An Early Look: 53-Man Roster Projections
10 July 2020 Eagles News
It’s been just about 2 and a half months since the NFL Draft, and things have settled down for the most part around the NFL. Most teams have spent the bulk of their cap and know the general basis of what their team should look like, and free agency has largely wrapped up, with the only players that are signing right now being players like Cam Newton or Jadeveon Clowney, who couldn’t get deals earlier because their prices were too high or teams wanted them to pass a physical. Teams are prepping their players to go to training camp right about now, and that starts at the end of the month. All 3 of the other major sports start back up around the same time, with NFL bringing up the rear in September(hopefully). With that in mind, now is just about the right time where we can predict who is going to be playing for the Eagles in this upcoming season. Assuming that we do get this season, here are my predictions as to who makes the 53 man team.
Quarterback: Carson Wentz, Jalen Hurts, Nate Sudfeld (3)
This seems pretty straightforward. Carson Wentz is an elite top 10, borderline top 5 talent in the NFL. His only issues have been unfortunately timed injuries in each of the last 3 seasons, which is most likely the reason that Howie Roseman drafted Hurts in the 2nd round, as having a QB on a nice cheap rookie deal is much more palatable than paying a veteran 5+ million a year. My guess is that Sudfeld and Kyle Lauletta fight it out for the prime backup job this year as Hurts probably wont be ready to step in as the backup just yet, with Sudfeld having the marginal edge from being in the system a bit longer. QB factory here we come!
Running Back: Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Corey Clement, Elijah Holyfield (7)
Miles Sanders had an awesome rookie year, totaling over 1300 scrimmage yards and 6 TD’s, showing real star potential in this offense. Doug Pederson has always valued a RBBC, though, and while I think that Sanders has 3 down ability, the Eagles would like to limit him a bit, and will have a change of pace runner to spell him at times, which is where Clement and Scott come in. Scott AKA the next Darren Sproles showed incredible versatility down the stretch last year, and Clement was a valued part of the Super Bowl team and can catch the ball well. There’s still time for Roseman to sign a veteran like Devonta Freeman or bring LeSean McCoy back, but if not they can roll with either Elijah Holyfield or Michael Warren, both who are bruising 220+ lb. guys that can hammer through defenses on early downs. I like UCF’s Adrian Killins as well but I view him as more of a practice squad guy who needs a couple injuries to have the light shown on him.
Wide Receiver: Jalen Reagor, Desean Jackson, JJ Arcega Whiteside, Greg Ward, John Hightower, Alshon Jeffery, Marquise Goodwin (14)
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that all of the offseason’s impact additions at the receiver spot will make the team, except for Quez Watkins, who may get the short end of the stick and wind up on the practice squad to start the season. Now, Alshon Jeffery’s status is obviously in limbo with the Lisfranc injury, but I’ve seen varying terms of how long he should be out, from starting the season on the PUP list(where he wouldnt be on the 53 man to start) to him being healthy to start the season. For the sake of discussion and until we get clarification on his timetable, I’m going to act as though he will start the season on the team and guess he will miss a couple games. When healthy, the 3 starters should be Alshon, Jackson, and Greg Ward, who impressed a ton late last year when just about everybody was lining up to head into the dreaded blue tent (hey maybe I should save a spot for him on this list too). Pederson has already stated that Reagor will most likely spend the majority of the season learning from Jackson at the Z, so i would expect him and DJax to rotate quite often while he gets acclimated to the NFL. I expect Goodwin to have a small role in this offense being a experienced vet, but truthfully I see him as the weakest link on this chain, so it wouldn’t shock me if at some point this year we see Watkins get some meaningful snaps. I really would love JJAW to get a big shot this season, and the Eagles do see him as both an X and Alshon’s replacement, but after last year the questions about his future are completely valid. I have a lot of faith in Hightower grabbing the kick return job, early on you should expect to see him playing a bunch of special teams snaps.
Tight End: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Alex Ellis (17)
Zach Ertz is the unquestioned starter for this team, almost a consensus top 3 TE in the NFL. Ertz is not going anywhere this season, and is still probably the 2nd best, if not the best, route runner in the entire league. Goedert is an emerging star, arguably a top 10 TE rn, and assuming that his face is OK after the sucker punch, will be back to normal. It doesn’t hurt that he’s got as good hands as Ertz, while being an amazing blocker in the pass game as well. Both will benefit from the Eagles adding weapons this offseason. I chose Ellis over Perkins because unlike last year, when Philly was in dire need of any WR talent it could get its hands on, the Eagles are much better prepared in that department this year. Perkins is not fast enough to consistently play receiver and he’s not a good enough blocker to get consistent tight end reps(Reuben Frank, NBC Sports). Also, Ellis is a much better blocker and can even line up at fullback if needed.
