Ea­gles’ depth, tal­ent make it tough to trim ros­ter

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Nick Fierro

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.”

MATT ROURKE/AP

Ea­gles’ Greg Ward runs up­field Thurs­day against the Jets .

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