Predicting Eagles' 53-man roster after 2 preseason games

Predicting Eagles' 53-man roster after 2 preseason games

We’ve seen all of spring practices, we’ve seen all of training camp and now, we’ve seen two preseason games. 

That’s enough to get a good guess at what the 53-man roster will look like. 

The Eagles have until 4 p.m. on Sept. 1 to cut nearly half of their players, from 90 to 53. Here’s my guess on how that goes: 

QB (3): Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, Nate Sudfeld 

Sorry, Christian Hackenberg fans. The fifth-string quarterback won’t make the team. Neither will fourth-stringer Joe Callahan. These three are locked in stone unless a quarterback on another team goes down between now and Sept. 1 and the Eagles are opportunistic. But that doesn’t happen all the time. 

RB (4): Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood

The top three are locks and the fourth guy keeps changing. Like almost every day. The four guys fighting for that job are Smallwood, Josh Adams, Donnel Pumphrey and Matt Jones. Right now I have Smallwood there because he’s been the best of a terrible race. At least he’s somehow managed to stay healthy. Pump and Adams are hurt right now and Jones is coming off a terrible performance in the second preseason game. 

If Sproles wasn’t 35 and coming off an ACL tear, I would have kept just three. 

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

I’m concerned that Rodgers won’t be ready for the start of the season, but for now, I have him on the roster. Doug Pederson said Rodgers’ knee injury is “week to week,” which doesn’t sound good. If Rodgers isn’t ready for the opener, look for Billy Brown or Josh Perkins to sneak on the roster for a week or two. 

WR (6): Alshon Jeffery, Mike Wallace, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson, Greg Ward 

I know there was a report from NFL Network about the possibility of Jeffery starting the season on PUP, but I can’t see that happening. Even if he’s not ready for the opener, I really don’t think he’s going to be unavailable for six weeks, which is what would be the case on the PUP. Even if he can’t play Week 1 or 2, he’s worth that roster spot knowing he’ll come back before six weeks is up. 

Aside from that, I think the top five are locks. Gibson deserves to be called a lock at this point. Then it gets trickier. I know the team likes Kamar Aiken, but he hasn’t shown me a ton and now he’s hurt. Markus Wheaton is hurt too. I just like Greg Ward. We’ve seen him get first-team reps with Agholor out, so that lets me know what the team thinks of him. He gets the nod for now. If Bryce Treggs didn’t get hurt, he was pushing for a spot. 

OL (9): Jason Peters, Stefen Wisniewski, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Matt Pryor, Isaac Seumalo, Jordan Mailata 

The big omission on the list is Chance Warmack. I think having Pryor and Seumalo gives the Eagles backups who are just as good at guard and more versatile. So the Warmack experiment might be over. I kept Mailata on the active roster because I think the team might worry about exposing him to waivers. Maybe he makes the team and then ends up on IR a little later, sort of like what happened with Pumphrey last year. 

DT (4): Fletcher Cox, Haloti Ngata, Destiny Vaeao, Bruce Hector

I’m pretty confident Tim Jernigan will start the season on NFI, which forces the Eagles to go a little light at DT. They have two DEs who can move inside, so they can afford it. You’ll notice I have undrafted Bruce Hector from South Florida beating out former sixth-rounder Elijah Qualls. I’ve seen Hector overtake Qualls on the depth chart and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. 

DE (6): Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Chris Long, Michael Bennett Josh Sweat, Steven Means

The Eagles can afford to go heavier at DE because they have guys who can move inside on passing downs with Graham and Bennett. Means is the last guy in. He won’t get to play much — he might be better off getting cut and finding a team with some playing time to offer — but he’s a valuable member of the Eagles even if it’s only during the week. 

LB (5): Jordan Hicks, Nate Gerry, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Joe Walker, LaRoy Reynolds

You’ll notice no Nigel Bradham. We’ll get to him in a second. Those top three are locks. Walker was a guy I left off of previous predictions, but over the last few weeks, I’ve seen that the Eagles think a lot more of him than I thought. He’s their backup MIKE and a good special teamer. LaRoy Reynolds is a solid depth piece and special teamer. I think he makes the team over Corey Nelson, who has had a disappointing summer. 

CB (6): Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox, De’Vante Bausby

A little heavy on corners, but the Eagles have depth here. I don’t think there are any surprises here. Maybe Bausby, after getting overtaken by Maddox, gets cut. But I like him as a depth piece. 

S (4): Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Corey Graham, Tre Sullivan

I had Graham on my last prediction too; he wasn’t on the team then. I think most of us were waiting for that to happen. He’ll be the third safety, but Sullivan has earned his roster spot too. 

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

Johnston hasn’t been very good this summer, but he’s the only punter on the roster. So he’s on the team. 

NFI: Tim Jernigan; PUP: Chris Maragos 

Reserve/Suspended: Nigel Bradham 

Jernigan and Chris Maragos seem destined to be on the NFI and PUP lists, respectively. Neither have practiced all summer and it doesn’t appear they’ll be ready for the opener. 

Bradham is suspended for Week 1, so he actually won’t count toward the 53-man roster. The Eagles get to keep an extra player for a week. Hooray!

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Surviving Camp Part 4: Jordan Mailata learning from all-time greats

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Surviving Camp Part 4: Jordan Mailata learning from all-time greats

Over the next few weeks of training camp, as the Eagles try to decide who to keep on their 53-man roster, we’ll be catching up weekly with former Australian rugby player and Eagles’ seventh-round pick Jordan Mailata to track his progress as he tries to defy the odds and make the Eagles’ roster less than a year after starting his quest to play American football. 

