NICK FIERRO PREDICTS THE EAGLES’ 2019 SEASON-OPENING ROSTER
Final roster cuts will force team to slice off some deserving parties
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.
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.