O Line: Andre Dillard, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Matt Pryor, Lane Johnson, Jack Driscoll, Price Tega Wanogho, Nate Herbig, Sua Opeta, Jordan Mailata (27)
From left to right, the above shows my prediction for the 5 starters we’ll see when the season opens up in September, barring a trade or a signing for a right guard to replace the injured Brandon Brooks. To not put Jason Peters on a list of Eagles lineman hurts the soul a little, but the Bodyguard may be ready to move on finally. In his place is Dillard, last year’s first rounder who saw limited action and really wasn’t terrible in it, if you take away the disastrous game at right tackle. Seumalo was quietly an above average player last year, playing all but one snap. Kelce is getting older but still remains a high quality star and was PFF’s highest graded center. It remains to be seen of how Pryor will do but training camp will give us a good idea of whether he is the top plan of replacing Brooks who blew out his Achilles a couple weeks ago and is out for the year. Lane is the best RT in the league still. Driscoll and Tega Wanogho were the two drafted linemen, and it seems as though Driscoll’s future is inside at guard (perhaps Brooks’ heir apparent?) and Prince will try and master the departed Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s role as the swing tackle. Opeta and Herbig are both backup guards as well who are well liked by Jeff Stoutland, the O Line coach. Lastly, Mailata has been a project for a couple years and it appears the uncertainty at tackle behind Lane Johnson will let Mailata try one last season to establish himself on this team.
Defensive End: Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat, Genard Avery, Shareef Miller (32)
Graham played really west last year, and along with Fletcher Cox is one of the unquestioned leaders on this defense. I would guess that the Eagles picking up Barnett’s 5th year option next year means that they aren’t yet done with him, but this year would be as good a time as ever for him to finally break out and be the first round talent they selected back in 2017. Josh Sweat was the breakout guy last year, and I’m really impressed with his talent and he heads into the season. Avery, traded from the Browns last year, is very athletic but may be relegated to special teams and subpackages. Shareef Miller is a complete question mark, we should see him in action this year though and be able to gauge how productive he can be.
Defensive Tackle: Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Malik Jackson, Hassan Ridgeway (36)
Boy, this is going to be fun to watch this year. Cox, Hargrave, and Jackson are going to absolutely wreak havoc on offensive lines around the league. This has the potential to be the best DT group in the league by a wide margin, provided they stay healthy. Cox of course is a perennial Pro Bowler, and is in the prime of his career still. I’m excited to see how the Eagles use Hargrave, who is a non-traditional NT in the sense that he can also bulldoze the QB, which is what he did a ton in Pittsburgh. In Philly, he’ll have the opportunity to do that without much opposition as most of the attention will be focused on Cox. This also helps out Malik Jackson, a former Pro Bowler who missed all of last season after being injured in Week 1. All 3 are very good at getting penetration through to the QB, and it will be a mystery as to how teams plan to stop them. Ridgeway returns from last year after playing valuable minutes, he’s a very good 4th option here.
Linebacker: Nate Gerry, T.J. Edwards, Davion Taylor, Duke Riley (40)
Probably the position group with the most mystery, the linebacking corp is definitely a weak spot on this roster. Nate Gerry and TJ Edwards return as the starters, and the coaching staff is very fond of both of them. Edwards dragged himself all the way from being a UDFA last year to being a core starter, so it’s clear that he has big potential, and it’ll be interesting to see if he can turn it into a breakout this year. Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley were both drafted this year, and while Bradley isn’t on this list, it’s possible that he could push for playing time later in the year. Taylor is a very raw prospect who didn’t start playing football until his freshman year of college, but is a very athletic guy with a ton of upside. Riley is the projected 3rd linebacker who could be a sleeper this year.
Cornerback: Darius Slay, Avonte Maddox, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Sidney Jones, Cre’Von LeBlanc, Craig James (46)
Darius Slay is the shiny new #1 here, as Philly managed to pluck him away from Detroit this offseason. He joins Maddox as the two presumed starting outside corners for 2020. They are joined by Robey-Coleman in the slot and at 1.1million, he comes in as an effective steal, having been one of the top nickel corners in the game when with the Rams. Sidney Jones should be competing for snaps this year with Maddox, and he showed some flashes last year, but it is fair to wonder whether his best days were sapped by the injury he had while working out at his pro day, and he may be one of the names we hear come trade deadline season. LeBlanc, when healthy is a competent slot CB as well and should back up NRC, while James gets the nod here over guys like Trevor Williams and Rasul Douglas(another trade name) due to his work on special teams. This should be a much improved corps this season and hopefully the Eagles will benefit from the additions.
Safety: Rodney McLeod, Jalen Mills, Will Parks, K’Von Wallace (50)
Totally different safety room this season. Malcolm Jenkins is gone, leaving a massive hole in the room. McLeod is back, manning the free safety role, while Mills slots in replacing Jenkins in the box. I don’t assume this tandem will last the entire season, as I’m sure that Jim Schwartz will try and switch things around by inserting Parks and Wallace in at various opportunities. Parks comes over from Denver, and should start as the 3rd safety when needed, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he pushes for a bigger role down the line. I see the same from Wallace, who was a 3 year starter at Clemson and brings a ton of fire and confidence to the position room. I think Parks and Wallace could potentially be the safeties of the future for Philly and they will undoubtedly get a lot of chances to show their talent on the field. Grayland Arnold could be a sneaky pick here too, as I hear Philly really likes him and is converting the former UDFA from corner to safety.
Special Teams: Jake Elliot, Rick Lovato, Cameron Johnston (53)
Pretty simple here guys. 61 yarders, one of the best punters in the league, rinse and repeat.
Photo Credit: NBC Sports
Sam Wagman Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Graham, Carson Wentz, Corey Clement, Dallas Goedert, Derek Barnett, DeSean Jackson, Eagles, Fletcher Cox, football, Jalen Mills, Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles, Rasul Douglas, Sidney Jones, Zach Ertz