Eagles’ depth, talent make it tough to trim roster
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — No matter what decisions the Eagles make for their 53-man roster and 10-man practice squad, they’re going to wind up with a solid roster.
Some groups, like linebacker, safety and maybe even offensive line (if Halapoulivaati Vaitai is traded) won’t be as strong as others, but welcome to today’s NFL, in which it’s impossible for any team to be strong in every area.
Still, as we’ve been saying, the belief here is that they will field their strongest roster of the free-agency/ salary cap era. This is because general manager Howie Roseman and his former right-hand man, Joe Douglas, poached by the New York Jets in June, did their best job of depthbuilding since joining forces in 2016.
There’s no less than 60 players deserving of the 53 precious spots and many more than 10 who would easily be welcomed back to the practice squad if only the Eagles were allowed.
As tough as this weekend is on fringe players, it’s equally as difficult for the coaches and general managers who wrestle with the decisions they make and then have to live with them.
The plea to “make it tough for us,”
is what’s heard most from coaches throughout the league, and here are a few Eagles who ended the preseason on the roster bubble Thursday night who did:
Wide receiver Marken Michel. Throughout camp, he showed pure speed, athleticism and sure hands. Then when the lights came on for their first preseason game, he caught a 75-yard touchdown pass from Nate Sudfeld in the first game. Alas, Michel was waived by the Eagles on Friday.
Defensive end Daeshon Hall. Even as an undersized ‘tweener, Hall played in three games for the Eagles after his arrival last season. Now that he’s gained nearly 30 pounds and led the team in sacks (4.0) and quarterback hits (11) in the preseason, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be on the roster. This would be true even if they trade for Jadeveon Clowney.
Wide receiver Greg Ward. Despite not being targeted on Thursday night, he finished tied with Josh Adams as their second leading receiver (behind J.J. Arcega-Whiteside) in the preseason. And his play in the games was merely an extension of what he has done all summer in the sweltering heat at the NovaCare Complex.
This is his third year in their system. He knows it inside and out and is dependable.
Linebacker Alex Singleton. He’s been all over the place. And we’re not just talking on the football field. He played three seasons in the CFL and bounced on and off the offseason rosters of three NFL teams before arriving in Philadelphia. But as far as his pure football qualifications, they are there. His 24 total tackles led the team in the preseason, and his four special-teams tackles ranked second behind Kasim Edebali.
Like Michel, Singleton didn’t survive Friday’s first wave of cuts.
Running back Wendell Smallwood. He didn’t help his cause by losing a fumble on Thursday night. Barring injury, he won’t be on this team, but he seems to have won a place in coach Doug Pederson’s heart.
“Wendell’s a player that we know, man,” Pederson said. “We’ve got a lot of history with him and unfortunate, gosh, that one run. We had trap inside and the ‘backer hit the ball on the tackle. It came out. But, you know, Wendell’s a guy that we understand, we kind of know him.
“And last week it was
Corey’s [Clement] opportunity … and [Smallwood] would have played last week. The game was shortened, obviously, but he’s right in the mix.”
This is the toughest time of year for everyone in the NFL, a point reiterated by Pederson after Thursday’s 6-0 loss to the Jets.
“I just appreciate all the hard work these guys did through training camp … through the offseason, and they left it in our hands. It’s our opportunity now to make some tough decisions in these next couple days.”
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was more eloquent three days earlier.
“I was on the record last year saying the same thing around this time: You root for everyone in this business,” he said. “You know how hard they work and what they put into their effort and making a contribution to the team. And not everyone can make the team, but when it is all said and done, everyone that was in camp with us will have contributed to our team somehow and to our success going forward.”
Eagles’ Greg Ward runs upfield Thursday against the Jets .