Surviving Camp Part 1: This is all new

Surviving Camp Part 2: More comfortable with guitar in hand

Surviving Camp Part 3: Staying relaxed before first game 

Jordan Mailata thought he had a good week of practice. He thought he was showing even more improvement. And he wanted the chance to show that against the Patriots last Thursday. 

Then he played just four snaps. 

“I had a lot of good highs and expected to carry that into the game,” Mailata said, “and got just four snaps. There’s nothing I can do about that; I don’t control that.” 

What Mailata can control, he does. Like well before Thursday’s game when he had a long training session with future Hall of Famer Jason Peters. Really, that was probably the most productive part of Mailata’s day. 

While most young offensive linemen in the NFL have probably worshipped Peters since they were in middle school, Mailata has known about Peters for several months. He learned about Peters watching film while he was in Florida training to try to make a career of American football. It makes sense: if you’re trying to teach a giant Aussie who has never played a snap of football in his life to play offensive tackle, watching Peters is a good start. 

When Mailata was at IMG Academy in the winter, he was shown videos of several top offensive linemen like Trent Williams, Tyron Smith, Lane Johnson, and, of course, Peters. 

“Then seeing JP in person, seeing him train, that’s another thing,” Mailata said. “He’s like an alien. He’s a freak. He really is.”

Peters has plenty on his plate. He’s been working his way back from a season-ending ACL injury and subsequent surgery but is committed to helping his rookie teammates, including a guy who has never played before. 

Mailata said during practice that after the first-team reps are done, the first- and third-teams watch the second stringers face off. That leaves some time for the perennial Pro Bowler and the former rugby player to chat. The former gives the latter plenty of tips. 

“Honestly, I’m so lucky to be where I am right now,” Mailata said. “I think recognizing that, the players that are in the locker room, especially the veterans, we as rookies are incredibly blessed. Because not only do the coaches go out of their way, the players do too. They give us little tips.”

But that advice doesn’t just come from his teammates on the offensive line. A few times during training camp, Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett, who was acquired earlier this offseason, was seen spending some time working with Mailata after practice. 

The main area Bennett stressed to Mailata was about his hand placement and punching. The cool thing is, as camp went on, Bennett saw the progress and then went back to Mailata with more advice. Next time, he stressed the importance of staying balanced. 

“Michael B, he’s been a big help,” Mailata said. “He’s always encouraging me.” 

It seems pretty clear that despite how raw Mailata is, his veteran teammates see the potential and want desperately to help bring it out. 

His goal for the next week 
“I think I just need to keep working on the same stuff again. This week, keep my pad level low in the run game and in pass pro as well. Just keep playing with low hips. That’s the massive feedback I’ve gotten from Stout. Now that we get limited reps, it’s very critical in the training session.”

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Brandon Graham stays ready in boxing ring, takes 'important step' for Eagles' 2018 opener

Brandon Graham stays ready in boxing ring, takes 'important step' for Eagles' 2018 opener

In February, Brandon Graham won a ring. In the six months since, he’s gotten in one.

Graham said Monday he’s been doing some sparring as he rehabs from postseason ankle surgery.

Graham, who had a career-high 9½ sacks last year, returned to practice Monday after spending the last three weeks on the Eagles' physically unable to play reserve list (see story).

“Boxing is real good, especially with using my hands,” he said. “I always do that during the offseason. Always focus on my hands, because as a D-lineman that’s our goal, you’ve got to use your hands in everything.

“So while I’ve been hurt I’ve just been trying to work on my coordination and make sure everything stays tight.”

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said Graham will be limited for a while here as he works off the rust.

"There are steps he's got to take along the way,” Schwartz said. “This is an important step getting back on to practice with his teammates. Probably be limited to just some individual stuff and we'll sort of work him along. But it is great to have him back.”

Graham won’t play against the Browns Thursday night and almost certainly won’t play against the Jets in the preseason finale a week later.

All he’s got on his mind is the Falcons on Sept. 6.

“All I can say is when I do start hitting people, I’m going to be so sore, but then you’ve got to work through that soreness like we always do and eventually that starts to become your armor and you build on that,” he said.

“I’m excited. Just excited to be back out there with the boys. It’s been hard standing back because you don’t want to feel behind. I don’t feel like I’m behind but they got a lot more reps than I got, so I’m just trying to catch up.

“Everybody knows when it’s time to go it’s going to be time to go. I’m just excited. We’re all excited because it’s the first step.”

Graham, who had the legendary strip-sack of Tom Brady in the closing minutes of the Super Bowl, said his ankle is fine, it’s just a matter of conditioning at this point.

Week 1?

“I’m not going to make any promises, but I’m working my butt off every day,” he said. “Putting money in the bank every day.”

Graham has missed only one game since opening day of 2012, and that was the meaningless season-ender last year against the Cowboys.

Only four defensive ends — Jerry Hughes, Cameron Jordan, Julius Peppers and Ndamukong Suh — have played more games (96, obviously) over the last five seasons.

“I’m really just focused on Week 1 right now and focus on today and how everything goes,” said Graham, now 30.

“I feel like I can get myself ready for Week 1, for sure, because I’m already doing two-a-days and sometimes two-a-days. It’s on me to make sure I continue to get my shape up and that’s just running and doing drills and pushing and pulling on people.

“I think as I continue to feel better, I’m going to continue to go harder. I’m just excited because now I can start counting down the days. I’ve got 17 days to get right.”

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