colts per­haps?). Fifth-round pick Clay­ton Thor­son is a strong prac­tice-squad can­di­date. Cody Kessler will be jet­ti­soned.

Kick­ers (1): Jake El­liott. I’ve said it be­fore and I’ll say it again here be­cause it needs to be re­peated as of­ten as pos­si­ble: The Ea­gles are do­ing both El­liott and them­selves a disservice by not bring­ing another kicker into train­ing camp to com­pete with him.

Punter (1): Cameron John­ston. As with El­liott, the feel­ing here is that he could be­come a star. As with El­liott, the Ea­gles also are do­ing a disservice to John­ston by not bring­ing in some com­pe­ti­tion.

Think about it: His best camp was in 2017. He lost out to Don­nie Jones but showed enough to be brought back last year, when he was just OK in camp. This year is worse. His con­sis­tency is off and so is El­liott’s.

Why? Be­cause there’s no com­pe­ti­tion in camp. At least that’s the the­ory here.

Long snap­per (1): Ricky Lo­vato. He’s the one spe­cial­ist who thrives de­spite no com­pe­ti­tion.

Of­fen­sive line (9): Ja­son Kelce, Bran­don Brooks, Isaac Seu­malo, Lane John­son, Ja­son Peters, An­dre Dil­lard, Halapouli­vaati Vaitai, Jor­dan Mailata and Nate Her­big.

Matt Pryor and Ste­fen Wis­niewski are the sur­prise sub­trac­tions here, but it’s just a guess. And Brett Toth just hasn’t been here long enough to prove him­self wor­thy of a ros­ter spot. He hasn’t even played in a pre­sea­son game yet. He’s a hot can­di­date for the prac­tice squad, though, as is Pryor.

Run­ning backs (4): Jor­dan Howard, Miles San­ders, Dar­ren Spro­les and Corey Clement. Some hard cuts com­ing here. Wen­dell Small­wood, Josh Adams, Bos­ton Scott and even Don­nel Pumphrey, who’s to­tally healthy for the first time, have proved they can play in this league. But there’s just no room on this team af­ter the de­ci­sion to bring Spro­les back.

Tight ends (3): Zach Ertz, Dal­las Goed­ert and Josh Perkins. Richard Rodgers would be the third, but we have a feel­ing he’s go­ing to land on the in­jured re­serve list again with a foot prob­lem. If he doesn’t, then he’s in and Perkins is out..

Wide re­ceivers (6): Al­shon Jef­fery, DeSean Jack­son, Nel­son Agholor, J.J.

Arcega-White­side, Mack Hollins and Greg Ward. They don’t need six, but why not keep guys who are de­serv­ing? Ward cer­tainly is, and he can help on spe­cial teams. There’s lots of other tal­ent here too, like Carl­ton Agu­dosi, Charles John­son and Marken Michel.

De­fen­sive tackle (4): Fletcher Cox, Ma­lik Jack­son, Timmy Jerni­gan and Has­san Ridge­way. Tough cut for Treyvon Hester. He would be the fifth guy, but be­cause they’re prob­a­bly go­ing to go heavy at de­fen­sive end, he’s the odd man out. Kevin Wilkins, a rookie out of Rut­gers, could wind up on the prac­tice squad.

De­fen­sive end (6): Bran­don Gra­ham, Derek Bar­nett, Vinny Curry, Daeshon Hall, Sha­reef Miller and Josh Sweat. They al­most have to keep six here be­cause they don’t want to give up on Sweat yet af­ter draft­ing him last year. But Kasim Ede­bali and Eli Harold can play too, so it wouldn’t be sur­pris­ing if ei­ther one of them makes the squad.

Line­backer (6): Nigel Brad­ham, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry, L.J. Fort, Zach Brown and Hayes Pullard. The Ea­gles could get away with five here, but they will need an ex­tra man at least un­til Grugier-Hill is ready to re­turn from his in­jury, which is not be­lieved to be se­vere enough to land him on in­jured re­serve. Pullard, just ac­quired Tues­day, could prove to be a valu­able pickup. He had 72 tack­les for the Charg­ers two years ago.

Corner­backs (5): Ron­ald Darby, Sidney Jones, Ra­sul Dou­glas, Avonte Mad­dox and Orlando Scan­drick. As noted ear­lier, Scan­drick will have to be cut at first while the Ea­gles place in­jured Cre’Von LeBlanc on the orig­i­nal 53-man ros­ter Satur­day and then put him on in­jured re­serve three days later, which would al­low them to des­ig­nate him for re­turn. Scan­drick might not be brought back un­til Week 2 be­cause, as a vested vet­eran, his salary would be guar­an­teed for the sea­son if he’s on the ros­ter for the opener. Jalen Mills gets trans­ferred to the in­ac­tive PUP list, so he will be pro­tected as well without tak­ing a ros­ter spot.

Safety (4): Mal­colm Jenk­ins, Rodney McLeod, An­drew Sen­dejo and Johnathan Cy­prien. More tough calls here, be­cause Trae El­ston, Rudy Ford and Deion­dré Hall all can play. Tues­day, the Ea­gles cut Tre Sul­li­van and signed Ja­son Thomp­son.

STEPHEN B. MOR­TON/AP

Rookie Sha­reef Miller has al­ready shown the abil­ity to get to the quar­ter­back at the NFL level. He was drafted by the Ea­gles out of Penn State.

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