stefen wisniewski

Making cases for and against 12 Eagles on the roster bubble

Making cases for and against 12 Eagles on the roster bubble

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? 

Wendell Smallwood

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. 

Mack Hollins

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. 

Greg Ward 

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. 

Stefen Wisniewski 

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. 

Matt Pryor 

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. 

Daeshon Hall 

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. 

Shareef Miller

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. 

Treyvon Hester 

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. 

T.J. Edwards 

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. 

Orlando Scandrick 

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. 

Rudy Ford 

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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Hall of Famers, Braxton Miller, and more in Roob's random observations

Hall of Famers, Braxton Miller, and more in Roob's random observations

Some random thoughts on Eagles cornerbacks, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Braxton Miller, Mackey Sasser and much more as we continue to count down the days until these football games actually mean something.

• I like what Carson Wentz said the other day about spending more time in the pocket this year. It’s really part of the natural progression most athletic quarterbacks go through as they truly develop a thorough understanding of their offense. They still can run but they just don’t need to run. Randall Cunningham ran 500 times his first seven years, but by his MVP season with the Vikings in 1998 he ran only 32 times (including 11 kneel-downs). Donovan McNabb ran 349 times his first five years, but in the Super Bowl season, when he had by far his best passing numbers, he ran only 41 times all year (including 11 kneel-downs). Russell Wilson ran over 6.0 times per game his first six seasons but last year, when he had his best passing numbers, he ran only 50 times all year not counting 15 kneel-downs. The key is that when it does make sense to take off and make a play with your legs, you don’t hesitate, and Carson promises he will. I honestly think we could see him take his game to another level this year. With these weapons? I’d be surprised if he doesn’t.

• Cody Parkey went into last year as the 8th-most accurate kicker in NFL history. His 77.8 career percentage from 50 yards and out (on 7-for-9) is 5th-best in NFL history among kickers who’ve attempted at least five of them. He was 21-for-23 with the Dolphins in 2017. Pretty darn good resume. And he can’t get a job. Incredible what hitting a few posts and double-doinking a postseason game-winning attempt will do for you. Tough line of work. 

• Very curious what the Eagles will do with Clayton Thorson. He followed his encouraging game in Jacksonville last Thursday with a very good week of practice. Really looks like he’s turned the proverbial corner. So do they still try to clear him through waivers to get him onto the practice squad and risk losing him? Or do they keep a guy who won’t play this year on the 53-man roster and cut somebody else they want to keep? Right now, I’d say there’s about a 35 percent chance Thorson would get claimed if they cut him. But two more productive preseason games and that number is going to go up significantly. Tricky decision for Howie.

• I don’t know why the Pro Football Hall of Fame continually snubs deserving former Eagles like Eric Allen, Harold Carmichael, Al Wistert, Harold Jackson and Seth Joyner. But I do know that it’s absurd that a franchise that’s been around for 88 years is represented by only six players who spent more than half their career here: Dawk, Reggie, Chuck Bednarik, Pete Pihos, Tommy McDonald and Steve Van Buren. That’s it.

• It’s great that Ronald Darby is back, and it’s not that I don’t like Darby, but I can’t help thinking Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones are the Eagles’ two best options right now at outside corner. 

• I hope things work out for Braxton Miller with the Browns. He’s a good kid and things haven’t worked out for him since he got hurt in 2014 and lost his job quarterback Ohio State. He’s changed positions, becoming a wide receiver, and bounced from the Texans to the Eagles to the Browns. It’s been a rough few years. But I’ve got to be honest. I never saw him make one play at training camp. The Eagles were pretty high on him going into camp, but he just never ever flashed. 

• The Eagles and Packers are the only NFL teams that haven’t had a 50-catch running back in either of the last two seasons. As much as the Eagles work with all their backs in the receiving game, I’m not sure they’ll have one this year either. I do think Miles Sanders will eventually become a dangerous NFL receiver, but that’s probably a year or two away.

