The Eagles will begin the process of whittling down their roster this week before ultimately landing on their 53-man roster at final cuts.
They must be down to 85 players by Aug. 17, 80 players by Aug. 24 and then 53 players by Aug. 31.
For the most part, we know which Eagles are going to be on the team. But every year there end up being a few surprise cuts, and also a few surprise members of the roster.
Let’s take a look at seven players who have a better shot to make this roster than you might think:
LB Genard Avery
You might be ready for the Eagles to give up on Avery, who was brought in when the Eagles traded a fourth-round pick for him during the 2019 season. Avery hasn’t done much in his year and a half with the Eagles, but he has a new position this year and based on what we’ve seen in training camp, DC Jonathan Gannon likes Avery in this role. Avery has been dealing with a groin injury recently but before that he was getting first-team reps quite often. The Eagles’ PR staff even listed him as a starter at SAM.
This summer, the Eagles have been figuring out this position, which is a hybrid rusher and off-ball linebacker. Avery has been ahead of Joe Ostman and Patrick Johnson at this spot. But Johnson is starting to make a push. In any case, it seems like Gannon wants this position in his defense and Avery is still the top option.
S Elijah Riley
The Eagles will have a few tough decisions to make at the safety position. If Rodney McLeod is off PUP, he’s obviously going to count. So we’re looking at McLeod, Anthony Harris, K’Von Wallace and Marcus Epps as the most likely safeties on the roster. But Riley has been a special teams standout this summer. Based on the way we’ve seen him get run with the top special teams units, he’s a name to keep in mind around final cuts. The Army product has been having a good summer and even had an interception against the Steelers. They might opt to keep him over veteran Andrew Adams.
WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside
Of all the names on this list, you’re going to be most familiar with Arcega-Whiteside, the former second-round pick. Many fans are probably ready to cut their losses with JJAW, but I’m not so sure the team will be. After all, it’s never fun to throw in the towel with a high-round draft pick. I don’t think JJAW has necessarily done anything to earn his spot, but he could be the sixth receiver on the roster after DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins, Travis Fulgham, Jalen Reagor and Greg Ward Jr.
This summer, we’ve seen JJAW move inside, which means he could fill the role of a big-bodied slot receiver. Not exactly why the Eagles drafted him but maybe they could still find a use for him. In Thursday’s game, JJAW played a lot, which was notable, but he also got some time on special teams. He played 7 special teams snaps and had a special teams tackle. Typically, the sixth receiver needs to play special teams.
RB Jason Huntley
The Eagles claimed Huntley last season and then used a roster spot on him the whole year without really playing him much. So that shows you how much the organization likes him. Sure, there’s a new coaching staff, but the front office and scouting departments are still here.
And this summer, Huntley has been very impressive. He seems to break a big run in every day of practice and might force the Eagles to carry five running backs into the season. He’s also a good option as a kick returner.
DT T.Y. McGill
The 28-year-old veteran spent last season on the Eagles’ practice squad but kept getting elevated and ended up playing in seven games. At this point in his career, McGill is a journeyman who has been just good enough to stick around. But this summer, he’s looked very good.
In fact, if the Eagles pick their roster on merit, McGill has probably done enough to earn a job. In fact, I think he’s clearly outplayed Hassan Ridgeway. The Eagles might try to get him to their practice squad again — it worked last year — but they’d have to be willing to lose him.
TE Tyree Jackson
The hype over Jackson this summer has been warranted. He’s a 6-foot-7 former quarterback who catches everything and doesn’t look like a guy who began playing tight end in November. Jackson looks at home in the position and is making a serious roster push.
The Eagles’ tight end position is strange because Zach Ertz is still on the team. Normally, I scoff when folks worry about getting a young player through waivers; most guys simply don’t get claimed. But I think the Eagles would be foolish to gamble with Jackson. There’s a ton of potential here.
OL Kayode Awosika
There’s a bit of a logjam on the offensive line, especially after Le’Raven Clark was taken off the PUP list. Those last couple spots will come down to guys like Sua Opeta, Luke Juriga and Awosika, the undrafted lineman from Buffalo.
To be clear, I don’t think Awosika (at least right now) will make the roster. But he has a better chance than you might think. He has looked very good all camp at guard and now the Eagles are beginning to cross train him at tackle, where he played at Buffalo. During Thursday’s game, he played just seven snaps. It seems like the Eagles might be trying to hide him.
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