If Howie Roseman's goal at the wide receiver position this offseason was to turn a weakness into a strength, he certainly achieved it.
Even after the trade of Jordan Matthews.
As the Eagles approach their final preseason game on Thursday night, there is an intense battle brewing for the final receiver spot or two.
"This is, without a doubt, the best group that I've been around for a while," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said Monday. "I mean, from top to bottom, very competitive. They've all flashed. They all deserve to be here. I believe some of these guys, for a couple guys who might not be here, I think they're going to end up someplace else. That's how confident we feel in this group.
"I think, all in all, we're just very happy with the progress they've made and the chemistry in that room and the production that they've had in practice and in games."
It's unclear what the Eagles' receivers group will look like after final cuts. The Eagles kept just five wideouts after final cuts in 2016, but there seems to be a decent chance they'll carry six into 2017.
Most folks seem to think these four players are locks for the roster: Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor and Mack Hollins.
That means the Eagles have these six players fighting it out for either one or two remaining spots: Marcus Johnson, Shelton Gibson, Bryce Treggs, Greg Ward, Paul Turner and Rashard Davis.
Gibson was a fifth-round draft pick who played better later in the summer after a disastrous start, but he's not guaranteed a spot. Johnson has been very impressive and might be the front-runner. Treggs was on the team last year but didn't have much of an impact. Turner made the initial roster in 2016, but was cut shortly after to make room for Treggs; this summer he's dealt with a serious shoulder injury. Ward is a converted quarterback who has shown a lot of promise. And Davis is a latecomer but is a proven return man.
There are decisions to be made and they might not be easy.
So how tight is the competition for those last couple of spots?
"It's tight. It's very tight. It's always tight," Reich said. "When it comes down to those last roster spots, Coach always emphasizes that it's not only what they do as a receiver, but what they do on special teams, and how they can contribute. Position versatility and special teams, all those things factor into the roster."
For a long time, Matthews was the fifth receiver who was guaranteed to make the roster. His departure in the Ronald Darby trade seemed to open up opportunity for another player.
"If I'm in that room, and I'm one of those players, yeah, you have to believe that," Reich said.
More snaps for Kendricks?
Mychal Kendricks has been having a pretty productive preseason. That might be putting it too lightly.
"Yeah, well, I don't know if you could have any more production than him in the preseason," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "Good gracious. A little bit of it is being opportunistic, but he's been in the right spots."
Kendricks' production is hard to argue with. In three preseason games, he has three interceptions and returned one of them for a touchdown.
But the real question surrounding Kendricks is if this is the beginning of more playing time. Last year, he was a part-time player despite being a starter in the team's base package. He was the odd linebacker out when the Eagles went to the nickel package, which happens about 70 percent of the time. It's possible that the Eagles could find ways to use Kendricks as a blitzer — a role in which he thrives — but Schwartz has been hesitant in the past because he didn't want to tip their hand in such situations.
Schwartz, though, did reveal something interesting on Monday. Because Jordan Hicks has missed some time recently with a sore groin (he's expected to be fine for the opener), the Eagles worked their nickel package a little differently on Sunday. Nigel Bradham slid into the MIKE position and Kendricks replaced him in the two-linebacker nickel package. That's a look the Eagles will probably never use in the season when Hicks is healthy, but right now, they're trying to prepare for everything.
"If we had a game today, Jordan Hicks couldn't play," Schwartz said. "It's our responsibility to get the guys that can best produce on the field. He's certainly forced himself into that conversation."
Back and Beau than ever
Big ol' Beau Allen returned to the practice field on Sunday afternoon after passing his physical and being removed from the non-football injury list. Allen was pretty excited to get back on the field after working out privately throughout all of training camp.
But apparently, those private workouts on separate fields kept him in good shape — "great shape," according to Schwartz.
"Talking to him yesterday, he felt his timing was off a little bit, just timing of hands and steps," Schwartz said. "That will come back to him. He even said to me that this isn't his first rodeo. It will come back quick.
"Ideally, we'd like to get him some time in this game. He's fine. But just for, in my mind, and in his mind mentally, when we play the [Washington] Redskins, it's no longer, ‘How is it going to feel?’"