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Projecting Eagles’ 53-man roster following flurry of moves: How will cornerback shake out? Light on tight ends?


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Projecting Eagles’ 53-man roster following flurry of moves: How will cornerback shake out? Light on tight ends?


Posted May 24, 6:30 AM
Davante Adams

Philadelphia Eagles cornerbacks Avonte Maddox and Darius Slay will once again be among the team's top three starters at the position.AP

The Eagles have rebuilt their roster in Nick Sirianni’s image this offseason.
With the 90-man offseason roster in place, here is our latest 53-man roster projection for the 2021 season:
(Note: This projection only involves players currently on the roster)
QUARTERBACK (3, 3): Jalen Hurts, Joe Flacco, Jamie Newman
While some are seeking a vocal endorsement of Hurts as QB1, everything the Eagles have done (and haven’t done) this offseason implies that the former second-round pick is the top signal-caller this season. Flacco is here to be the token veteran competition for Hurts, but really, he is just here in case the younger QB bombs out the gate.
If the Eagles like what they see from Newman in training camp, they won’t risk putting him on the practice squad. The Eagles – insert QB Factory joke – are obsessed with the position and won’t allow Newman to hit waivers if he’s important to them. The Eagles’ third-string QB hasn’t been on the practice squad since 2017.
RUNNING BACK (4, 7): Miles Sanders, Kerryon Johnson, Kenny Gainwell, Boston Scott
Sirianni and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen have typically worked for play-callers who have given their running backs specific roles. Sanders will be the top back, while Johnson is likely to be the main backup and down-and-distance back. Gainwell will be used primarily on third down, while Scott will serve as a utility back. This is a pretty well-rounded group. With Sanders’ injury history, it makes sense to keep both Johnson and Scott on the final roster, while Gainwell develops into a reliable weapon.
WIDE RECEIVER (6, 13): DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, Travis Fulgham, Greg Ward, Quez Watkins, Trevon Grimes
The Eagles are likely to go heavy on wide receiver talent and light on tight ends. With that in mind, the Eagles have an upgraded starting group with Smith, the team’s first-round pick, as the top receiving weapon. Smith will rotate into all three positions, with he and Reagor taking on the top two spots in 12 personnel.
When the Eagles go three-wide, depending on how Sirianni wants to use Smith, Fulgham and Ward will factor into the trio. Watkins is a long-term asset for the slot, while Grimes can back up Smith and Fulgham at X receiver. Grimes will need to beat out J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and John Hightower for the sixth spot, but his unique frame and skill set should make him an appealing option at the bottom of the depth chart. Grimes could also learn tight end to help with the number count. He’s certainly built for that position.
TIGHT END (2, 15): Dallas Goedert, Caleb Wilson
The Eagles are very likely to move on from Zach Ertz – via release or trade – in the next month or so. With that in mind, look for the Eagles to focus more on 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WRs) on offense. Goedert will be the alpha at tight end, leaving little room for snaps elsewhere. The Eagles have Goedert and a whole lot of tight end projects entering training camp. If the Eagles sign a vet like Richard Rodgers – once Ertz moves on – then this two-man group will look a bit different. For now, Wilson is the likely No. 2 tight end on the roster because of his special teams work.
OFFENSIVE LINE (10, 25): Jordan Mailata (LT), Isaac Seumalo (LG), Jason Kelce (C), Brandon Brooks (RG), Lane Johnson (RT), Andre Dillard, Jack Driscoll, Landon Dickerson, Nate Herbig, Sua Opeta
Mailata and Dillard will compete for the left tackle job in camp. Even if Mailata wins, don’t look for the Eagles to rush to trade Dillard, as he keeps their offensive tackle depth strong. Seumalo and Brooks will start at guard as Dickerson gets his NFL feet under him and recovers from ACL surgery. Once Dickerson gets comfortable, look for him to back up all three interior line spots until he replaces Seumalo.
Driscoll will be the Eagles’ main backup at right tackle after a promising yet injury-prone rookie season. Herbig offers immediate depth at all three interior positions, giving the Eagles insurance in case Dickerson can’t start the season on the sideline. Opeta and Matt Pryor will battle for the final spot, but look for Opeta to take the job given his cheaper price and comparable versatility.
The thinking here is that newly signed swing tackle Le’Raven Clark will start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, as he is coming off Achilles surgery.
DEFENSIVE LINE (10, 35): Brandon Graham, Javon Hargrave, Fletcher Cox, Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat, Ryan Kerrigan, Milton Williams, Hassan Ridgeway, Tarron Jackson, Marlon Tuipulotu
Graham, Hargrave, Cox, Sweat, Kerrigan and Williams are all locks. With Kerrigan in the mix, Barnett could be a trade chip, as his $10 million deal can be pushed off the salary cap with a trade. Otherwise, Barnett and the six locks make this a seven-deep rotation. Ridgeway can play both interior defensive line spots, while rookies like Jackson and Tuipulotu can serve as deep depth and developmental talent.
Also, don’t be surprised if Kerrigan sees linebacker snaps with Jonathan Gannon looking to pressure QBs pre-snap.
LINEBACKER (6, 41): Eric Wilson, T.J. Edwards, Alex Singleton, Davion Taylor, Shaun Bradley, JaCoby Stevens
Wilson, Edwards and Singleton are likely to be the starting trio, with Wilson serving as the three-down backer. Taylor, last year’s third-round pick, will – at the very least – be a special teams ace and backup SAM backer. Stevens will back up the WILL spot and play on special teams. Bradley will battle Rashad Smith, Patrick Johnson and Genard Avery for the sixth spot. Right now, the Eagles need a backup MIKE linebacker, so Bradley has an advantage.
CORNERBACK (5, 46): Darius Slay, Zech McPhearson, Craig James, Avonte Maddox, Josiah Scott
Slay is the top cornerback, so expect James and McPhearson to battle for the No. 2 job in training camp. Maddox will move back into the slot, with some added competition from Scott, who was acquired last week in a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Scott was acquired for a 2023 sixth-round pick, so unless he bombs in training camp, he’s probably making the squad. A former fourth-round pick, Scott must have been a Gannon favorite during last year’s draft process.
The expectation here is that the Eagles will still add a veteran, in some form or fashion, to the cornerback group. Steven Nelson still lingers on the free-agent market.
SAFETY (4, 50): Anthony Harris, K’Von Wallace, Marcus Epps, Grayland Arnold
With Rodney McLeod likely to start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, the Eagles go four-deep at safety. The Eagles are likely to go with a heavy zone-coverage look, splitting their safeties in the backfield.
Harris will start opposite Epps or Wallace if McLeod is sidelined to start the season. Arnold has the versatility to play anywhere in a zone-heavy secondary, allowing the Eagles to go light on corner numbers.
SPECIAL TEAMS (3, 53): Rick Lovato (LS), Jake Elliott (K), Arryn Siposs (P)
It appears the Eagles will go without any special teams competitions for the fourth-straight offseason.
PUP: S Rodney McLeod, OT Le’Raven Clark
McLeod suffered an ACL tear in December. While he claims that he will play in Week 1, until he hits the field in training camp, it’s hard to see that happening. Clark is coming off a torn Achilles and isn’t likely to compete early in training camp. If he is unable to take part in the preseason, it might make sense to just stash him on PUP, especially if the Eagles keep the loser of the Mailata/Dillard battle.


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