Eagles

Ranking candidates to win Eagles' last few skill position roster spots

Ranking candidates to win Eagles' last few skill position roster spots

The Eagles have a pretty deep roster, but not all 53 spots are locked up. 

Among those spots up for grabs over the next few months are notably two or three skill positions spots, likely one running back and one or two receivers. 

These battles will be two of the more enjoyable ones this spring or summer, because while there are some front-runners, those spots seem to be pretty open for competition. 

Let’s take a closer look (we also talked about it in the latest Eagle Eye pod at the bottom): 

Running back

On the roster: Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, Corey Clement

The top two are total locks. The Eagles traded for Howard, who is third in the NFL in rushing yards over the last three seasons. And they drafted Sanders in the second round. Neither of them are going anywhere. And as long as Clement is healthy — he’s still recovering from a knee injury that ended his 2018 season early — I expect him to be back on the roster. He had a promising 2017 season and was a hero in Super Bowl LII.  

Open spots:

It seems likely the Eagles are going to carry four running backs. They kept four coming out of training camp last year and have held four for most of the time under Doug Pederson. In 2017, they came out of camp with five, but that was because they forced Donnel Pumphrey on the roster for a short time. Count on four this year. 

The candidates, ranked

Wendell Smallwood: Go ahead and count out Smallwood at your own peril. This guy has been cut by fans and media members for a couple years now and it still hasn’t happened. No, he’s never thrived in the feature role, but he’s been fairly productive in three years after being taken in the fifth round. In fact, 2018 was his most productive year yet. He had 364 yards on the ground with three touchdowns and an average of 4.2 yards per carry. He also caught 28 balls and had two receiving touchdowns. He can do a little bit of everything, including returning kicks. I’d list him as the favorite for now. 

Josh Adams: Pretty strange rookie season for Josh Adams. He didn’t make the initial 53-man roster but then ended up leading the team in rushing before basically getting benched in the playoffs. We found out he had a shoulder injury and had offseason surgery, so maybe that was part of the reason. He isn’t practicing yet. The problem with Adams might be his lack of versatility. He caught just seven passes last year and is probably better suited for first and second downs, which is when Howard or Sanders will be on the field. He also hasn’t been a return man. 

Boston Scott: Scott is certainly interesting. It’s hard to look at the 5-foot-6 running back and not think of Darren Sproles. Scott joined the Eagles in December, so this will be his first offseason with the team. He was a sixth-round pick by the Saints out of Louisiana Tech last year. If the Eagles want someone to fill that Sproles role of a pass catcher out of the backfield, maybe that’s Scott. Although he didn’t catch the ball a ton in college, he seems pretty smooth doing it. He might also be able to punt return, but he didn’t do that in college either. Some projection with him, but we’ll see what he can do this summer. 

Donnel Pumphrey: The fourth-round pick from a couple years ago is back on the Eagles’ roster, but is a dark horse for this job. He’d need to really impress this spring and summer. But just last training camp, he really had a legitimate chance to make the team before he got hurt and Smallwood stayed healthy. I don’t like his chances, but they might be a tad higher than you’d think, in that they’re non-zero. 

Receiver

On the roster: Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor, JJ Arcega-Whiteside

I don’t think there’s much arguing with these four. Sure, maybe Agholor gets traded, but I think it’s unlikely at this point and if he doesn’t get dealt, he’s clearly on the roster. And JJAW was a second-rounder; he’s making the team.

Open spots: 1 or 2

After keeping five receivers out of camp in 2016, the Eagles have kept six in each of the past two seasons at initial cuts. My guess would be they go with six again. (Just to see how far they’ve come, the five they kept initially in 2016 were Jordan Matthews, Agholor, Josh Huff, Dorial Green-Beckham and Paul Turner.) 

The candidates, ranked

Mack Hollins: I think Hollins will make the roster if he can just get on the field. That hasn’t been easy for him. It’s been an unusually long rehab. He wasn’t even on the field for the start of OTAs earlier this week, which seems crazy. But if he does return, he’s a really good special teams contributor and was a fourth-round pick a couple years ago. He had a promising rookie season too, catching 16 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown. 

Shelton Gibson: On one hand, he’s a really good gunner on the punt team. On the other hand, the Eagles desperately needed a speed receiver last year and he still couldn’t get on the field. His over-hyped training camp last year didn’t translate into productivity or even snaps when the games mattered. His one catch in 2018 was a 48-yarder. 

