Eagles

Predicting Eagles' 53-man roster before spring practices

Predicting Eagles' 53-man roster before spring practices

Updated: 9:48 a.m.: Zach Brown signed

The Eagles won’t even take the field together for another few weeks, so I’m well aware this is very premature. 

Heck, we won’t have a good idea of the 53-man roster until training camp and even then, there are going to be a few surprises. There always are. 

But for now, it’s fun to make a prediction and see how much will change in a few months. This time last year, guys like Matt Jones and Corey Nelson were going to make the roster. That didn’t work out. 

Anyway, here’s my first crack at the Eagles’ 53-man roster for 2019: 

QB (3): Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, Clayton Thorson 

I guess there’s a possibility the Eagles would roll with two QBs and try to sneak Thorson on the practice squad, but after drafting him in the fifth round, that might be too big a risk. They brought him in to develop him and they can’t do that if another team poaches him. The odd man out is former AAF QB Luis Perez. 

TE (3): Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers 

The top two guys are set and I think Rodgers is the safest bet. The Eagles still have Josh Perkins and Will Tye, but Rodgers has the inside track to make the roster after the Eagles brought him back. He was injured for a lot of 2018, but the team never soured on him. 

WR (5): Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Mack Hollins 

The Eagles kept six receivers out of training camp last year, but I’m not sure that will be the plan this year. That means Shelton Gibson, Charles Johnson and Braxton Miller are the odd guys out, but if the Eagles keep six, one of them could earn a spot. I don’t think Hollins’ roster spot is guaranteed, but he’s the favorite after the top four. 

OL (10): Jason Peters, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Andre Dillard, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Jordan Mailata, Matt Pryor, Ryan Bates

This is a little heavy on OL but I have them keeping undrafted OL Ryan Bates from PSU. I think there’s a chance the Eagles will still add a veteran guard, so that guy would then make the roster. They also kept 10 last year. Maybe Big V is traded, but if he isn’t, he’s back on the roster for 2019. 

RB (4): Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood 

I think the top three are solid. After that, there are a few guys battling for the fourth job. I’ve made the mistake of counting out Smallwood before; not doing it again. I have him beating out Josh Adams, Boston Scott and Donnel Pumphrey. 

DE (5): Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry, Josh Sweat, Shareef Miller

I don’t have Chris Long here because it seems pretty clear he’s leaning toward not returning, so these six were pretty easy. The top two are starters and then there’s the rotational players. I don’t think this group is nearly as good as the group that included Michael Bennett and Long last year. 

DT (4): Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, Tim Jernigan, Hassan Ridgeway

The top three are locks as long as Jernigan is healthy. After that, the Eagles traded for Ridgeway, so I have him on the roster for now. But he should be battling with Treyvon Hester for the last spot. I wouldn’t completely rule out Hester in that competition. The Eagles gave up a seventh for Ridgeway, but there’s no guarantee seventh-round picks make the roster. 

LB (6): Nigel Bradham, Zach Brown, Kamu Grugier-Hill, L.J. Fort, Paul Worrilow, Nate Gerry

Brown signed a one-year deal on Friday morning. He will likely start with Bradham and KGH. Fort and Worrilow are veterans and Gerry has shown flashes. All three have proven they can play special teams. Remember, Gerry is still making the conversion to LB from S. This is heavy on LB, but I'm not sure which one to take off just yet. So I'm a little light on DL until I figure that out. 

CB (6): Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox, Cre’Von LeBlanc

I don’t know how good the Eagles’ starters will be, but the depth is the reason they were never going to use a high draft pick on a corner. They like all six of these guys and barring a trade, I’d expect them to all make the roster in 2019. 

S (4): Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Andrew Sendejo, Tre Sullivan

I really thought the Eagles were going to draft a safety, but because they didn’t, Sendejo and Sullivan both make the roster. Perhaps the Eagles could still sign an available free agent, but for now, I’m sticking with these three, knowing Maddox has the ability to shift to safety if needed. 

ST (3): Jake Elliott, Cameron Johnston, Rick Lovato 

I have nothing to say about this. 

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Staying healthy not the biggest challenge for Carson Wentz

Staying healthy not the biggest challenge for Carson Wentz

The expectations are astronomical.

The comparisons are inevitable.

The pressure is incredible.

That’s the position Carson Wentz finds himself in this fall with his close friend Nick Foles now a Jacksonville Jaguar.

Wentz is The Guy now. The safety net is gone. He’s on his own now with only two possible outcomes: Win a Super Bowl and escape the inevitable Foles comparisons or fall short and deal with them the rest of his career.

