The Eagles have some decisions to make.
While the Eagles have most of their roster spots solidified, they have a deep 90-man roster, which means it won’t be easy for the front office and coaching staff to whittle down the list to 53 guys.
“It's going to be hard,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “It's going to be hard to make decisions on some of these positions because we have talent and depth at a lot of them.”
With that in mind, here are 12 Eagles who are firmly on the bubble as final cuts loom. I’ll make the case for keeping them on the 53-man roster and the case for cutting them.
QB Clayton Thorson
The case for: The Eagles don’t want to risk losing Thorson on waivers. They just used a fifth-round pick to draft him out of Northwestern and he’s really started to show progress over the last month. Thorson could be the backup of the future, so burning a roster spot on him, which means keeping four QBs, is worth it.
The case against: You really want to waste a roster spot on a guy who we all know won’t play this season? (If he does play, a few things have gone terribly wrong.) Four quarterbacks is just too many on a deep roster; it means cutting someone who could actually help this season. And if Thorson gets cut, he’ll pass through waivers. How many teams are going to claim a quarterback who doesn’t know their system and use one of their 53-man spots on him?
The case for: Smallwood is old reliable. No, he isn’t a superstar, but Smallwood has 850 career rushing yards and actually leads the Eagles in that category since 2016. He’d be a good backup for Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders if one of them goes down and he does more than a player like Josh Adams. So if the Eagles want to keep five running backs, Smallwood should be their guy. If they don’t keep him, he probably ends up on a roster somewhere else.
The case against: It doesn’t make sense to keep five running backs. After all, the Eagles should be set with Howard, Sanders, Corey Clement and Darren Sproles. If Smallwood is on the team, he probably won’t even play unless there’s an injury and while he’s a decent player, there’s nothing he does better than someone we already know is on the roster.
The case for: At least he’s finally healthy and Hollins really is a pretty good special teamer, which is important for an end-of-the-roster receiver. Despite missing last season, there’s still reason to think Hollins has some potential. After all, he did catch 16 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown in his rookie season after being taken in the fourth round in 2017.
The case against: Hollins has trouble staying healthy. Last year, the groin injuries kept him out all season and he missed considerable time this summer with a hip injury. And while he is a pretty good special teamer, maybe we’re overvaluing that part of his game. As a receiver, he’s been outplayed this summer by guys like Greg Ward and Marken Michel.
The case for: If the Eagles keep six receivers, Ward should make the team, but you can even make a case if they keep just five. He had a better camp than Hollins and offers more value offensively. If an outside receiver goes down this year, JJ Arcega-Whiteside will fill in. What about a slot receiver? Maybe JJAW could do that too, but Ward would be a more natural fit as a backup slot guy. And his QB background makes him an intriguing player for gadget plays.
The case against: The Eagles probably don’t need to keep six receivers and they’ve had no problem sneaking Ward to the practice squad before. As well as Ward has performed this summer, Hollins was a draft pick and the Eagles seem to think he has more upside, especially when it comes to making big plays. Hollins is clearly the better special teamer.
The case for: This guy started in the Super Bowl less than two years ago. He’s a backup who has a ton of NFL experience (123 games, 101 starts) and experience within this offense. And he’s versatile. He’s played guard and center in the league. Wiz came back this season for a pretty cheap price given his experience.
The case against: While he’s been versatile in the past, Wiz has had serious issues snapping the ball this summer, so he might actually be a liability at center. So, really, he’s not versatile. He’s simply the backup at left guard, a position that he eventually won in 2017 but was taken away from him early in 2018. And cutting him would save around $1.5 million in cap space.
The case for: Pryor has versatility as a guard and a tackle and has played both in practice. He also has a year under his belt learning the Eagles offense. Even though 2018 was basically a redshirt season, the Eagles have already invested plenty of time in the sixth-round pick.
The case against: He’s versatile, but how good is he? Pryor has been guilty of several penalties this offseason and it would still take at least two injuries for him to get on the field. The Eagles would probably be able to get Pryor to the practice squad. Players get claimed off waivers way more infrequently after final cuts than you’d think.
The case for: The guy has been a monster this preseason. You could argue he hasn’t just earned a roster spot, but that he’s earned real playing time. He has 3 sacks, 4 TFLs, 8 QB hits and 2 forced fumbles in three preseason games, leading the Eagles in every single category. He’s also a former third-round pick who has plenty of upside.
The case against: The preseason doesn’t matter to coaches as much as practice, where he hasn’t been as electrifying. And, like it or not, the Eagles used a draft pick on Josh Sweat and there’s still a lot of buzz around him.
The case for: The Eagles just used a fourth-round pick on the local product and he’s shown some encouraging flashes this summer. His numbers aren’t as great as Hall’s this preseason, but he still has 2 sacks, 3 TFLs and 4 QB hits. Like any young player, if they cut him, the Eagles would have to hope he makes it through waivers to get him to the practice squad.
The case against: Miller has shown flashes, but he’s still too raw, he still needs time in the weight room and still needs to develop better pass rush moves. Keeping him on the roster could mean cutting a player who could actually help more this season. And getting him through waivers might not be as difficult as you’d think.
The case for: This guy got a finger on the double-doink in Chicago and blocked another kick this preseason; so he can help on special teams. After joining the Eagles during last season, Hester looks much more comfortable in the defense and has gotten good push this summer. He gives the Eagles very good depth at DT, a position where they lacked it last season.
The case against: The Eagles traded for Hassan Ridgeway on Day 3 of the draft and he’s been ahead of Hester on the depth chart. So if they keep four defensive tackles, it probably makes more sense to keep Ridgeway, who also has more NFL experience and has had more productivity.
The case for: The Eagles don’t have a ton of depth at linebacker and they didn’t draft one, so the UDFA is their best chance to groom a young ‘backer this season. Edwards got off to a slow start in training camp, but has flashed recently with 11 tackles and two TFLs this preseason. He is also a pure MIKE and looks like he can also help on special teams.
The case against: He’s an undrafted rookie so every NFL team already passed on him multiple times in the draft. So if the Eagles don’t think he’d play this season, they could find a spot for Edwards on their practice squad.
The case for: After Cre’Von LeBlanc went down, Scandrick was signed and plugged in as the second-team nickel. He’d enter the season as the primary backup nickel corner and would be a veteran presence in a cornerback group that is pretty young. If the Eagles want to IR LeBlanc with the goal to return him, he needs to be on the initial roster, so keeping Scandrick would ensure depth going into Week 1.
The case against: The Eagles could cut Scandrick and then bring him back after Week 1 or whenever they need him to avoid guaranteeing his contract this season. And if LeBlanc or Jalen Mills return, Scandrick becomes expendable.
The case for: He hasn’t been here long (traded to the Eagles on Thursday), but the 24-year-old safety played 455 special teams snaps for the Cardinals over the last two years. Every season, teams keep guys who are pure special teamers and Ford would fit that role.
The case against: He’s been here for less than a week and missed all of training camp. And the Eagles seem set at safety — Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Andrew Sendejo, Johnathan Cyprien and maybe Tre Sullivan or Deiondre’ Hall — so keeping Ford would simply be a move for special teams. That’s more of a luxury than a necessity.
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