Charles Johnson: Most recently, Johnson was the top receiver in the now-defunct AAF, but the 30-year-old has been around pro football for a while. He was a seventh-round pick in 2013. It might seem strange to keep a 30-year-old dude as a deep reserve/special teamer, but Johnson did get a few first-team reps during Tuesday’s practice in the absence of Jeffery. 

Braxton Miller: Miller joined the Eagles’ practice squad in early September and stayed there the rest of last year. A former third-round pick and big-name college quarterback at Ohio State, Miller is certainly intriguing. He could catch the eye of Pederson as a gadgety-type player and maybe a returner. Pederson has talked Miller up some this offseason. 

Greg Ward: Like Miller, Ward is a former college quarterback (Houston) still making the transition to receiver. His time with the Eagles dates back to 2017, but he also played in the AAF. The Eagles brought him back again this offseason, though it seems like Miller is the new favorite project. 

DeAndre Thompkins: The rookie from Penn State got a nice chunk of change to come to the Eagles and is intriguing because of his speed and his potential as a punt returner. But Thompkins had a problem with drops in college and might be more of a longer-term project. Maybe a practice squad guy. 

Marken Michel: The brother of NFL running back Sony Michel, Marken Michel went to the Calgary Stampeders in the CFL after he didn’t make the Vikings’ roster in 2016. He was the CFL West Division Rookie of the Year in 2017.

Carlton Agudosi: The Rutgers’ product is 6-6, 220 pounds, so he definitely stands out on the field. He didn’t put up big numbers in college but spent some time on the Cardinals’ practice squad in 2017. 

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Eagle Eye podcast: Should the Eagles bring back Shady?

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Eagle Eye podcast: Should the Eagles bring back Shady?

On the latest Eagle Eye podcast, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro figure out if the Eagles should sign LeSean McCoy or another veteran running back. 

Looking closer at the all-Andy Reid vs. all-Doug Pederson teams. Roob’s dispels some long-standing Eagles myths. And the guys continue better or worse with a deeper dive into the cornerback position. 

It’s all right here: 

  • (1:55) — Carlos Hyde will not be joining the Eagles.
  • (8:28) — Available veteran running backs.
  • (16:41) — All-time Andy Reid Eagles vs All-time Doug Pederson Eagles.
  • (32:13) — Debunking 10 Eagles myths.
  • (39:57) — Better or Worse: Cornerback.
  • (47:06) — Brian Dawkins advocates for mental health. 

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More on the Eagles 

ESPN unveils new 2020 projections with Super Bowl chances, playoff predictions

ESPN unveils new 2020 projections with Super Bowl chances, playoff predictions

With June almost here, we're a little more than three months away from the start of football, which means it's time to fire up the arguments about which teams will dominate the 2020 regular season.

ESPN unveiled its 2020 Football Power Index rankings on Tuesday, an analytics-based look at all 32 teams, and no one should be surprised by the No. 1 team, defending champion Kansas City. Good for Andy Reid.

But outside the top two teams - the Chiefs and the No. 2 Ravens - it's clear ESPN's rankings believe the NFC is the stronger conference, with six of the top eight teams hailing from the NFC.

Including, you guessed it, the Eagles.

The Eagles rank No. 6 in the league, according to ESPN, one year after they won the NFC East despite a rash of injuries and setbacks. It feels fair: the Birds didn't even reach the Divisional Round of the playoffs, but this year they'll (hopefully) be healthy and ready to make some noise.

The problem for Eagles fans, however, comes when you look one spot above the Eagles to No. 5 and find... the Cowboys.

Rough.

ESPN's projections basically have the Eagles and Cowboys in a dead heat - which is fair - but they give Dallas the slight advantage instead of the Birds, an interesting decision considering the ways both teams finished their respective seasons last year.

Here's a look at a few of ESPN's more interesting projected stats:

5. Dallas Cowboys
Projected wins: 9.3
Chance to reach playoffs: 69%
Chance to win NFC East: 48%
Chance to win Super Bowl: 4.8%

6. Philadelphia Eagles
Projected wins: 9.1
Chance to reach playoffs: 66%
Chance to win NFC East: 44.7%
Chance to win Super Bowl: 4.3%

ESPN's Seth Walden explained Tuesday that the relative consistency in Dallas's offensive personnel, plus the addition of Mike McCarthy as the team's new head coach, gives the Cowboys the advantage.

It's certainly an explanation. 

One might imagine that, given the teams' fairly even offseasons, these projections would take recent history into account and give the Eagles the slight upper hand. Alas, it's the other way around.

I know I'll gladly take the coach with a more recent Super Bowl win, and the team with the more recent division championship, until proven otherwise.

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More on the Eagles