• What the heck happened to Stefen Wisniewski? I’ve never seen a guy just lose the ability to snap the football accurately like he has. It’s like Macky Sasser. Or Chuck Knoblauch. The inability to execute the most routine play. Wisniewski is still a solid guard, but he’s here to back up the three inside positions, and if you can’t trust him to play center, does it make sense to keep him? Wisniewski has started a ton of games in the league at center and was a Super Bowl starter at guard two years ago, but I’m not sure the Eagles can afford to keep him around.

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Eagles stock up, stock down after first few days of 2019 training camp

Eagles stock up, stock down after first few days of 2019 training camp

We haven’t gotten very far into training camp yet, so there’s still plenty of time for things to change. 

But since the Eagles are off on Sunday, we’re at a good spot to look back at the first three days and see who got off to a fast start at camp and who didn’t. 

Here’s the first stock report of the summer: 

Stock up

Sidney Jones
The former second-round pick (and first-round talent) is healthy and looks like the extremely talented player the Eagles thought they were drafting back in 2017. Many fans were ready to write Jones off, but if he can stay healthy, he might have a bright future. He’s made plays all three days, but his juggling interception on a deep ball from Nate Sudfeld really stood out. He’s also had quite a few pass breakups already. 

Kamu Grugier-Hill
It seems like Grugier-Hill is well ahead of free agent pickup Zack Brown right now and I think KGH is going to be a real starter in his fourth NFL season. He had a nice interception on Saturday to step in front of a Carson Wentz throw and show off his hands. 

Dallas Goedert
After a promising spring, Goedert is at it again. Aside from just the plays he’s been making, it’s also the role we’re seeing develop for him. The Eagles are using a ton of 12 personnel early in camp and they seem to have put an emphasis on finding ways to get the ball to him near the line of scrimmage. Something to keep in mind for when the games begin. 

Mack Hollins 
Heck, Hollins could make this list just for being healthy, but he’s been making plays too. After 18 months away (Roob caught up with Hollins to talk about it, he's been making some nice catches already this summer. On Friday, he made a pretty impressive one-handed grab near the sideline. And he’s even been mixing in with the first-team offense. It seems like as long as he stays healthy, Hollins is going to be the team’s fifth receiver option this season and definitely make the squad. 

Stock down

Jalen Mills
The only player on the team to begin camp on the PUP list. This foot injury has been a lengthy one and based on the play of Jones, Rasul Douglas and Avonte Maddox, I think that with every day Mills misses, his chances of not having a job to return to increase. Maybe this was the plan all along for him, but it seems like he’s falling behind. We could also include Cre’Von LeBlanc and Blake Countess here too; both got hurt already. 

Josh Hawkins
With some really good play from the corners in front of him, Hawkins has struggled early in camp. Even aside from the first day, when DeSean Jackson had no trouble separating from him on three plays nearly all back-to-back, Hawkins has been beaten too much deep. Depending on what Orlando Scandrick has left, Cre'Von LeBlanc's injury might have opened up a roster spot for a corner. The good news for Hawkins is he has a lot of time to turn things around. 

Stefen Wisniewski 
It seems like Halapoulivaati Vaitai at right guard is more than just cross training. At this point, it appears that if Brandon Brooks misses any time at the beginning of the season, it’ll be Big V filling in. That’s somewhat surprising, considering a guy who started at guard for the Eagles during their Super Bowl run is still on the roster. That’s one knock against Wiz and the other is that he’s had a few low snaps as the second-team center. With so many folks wanting to see Nate Sudfeld this summer, it’s been even more noticeable. 

Braxton Miller 
While the other receivers who are battling for the last roster spots — like Greg Ward and Marken Michel — have all made plays so far, I haven’t seen much from Miller. That doesn’t mean he’s been making mistakes, but this is when receivers need to make plays. I haven’t seen many balls even go his way. I hope some start to soon, because coming into the spring, he was getting talked up and I thought he was a dark horse candidate to make the team. 

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