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By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor
The Eagles officially have a 53-man roster to begin the 2021 season. The team will almost certainly hope to sign some of the players they cut back on the practice squad once they can begin signing people to that.
In a bit of a departure from previous years, the Eagles seemed to select quite a few younger and rookie players over veterans, particularly at the depth positions. In fact, Jacoby Stevens was the only of their eight draft selections in 2021 that did not find themselves on the initial 53-man roster.
The Eagles 53-man roster consists of:
Jalen Hurts, Joe Flacco, Gardner Minshew
No surprises here. When the Eagles traded for Gardner Minshew a couple days ago, they basically announced who would be in their quarterback room to start the season.
Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Kenneth Gainwell
Gainwell has looked explosive as a rookie. Sanders and Scott are fairly known quantities but it shocked most to see that Jordan Howard was cut with how good he looked in camp combined with his improvement in areas like pass catching. Overall, having just three players at the position is a bit of a shock, especially since Gannon had used a committee in Indianapolis and figures to do the same here.
Injuries to Jason Huntley and Kerryon Johnson essentially ended their shots at making the 53-man roster. Johnson is still hurt, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Birds looked to bring Huntley (or Howard) back to their practice squad.
Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Tyree Jackson, Jack Stoll
While Ertz and Goedert are no surprise, the fact that four tight ends made the cut and that did not include Richard Rodgers, who has been a good safety net for the team multiple times, is a bit of a shock. The Eagles may look to get him on their practice squad.
Tyree Jackson is a converted quarterback who looked really good in camp, but suffered a back injury that sidelined him. He is two weeks into what is expected to be an 8-10 week absence, so its a bold move for the Eagles to use a roster spot on him. Perhaps they plan to place him on IR and re-sign one of the guys they had cut.
Stoll is a rookie out of Nebraska who was never really a pass catcher in college, but has had some good moments in camp and the preseason. He was a priority UDFA this season, but he may be the most little-known player on the roster at this point.
DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward Jr., Quez Watkins, JJ Arcega-Whiteside
The Eagles went with just five players at the position where they’ve needed eight in order to have two available to play at any given time the past few seasons. The top four were locks for the roster, but JJAW beating out Fulgham and Hightower is a bit of a surprise. Fulgham has had focus issues while JJAW has had production issues, but a new staff with a head coach focused on WR development could be just what JJAW needed – and something that might not have benefitted a player lacking focus. The Eagles could certainly look to bring Fulgham or Hightower back to the practice squad; in fact, they would be wise to get at least one player who knows the offense at the position there considering how beat-up the position has been the past few seasons.
Jason Kelce, Isaac Seumalo, Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks, Jordan Mailata, Andre Dillard, Nate Herbig, Jack Driscoll, Brett Toth, Landon Dickerson
The first eight guys were sure-things (although Dilliard was a potential trade candidate, he was on the roster if he wasn’t traded) and the Eagles trading Matt Pryor cleared that spot from the roster, so the two surprises are Dickerson and Toth.
Dickerson tore his ACL at the end of the last NCAAF season, so there was a thought he could redshirt the year, but here he is on the 53-man. Former Army tackle Brett Toth, who showed some promise late last season, beating out veteran Le’Raven Clark, who previously played for Gannon in Indianapolis, is a notable accomplishment. If the team can develop him into a solid depth piece or better, that’s another low to no-cost offensive lineman that Jeff Stoutland has blessed the Eagles with.
Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Milton Williams, Marlon Tuipulotu
The two starters are obvious keeps and Milton Williams had been impressive essentially all camp in addition to showing versatility to play anywhere on the line that’s needed. Tuipulotu is a guy who seems to have a more limited skillset (run stuffing) and may benefit from the time to develop that he likely won’t get being the fourth man in the rotation. It is a bit of a shock to see the Eagles walk away from Ridgeway and he’d be an ideal player to bring back as depth on the practice squad, but his injury history over the past few years may make the investment in the rookie the better decision for the long-term health of the team.
Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat, Ryan Kerrigan, Tarron Jackson
The Eagles didn’t have too much of a decision to make on their top four guys outside of an injury making one of them unavailable. Once again, the Eagles choose to stick with their rookie draft pick here, though Jackson would figure to see less time on the field that his fellow sixth-round pick (Tuipulotu) to start the season.
Eric Wilson, Alex Singleton, TJ Edwards, Davion Taylor, Genard Avery, Shaun Bradley, Patrick Johnson
Wilson, Singleton and Edwards were all going to have spots based upon what they had shown at the NFL level in the past couple seasons. Shaun Bradley had some good play to close out last season and continues to develop. Taylor has taken some steps forward, but that shouldn’t be too hard for a third-round pick who never saw the field.
Avery and Johnson are a bit of a gamble here. Avery has shown he can be effective when used properly, but he has not been effective as a DE for the Eagles, so they are trying him out as an OLB who can bring some extra pressure. Rookie Patrick Johnson was selected in the seventh-round of the draft this year but comes from Tulane where he played as a DE. It will be interesting to see how the two adjust to the positional changes – while edge rushers can be OLB in a 3-4 defensive alignment, they tend to do better as DE’s in the 4-3 alignment the Eagles run. Particularly if Johnson works out, the Eagles may have a much better linebacking corps than anticipated.
Darius Slay, Steven Nelson, Avonte Maddox, Zach McPhearson, Josiah Scott
The Eagles only have three proven corners in the NFL, so they had to keep those three guys on the roster. Rookie Zach McPhearson has had an up and down preseason but shows the potential to develop into a starter in at least the nickel role.
The major surprises were releasing the once promising and still young Michael Jacquet and former team captain Craig James in favor of Josiah Scott. The Eagles saw something in Josiah Scott, perhaps due to hiring the GM that brought him to Jacksonville in the first place, and acquired him from the Jaguars earlier this year. At least for now, that trade doesn’t seem like a wasted pick.
Anthony Harris, Rodney McLeod, Marcus Epps, K’Von Wallace
McLeod coming off of PUP meant he was going to be on the roster and there’s no way the Eagles release Anthony Harris at this point. Although many fans seem to not like him, Marcus Epps has played fairly well for the Eagles the past two seasons and a new defensive coordinator has chosen to keep him around.
Second year man K’Von Wallace is a fan favorite, but hardly saw the field in 2020 even after the McLeod injury. He will stick around for another year, beating out special teams ace and Super Bowl champion Andrew Adams as well as preseason standout Elijah Riley, who was an undrafted free agent last season.
Jake Elliot (Kicker), Arryn Siposs (Punter) and Rick Lovato (Long Snapper)
The Eagles never brought in any competition here, which is especially odd considering Siposs was signed as a free agent this offseason and had never played with the team before.
Veteran defensive tackle TY McGill was placed on the COVID list and safety Blake Countess was placed on the injured reserve, removing them from the active roster.