We know Wentz is insanely talented.

He’s the only quarterback in NFL history to complete 64 percent of his passes with at least 70 touchdowns and fewer than 30 interceptions in his first three seasons.

But beyond whether he can stay healthy is the equally important question of whether he’s ready to handle living up to a flat-out legend.

As the only Eagles quarterback to win a Super Bowl, Foles’ legacy here is cemented for eternity.

A Super Bowl MVP. A statue. A best-selling inspirational autobiography.

That’s all Wentz has to live up to.

I think he’s very equipped to handle it,” Doug Pederson said. “He’s the type of guy who doesn’t let that kind of stuff bother him. Listen, he learned from Nick, from watching Nick and how Nick operated. He learned. He had two years of learning. I think this is a great opportunity for him to embrace his new role.

Until he wins a Super Bowl, everything Wentz does is going to be compared to what Foles did.

And no number of touchdowns, no amount of passing yards, no collection of Pro Bowl nods is going to change that.

It’s a tremendous amount of pressure trying to live up to a flat-out Philly legend.

There is going to be criticism, obviously, and there is going to be the comparison game and all that,” Pederson said. “But the best (thing) we can as coaches and players is to block it out and focus on what we’re doing. That’s what you see. He can tune that out pretty easily and just focus on his job, and getting ready for his next opponent.

There’s a school of thought that it will be good for Wentz that his pal is gone. 

The thinking is that Wentz will be able to really take ownership of the Eagles’ quarterback position now that Foles is with the Jaguars in a way he just couldn’t do when Foles was standing on the sidelines with the clipboard.

But even without Foles here literally, he’s sure here figuratively.

Pederson said the key for Wentz is to take what he’s learned from watching Foles the last two years — his ability to stay calm and relaxed in the face of adversity, to take what the defense gives him and not try to do too much, to rally the Eagles back from late deficits — and use it get the most out of his own prodigious talent.

The last two years we have been blessed … for what (Nick) has been able to do and I am happy for where Nick is and having an opportunity for himself,” Pederson said. “But this is also a great opportunity for Carson. To really regain the type of player he is, what we saw in 2017 and really what we saw in 2018 when he was playing.

Foles was 29 when he led the Eagles to the Super Bowl title.

Wentz is 26, and in the last 25 years only three quarterbacks — Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger — have won Super Bowls before their 27th birthday.

Wentz has plenty of time to join his friend and former teammate in achieving football’s greatest accomplishment. But every year he doesn’t, you know exactly what he’s going to hear.

We all know.

“Nick won a Super Bowl. When are you going to win one?”

That pressure only grew when the Eagles gave Wentz a four-year, $128 million contract extension.

Quite frankly, I don’t think a lot of that bothers him,” Pederson said. “He just moves on. He’s excited for this new season. It’s a new team, there are new guys around him. He’s energized, he feels good and I am just excited for that. I don’t like to look back. Can we learn from past experiences? Yeah we can learn from them, but I don’t want to keep going backwards, backwards, backwards. We are forward driven, forward thinking, and that is what he has to do as well.

Wentz has the arm to be the best. He has the legs to be the best. He has the mind to be the best.

The only way for him to escape the imposing shadow of his former backup is to win a Super Bowl. Or two.

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Doug Pederson thinks Jason Peters can be ‘dominant’ again in 2019

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Doug Pederson thinks Jason Peters can be ‘dominant’ again in 2019

While it’s true that Jason Peters started all 16 regular season games and the two playoff games last season, it’s also true that he didn’t look like Jason Peters. 

Not the Jason Peters we’ve come to know. 

Aside from the fact that Peters played just over 80 percent of the Eagles’ snaps in 2018, when he was on the field, he didn’t look like the same dominant player who has spoiled Eagles fans for a decade. 

Even though Peters is another year older (37) for this upcoming season, head coach Doug Pederson thinks Peters can “still be a dominant left tackle.” 

Here’s what Pederson said last month about his future Hall of Fame left tackle’s chances of having a better 2019 season as he gets further away from the ACL tear that ended his 2017 season early:  

I do believe that. Obviously there’s data behind that, that supports that [the second year after an ACL tear is better than the first]. Having a full offseason to recover and really be healthy. Even though he hasn’t been here (during OTAs), he’s had the rest and he hasn’t had the wear and tear on him. That’s why I do think that he can definitely regain what he had a couple of years ago, and still be a dominant left tackle. Still play for a few more years.

