With three weeks of camp already in the books, the Eagles have some difficult decisions looming. With the second preseason game set for tonight, I took a stab at projecting my final 53.
Quarterback (2): Carson Wentz, Nick Foles
Wentz has had a phenomenal camp. The second year quarterback looks much more comfortable commanding the offense than he did last summer. The sky truly is the limit for the young signal caller.
Matt McGloin has had his share of struggles this summer, and they continued last Sunday in Green Bay. The veteran should continue to see a lot of playing time this preseason, and what he puts on tape will be on display for 31 other teams to evaluate.
If Foles is healthy in time for the regular season, the team will likely keep just two quarterbacks on the active roster, while likely reserving a third spot on the practice squad for a developmental quarterback.
Running back (4): LeGarrette Blount, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, Donnel Pumphrey
Blount brings some attitude to the Eagles backfield, and his rugged running style is tailor-made for December football in the NFC East. Sproles serves a number of roles on this team and will continue to see his fair share of snaps.
Smallwood recently returned to practice after having missed significant time this preseason with a hamstring injury. Availability has been an issue in his young career, but when he has practiced, he's been very effective running between the tackles and has shown improvement in pass protection. He also serves as the primary kick returner.
Pumphrey struggled with ball security in his debut last week, but every time he touches the ball, there is potential for a big play. In addition to running back, Pumphrey doubles as a punt retuner, and as Doug Pederson said earlier this week - he can also play slot receiver.
Glassboro, NJ native Corey Clement has performed well over the summer, and has made great strides in pass protection and catching the football. The former Wisconsin Badger has a legit shot to push Smallwood for a roster spot over the next few weeks.
Wide receiver (6): Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, Marcus Johnson, Greg Ward Jr.
Free agent additions Jeffrey and Smith are the starters on the outside, with Agholor now manning the slot for the since departed Jordan Matthews. Agholor has had a great camp, but the true test will be how he performs over the next couple of games. To me, he is the X factor of the receiving corp.
Mack Hollins had a strong debut last week, showing off his strength and athleticism on his touchdown catch. At 6-foot-4, 221lbs, Hollins brings intriguing size and speed to the offense. He is also a core member of Dave Fipp's special teams unit.
Marcus Johnson has been a camp standout, and I consider him a lock at this point. Johnson opened a lot of eyes this summer after spending some time with the first-team offense while Jeffery was sidelined. Much like Hollins, Johnson's game is speed, strength, and versatility. He has also performed well on special teams.
Greg Ward was a former quarterback at the University of Houston, and has made a smooth transition in becoming an NFL wide receiver. Ward offers the flexibility to play in the slot, return punts, and cover kicks. If they keep six, I have Ward making the team. The team really seems to like him, and I do not believe he makes it through waivers unclaimed. The next few games will determine a lot.
I also doubt the team wants to expose rookie Shelton Gibson to waivers, so I think he gets the mysterious IR stash, essentially a redshirt year.
Tight end (3): Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton
To me, Trey Burton is a player who is not talked about nearly enough. Burton gives the offense a different dimension with his versatility, and even spent some time at slot receiver this week. He provides Carson Wentz with another reliable weapon.
Undrafted rookie tight end Billy Brown picked things up quickly and has shown flashes this summer. I really like him as a practice squad project.
Offensive line (9): Jason Peters, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Chance Warmack, Halopoulivaati Vaitai, Stefan Wisniewski, Dillon Gordon
The starters are set, and on paper it looks like one of the teams strongest units. Former first round pick Warmack provides depth at both guard positions, while Wisniewski serves as Kelce's backup, and as a reserve guard.
Vaitai improved over the course of last season, and provides quality depth as a swing tackle. Gordon made the team last year as an undrafted free agent, and the team likes to use him in a myriad of ways - tackle, blocking tight end, and even fullback.
There is so much quality depth along the offensive line, that I can even see them keeping a tenth blocker (Darrell Greene or Tyler Orlosky). For now, I'm going with the nine listed above.
Defensive end (5): Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Derek Barnett, Chris Long, Steven Means
First round pick Barnett had a impressive showing last week, and I'd like to see him in the mix with the starters over the next few games. Curry has had a relatively quiet summer, and if Barnett continues to show promise, he could play himself into the starting lineup sooner rather than later.
I have Means over Alex McCalister, because he has been more consistent throughout camp and offers the flexibility to play special teams.
Defensive tackle (4): Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan, Destiny Vaeao, Justin Hamilton
Vaeao made the Eagles last year as an undrafted free agent, and now becomes the first tackle off the bench. He played well in limited snaps last season, earning 2 sacks and a forced fumble.
I have Hamilton making the team over Gabe Wright, and sixth round draft choice Elijah Qualls. Hamilton has quietly had a very good camp, and has consistently seen time as the second-team defensive tackle.
Linebacker (6): Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Mychal Kendricks, Joe Walker, Nate Gerry, Kamu Grugier-Hill
After Hicks and Bradham, things get a little tricky. With the lack of depth at the position, I do not believe they look to move Mychal Kendricks. Walker had an impressive summer last year before losing his season to a torn ACL, and would be the primary backup to Hicks.
Nate Gerry is an intriguing player. He had a solid first game, looking comfortable transitioning from collegiate safety to linebacker. I think he sees the field in certain packages this season, and contributes on special teams.
Grugier-Hill was claimed off waivers from the Patriots prior to week one last year, and has had a full offseason to acclimate himself. He is a fast, instinctive player who is a special teams demon.
Don Cherry is a player who cannot be counted out, as he has made some plays this summer, and is on the first-team kickoff unit.
Cornerback (6): Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Ron Brooks, Rasul Douglas, C.J. Smith, Aaron Grymes
The trade to acquire Darby last week gives the team a top corner to play alongside Mills. Darby is man corner who possesses 4.3 speed to matchup with NFC East wide receivers.
Brooks played very well in the slot last season before an injured quad shelved him for the remainder of the season. The veteran is a key piece to the secondary, and his health will be something to keep an eye on.
Which brings me to... Aaron Grymes. Grymes had an exceptional summer last year, and would have made the team had he not injured his shoulder in the second preseason game. Grymes can effectively step in and play the slot, should Brooks suffer any setbacks.
Safety (5): Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Corey Graham, Terrence Brooks, Chris Maragos
Jenkins and McLeod form one of the top safety tandems in the NFL. Jenkins is the unquestioned leader of the secondary.
Veteran Corey Graham was signed two weeks ago to provide additional depth, and is known around the league for his special teams prowess. He has mixed in with the first-team defense in certain personnel packages.
Terrence Brooks has had a very good camp, and at 25 years old, he has the potential to develop into a contributor on defense.
Maragos is one of the best special teams players in the league, and a captain for the unit.
Specialists (3): Caleb Sturgis, Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos
Sturgis and Jones have no competition at their positions, and Dorenbos is still one of the best long snappers in the game.
NFI (Non-football injury list): DT Beau Allen, CB Sidney Jones
Practice Squad (10): QB Dane Evans (or someone not currently on the roster), RB Corey Clement, WR David Watford, TE Billy Brown, C Tyler Orlosky, DE Alex McCalister, DT Elijah Qualls, LB Don Cherry, CB Jomal Wiltz, S Tre Sullivan