THIS isn’t a prediction. With injuries and contract situations, lord only knows how things will look in September. This is my take on who I think gives us the best balance, and chance to win week in and week out, on our journey to retake first the NFC East, then the NFC, then the NFL.
Players inside the angle brackets <player>, are likely weekly inactives to get the team down to the 46 man game day roster.
QB: Carson Wentz / Nate Sudfeld / <Clayton Thorson> – Wentz is the Starter. Sudfeld has experience in this system, is young and isn’t expensive. Thorson looks like a poor man’s Wentz, which might be a boon with Wentz as his mentor. Cody Kessler isn’t the Eagles type and likely won’t make he cut. However, in the event of an injury, he can be pulled in to fill out the roster.
RB: Jordan Howard / Miles Sanders / Corey Clement / Josh Adams – Howard is the Starter, and should be a MACHINE against 6 and 7 man boxes. Clement is the 3rd down back and right now, the first guy off the bench. Sanders is intriguing. Hopefully his hamstring injury during OTA’s got the staff thinking about depth, opening door for Adams, and killing Donnell Pumphrey or Boston Scott’s chance to make it as utility/return men.
WR: Alshon Jeffery / DeSean Jackson / Nelson Agholor / J.J. Arcega-Whiteside / Mack Hollins – Jeffery is open even when he’s covered one on one. Now with Jackson blowing the lid off of defenses, Agholor should have plenty of room to turn lots of 5 yard throws, into 12 yard pick-ups. A&W is a red zone option for when teams double Jeffery. Then there’s Hollins. Two years ago, deep speed (Torrey Smith) helped this team run the ball inside. We lost our deep speed (Hollins, Mike Wallace) early last year, and we couldn’t run inside. Jackson gives us that again, but his hamstrings have a history of being balky. That means depth is needed. That’s where Hollins comes in. That is, if he comes in. You can’t make the club in the tub. In which case Charles Johnson might steal the spot. While generally there is no sense in agonizing over a 5th receiver, the Eagles need someone who can fill Djax’s role if need be, and they apparently don’t think Shelton Gibson is up to the task.
TE: Zach Ertz / Dallas Goedert / <Richard Rodgers> – Ertz is the Starter. Goedert would start here if we didn’t have Ertz. Rodgers has been a starter, and offers us a crazy amount of 3rd string depth, experience, and athleticism.
OT: Jason Peters / Lane Johnson / Andre Dillard / Jordan Mailata / <Matt Pryor> – Peters and Johnson are the bookends. While Dillard is the future at LT, you don’t hand the blindside of a QB coming off of a broken back, to a rookie when you have a Hall Of Fame caliber LT in the building. Peters might be shifted inside to LG later in the season, but expect him to open the year at LT. Mailata is being trained at both OT spots.
G: Brandon Brooks / Isaac Seumalo / Stefen Wisniewski / <Halapoulivaati Vaitai> – Brooks and Seumalo are the Starters. Wisniewski will hold down Brooks spot until, he comes back from the PUP list. Matt Pryor may also see time here. Vaitai may salvage his career playing inside, but he’s a bust at OT. The team managed to go on a magic playoff run with him starting, but the amount of smoke and mirrors it took, prompted them to add a slew of OT’s over the last two years. For what it’s worth, he has a natural tendency to play high, so his effectiveness as a run blocker inside doesn’t forecast well. Maybe he’ll surprise us?
C: Jason Kelce – The Eagles need depth and an heir apparent to Kelce. This year Wisniewski can fill in at this spot if needed. So can Seumalo. In fact, this might be where Seumalo is best suited. However, neither of the two back-ups currently behind Kelce can generate forward push in the run game, so they should have a short stay in Philly.
DE: Brandon Graham / Derek Barnett / Vinny Curry / <Joe Ostman> – Graham and Barnett are the Starters, but expect Curry to play plenty, especially on early downs and inside on 3rd and long. Beyond those three, the position is a toss-up. I listed Ostman because the team loves his high motor, but he’s a chaser who frequently plays pass first. Shareef Miller is a more natural edge setter, but he seems destined for this year’s Practice Squad.
DT: Fletcher Cox / Malik Jackson / Tim Jernigan / Hassan Ridgeway – Cox and Jackson are the Starters, with Jernigan playing heavy minutes, if his back allows. The team is excited to have Ridgeway and if he’s half as good as advertised, we are going to be an absolute nightmare inside, regardless of which two guys are out there. (As a big body in the middle, don’t be surprised if the Birds find a way to keep 6’5 350lb Anthony Rush.)
OLB: Nigel Bradham / Kamu Grugier-Hill / Nate Gerry / B.J. Bello – No great depth here. Gerry is more of a bulked up DB than a true LB. He’s started 2 games at MLB last year, but isn’t really built for playing inside. Odds are that both Gerry and Bello stick around, because they already know the system, and contribute on Special Teams.
MLB: Zach Brown / L.J. Fort – Brown is the Starter. With availability being the best ability, Fort being able to actually participate in minicamp (unlike Paul Worrilow), is a major leg up in terms of learning the system, and how to play off of the guys around him. That’s not to say that there’s no chance for Worrilow. But again, you can’t make the club, in the tub.
SS: Malcolm Jenkins / Tre Sullivan – Jenkins is the Starter. Sullivan has played well at FS this system, and even shined in a playoff win last year. He’s probably the first guy off the bench at either S spot. Andrew Sendejo is 31, not a Special Teamer, coming off of an injury, and two or three years of up and down football. He’s hardly a lock to make the team.
FS: Rodney McLeod / <Deiondre Hall> – McLeod should be ready to resume his Starting role with no hitch in his giddy-up. Hall is a S with CB on his resume. However, at 6’2 206, with VERY long arms, his presence in the middle of the field could pay huge dividends in close-out situations later in games. Especially later in the season when it’s cold and the ball is harder to push, or be surgical with.
CB: Ronald Darby / Sidney Jones / Jalen Mills / Rasul Douglas / Avonte Maddox / <Cre’Von LeBlanc>/ Blake Countess – Darby and Jones will probably get the nod, but the smarter move would be to let Douglas and Maddox build off of their 2018 finishes. Jones needs to prove in 2019 that he isn’t a bust. Mills is a little sketchy on the outside, but he’s a problem for offenses at Nickel. Since he got here, LeBlanc has done nothing except earn constant praise from DC Jim Schwartz. Countess is a Special Teams contributor both as a kick coverage guy and as a KR. Oh and he can make plays on defense.
(Special Teams: 3)
K: Jake Elliott – This is a no-brainer.
P: Cameron Johnston – They didn’t even bring in a camp leg.
LS: Rick Lovato – Automatic. No other LS on the roster.
KR: Blake Countess / Corey Clement – The Eagles don’t return many kickoffs, so the real focus is on having a steady hand here, as opposed to holding a spot for a dangerous player.
PR: Corey Clement – Hidden yardage was a problem in 2018, so we need to improve here. From what we have here, Clement looks to be the guy. Maybe we need to add a combo KR/PR specialist. Maybe Darren Sproles? Aside from DeSean Jackson, Clement (with a whopping 6 career punt returns) is the most polished punt returner on the entire team. It makes no sense to routinely use Djax in that spot, given his age and with maintenance of his hamstrings having to be a real concern. (I’d like to see Jordan Mailata get a punt return in the preseason. Just for shits and giggles.)