Eagles

5 Eagles veterans on the bubble for 2021 training camp

Eagles

The Eagles report for training camp on July 27 and that’s when they’ll begin the process of evaluating their players to whittle down their roster to 53.

The new rules this year cut the roster to 85 by Aug. 17, to 80 by Aug. 24 and to 53 by Aug. 31.

Here are a five players who are firmly on the bubble this year:

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside

This is probably the last chance for Arecega-Whiteside, who was a second-round pick back in 2019. It’s fair to say his first two NFL seasons haven’t gone to plan. In 24 total games, the receiver from Stanford has just 14 catches for 254 yards and 1 touchdown. I could show you the stats of the guys who were drafted after him, but I don’t want to put you through that. Just know that this pick obviously doesn’t look good. Now, is there a chance JJAW can turn his career around? Maybe. But the problem is that he had a very good training camp last year and got hopes up before another disappointing season. So even if he wows at training camp and makes the team, I’d understand if you’re going to wait to see him do it in real games.

This spring, the Eagles actually began to get Arecega-Whiteside some reps inside as a slot receiver. He’d obviously be a big-bodied slot and I’d even wonder about him possibly trying to play tight end one day if receiver doesn’t work out. He has good body control and could get some favorable matchups inside. But the fact that his strength coming out of college was winning 50-50 balls on the outside makes is seem like the Eagles are just scratching to get anything out of him before they move on. I’m not totally ready to give up on him, but it’s starting to seem like if he has a career it won’t be here.

 

Genard Avery

During the 2019 season, the Eagles traded a fourth-round pick to Cleveland to land Avery and … it hasn’t gone well. Avery showed real promise during his rookie season in Cleveland, piling up 4 1/2 sacks but since then he has just 2 in 19 games with the Eagles. He had one good game last year against San Francisco and that was pretty much it. When the Eagles traded for Avery, Howie Roseman made sure to point out that the Eagles were getting 2 1/2 years with Avery under contract but he’s anything but a sure thing to make this roster for that final season.

The Avery trade seemed like a clear miscommunication between front office and coaching. For a tweener player like Avery, you need to have a plan. It never seemed like Jim Schwartz did. But maybe Jonathan Gannon does. We’ve heard that Avery is moving to linebacker and then the Eagles drafted Patrick Johnson in the seventh-round. So perhaps the Eagles are planning to have some sort of standup rusher position. If that’s the case, then maybe Avery has a chance of sticking around.

Kerryon Johnson

It wasn’t that long ago that Johnson was a second-round pick who had a promising rookie season in Detroit in 2018. But since then, knee injuries have slowed him down and he was the odd man out with the Lions, who waived him this offseason. The Eagles claimed Johnson and then got him to renegotiated his contract down to veteran minimum. But even with a lighter salary, Johnson will need to prove he has something left to make the Eagles roster.

The crazy thing is that Johnson is still just 23. The veteran running back has averaged just 3.5 yards per attempt over the last two years, which is alarming. If he can make the roster behind Miles Sanders, Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell, Johnson might still be able to help, especially on passing downs. Johnson is considered one of the best pass blocking running backs in the league. It’ll be fun to watch him at camp this year, just to see what he has left.

John Hightower

For a fifth-round receiver, Hightower certainly had his chances. Maybe he got too much playing time too soon. He played 219 snaps in a four-game stretch early in the year and then barely played the rest of the way. He clearly entered the doghouse and ended up catching just 10 passes on 29 targets for 167 yards. His catch rate of 34.5% was by far the worst in the NFL among players with at least 20 targets. The next closes was Jeff Smith at 45.9%.

There’s going to be a numbers crunch at the receiver position and we’ll see how many Nick Sirianni is going to keep. We can reasonably assume DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward and Travis Fulgham are in. After that, it’s likely Quez Watkins is the fifth. So perhaps JJAW and Hightower are fighting for a sixth spot that may or may not exist.

 

Hassan Ridgeway

The Eagles re-signed Ridgeway to a one-year deal this offseason to bring the 26-year-old back for his third season in Philadelphia. And that made sense because he had a year of crossover with Nick Sirianni and Jonathan Gannon in Indianapolis. But the big problem for Ridgeway has been health. The defensive tackle has played just 19 games over his last three seasons and he’s lasted just seven games in each of his two seasons with the Eagles. Ridgeway is a good player when healthy, but it’s hard to rely on him.

It seemed like Ridgeway would be a roster lock but then the Birds drafted Milton Williams in the third round and Marlon Tuipulotu in the sixth. It still seems likely that Ridgeway makes the team but if the rookies look really good in training camp, perhaps the Eagles would move on.

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