A few more years? OK, maybe Doug’s getting a little ahead of himself. For now, Peters and the Eagles have to worry about him getting through the 2019 season. Everything at this point in his illustrious career has to be year to year. 

And there are two ways to look at Peters this season: 

1. Yeah, he’s another year removed from the ACL tear and it takes time. Of course, he should be better this year. We’ve heard about how Carson Wentz didn’t have full explosion in his knee last season and the same thing was probably true of Peters too. Later in the 2018 season, despite a myriad of other injuries, Peters said he was feeling more like himself as his knee continued to strengthen. The further away from the knee injury he gets, the more back to himself he’ll be. 

2. Are you kidding me? You think time is helping Peters? Time is hurting him. Steve Miller Band and Seal warned you about this! Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future. Peters is 37 years old and getting older by the day. Father Time is undefeated and all that. Maybe his explosion wasn’t there in 2018, but the rest of his body started to fall apart too. He had quad and biceps injuries that plagued him for most of the season. Why would you expect that to get better now that he’s a year older? 

At least this season, if Peters can’t stay healthy, the Eagles will have a better contingency plan than just plugging Halapoulivaati Vaitai in at left tackle. They traded up in the first round to draft Andre Dillard with the 22nd pick. If everything goes according to the master plan, Dillard will be a backup in 2019 and then take over the left tackle spot in 2020 and hold it for the next decade. But if Peters can’t get through this season, the Dillard Era could start a little prematurely. That would be OK, but the Eagles brought Peters back at a discounted rate to play this season. 

Peters was born on Jan. 22, 1982, so he’ll be 37 years old for the entirety of the 2019 season. There are just 11 active players (still on NFL rosters) older than him. Five of those 11 are quarterbacks, three are long snappers, one’s a kicker. There are just two other position players older than Peters: TE Ben Watson and OT Andrew Whitworth. 

Here’s that full list of players: 

K Adam Vinatieri - Dec. 28, 1972 (47)
QB Tom Brady - Aug. 3, 1977 (42)
LS John Denney - Dec. 13, 1978 (41)
QB Drew Brees - Jan. 15, 1979 (40)
TE Ben Watson - Dec. 18, 1980 (39)
QB Eli Manning - Jan. 3, 1981 (38)
LS L.P. Ladouceur - March 13, 1981 (38)
QB Matt Schaub - June 25, 1981 (38)
LS Don Muhlbach - Aug. 17, 1981 (38)
QB Philip Rivers - Dec. 8, 1981 (38)
OT Andrew Whitworth - Dec. 12, 1981 (38) 

Whitworth is about a month and a half older than Peters and has had a nice career. Kind of a late-bloomer, Whitworth has spent the last two years with the Rams, missing just one game. He didn’t make it to a Pro Bowl last year, but had made the previous three. He’s about the same age as Peters and although he hasn’t had the same caliber career, he’s been able to play at a high level deep into his 30s. 

Most people seem to agree Peters is heading to Canton one day, so let’s take a closer look at Hall-of-Fame offensive linemen who have played at 37 or older in the modern era: 

C Kevin Mawae: 2009 (38), 2008 (37)
OG Bruce Matthews: 2001 (40), 2000 (39), 1999 (38), 1998 (37)
OG Randall McDaniel: 2001 (37) 
OT Jackie Slater: 1994 (40), 1993 (39), 1992 (38), 1991 (37)
C Mike Webster: 1990 (38), 1989 (37)
C Mick Tingelhoff: 1978 (38), 1977 (37)
OG Gene Hickerson: 1973 (38), 1972 (37)
RT Forrest Gregg: 1970 (37)

You’ll notice that most of the members of that group are interior offensive linemen or became interior offensive linemen later in their careers. Not many tackles. Typically, to play tackle, probably even more so in today’s NFL, quickness is needed. Quickness is one of those attributes that tends to fade with age. 

Basically, the point here is that it’s hard for an offensive linemen, especially tackles, to play deep into their 30s. It’s even somewhat rare for the best of the best, the guys who have made it into the Hall of Fame. 

The Eagles are hoping to squeeze one more year out of an all-time great. It’s worth noting that 80 percent of Peters is still better than a lot of tackles in the NFL and it’s equally worth noting that the Eagles are in win-now mode. Their window to win championships is open right now. They have a solid backup plan, but if Peters somehow could turn back the clock and re-find his dominant form, it would only help the cause. 

During training camp and the season, the Eagles will do everything in their power to limit the wear and tear on Peters’ body and prepare him to play on Sundays. We’ll find out soon enough if Pederson is right. 

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