Decisions, decisions ... and an Eagles roster prediction

Nick Fierro
Contact ReporterOf The Morning Call

The next time the Philadelphia Eagles get on the practice field will be Sept. 6, with a roster of 53 active players and 10 more on the practice squad. Their focus will be on the Washington Redskins and the Washington Redskins only.

Until then, there will be a flurry of personnel transactions to get them to where they believe they need to be.

The deadline for NFL teams to get their rosters to 53 is Saturday at 4 p.m. That will put more than 1,000 players on the street, enabling teams to further adjust their rosters by adding and subtracting from that supply.

Here’s one guess, as of 12 a.m. Friday, what the final 53 will be and why.

  • QB (2): Carson Wentz, Nick Foles. Foles, the backup, missed the entire preseason with a sore throwing elbow, but the team believes he’s going to be just fine. Thus they likely will not use a roster spot for a third quarterback, which would have been Matt McGloin. Instead, they’ll opt for a practice-squad player as the No. 3. Perhaps that will be Dane Evans, who had an up and down performance Thursday evening in a 16-10 loss to the New York Jets.
  • RB (4): LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement. Clement would be the slight surprise here, making it as an undrafted rookie ahead of fourth-round draft pick Donnel Pumphrey. Clement is sturdier and had a better preseason. However, executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman could well drop Clement as well in favor of another back they see on the waiver wire
  • TE (3): Zach Ertz, Trey Burton, Brent Celek. It’s possible that Billy Brown could join this list too. But his blocking skills aren’t what they should be, and the Eagles already have enough of those on the roster already in Ertz and Burton. They probably can’t afford to carry four tight ends.
  • WR (6): Nelson Agholor, Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Mack Hollins, Marcus Johnson, Bryce Treggs. Johnson and Treggs have had solid preseasons and have done more than enough to make the roster. The question is whether the Eagles will keep six receivers. If they do, no problem. If they only keep five, that’s a tough call.
  • OL (9): Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Peters, Lane Johnson, Stefen Wisniewski, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Dillon Gordon, Chance Warmack. Being an Andy Reid disciple, coach Doug Pederson values offensive linemen more than most of his peers. Last year, the Eagles kept 11 coming out of camp. But they knew Johnson was headed for a 10-game suspension. This year, not the same. Plus they traded away two of their more experienced reserves in Allen Barbre and Matt Tobin. Only nine deserve spots here, if that.
  • DT (5): Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan, Beau Allen, Gabe Wright, Elijah Qualls. Clearly, this is the strongest position group on the team. All of these players are roster-worthy, as are Justin Hamilton and Destiny Vaeao, who could be headed for injured reserve.
  • DE (5): Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Chris Long, Derek Barnett, Steven Means. It’s possible the Eagles could keep six, which means Alex McCalister also would have a job. But barring that, they removed the suspense with this position by signing Means to a contract extension the day before they played the Jets.
  • LB (6): Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Mychal Kendricks, Najee Goode, Joe Walker, Kamu Grugier-Hill. Six linebackers are not necessarily needed by a team that only has two on the field at least 70 percent of the time. But Goode and Grugier-Hill are core special-teams players. It is possible that they cut Goode, who is a vested veteran, and then bring him back almost right away to save money under the salary cap. But he is expected to be a part of this team in 2017.
  • CB (6): Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Patrick Robinson, Dexter McDougle, Jaylen Watkins. Robinson, McDougle and Watkins can all play in the slot. Don’t be surprised if Aaron Grymes finds his way onto the roster, too.
  • S (4): Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Corey Graham, Chris Maragos. The acquisition of Graham during training camp was huge. Maragos is a special-teams ace. Watkins can also play safety. They’re solid here.
  • K (1): Caleb Sturgis. They didn’t even bring another kicker to camp.
  • P (1): Donnie Jones. He edges rookie Cameron Johnston because of a little more consistency. But the feeling here is that Johnston will be a solid punter in this league for a long time.
  • LS (1): Rick Lovato. He was handed the job when the Eagles traded Jon Dorenbos, their longest-tenured player, to New Orleans on Monday. He responded with a couple of shaky snaps against the Jets. But he does have a good body of work from last year, after Dorenbos went on injured reserve.

Look for wide receivers Greg Ward and Shelton Gibson, linebacker Don Cherry, Hamilton and Grymes to be top candidates for the practice squad.

This will be a stronger roster than most expect. But will it be enough to get them into the playoffs in what may be the strongest division in the league?

That’s why they play the games.

THE PURGE BEGINS

The Eagles on Friday announced 16 moves to get their roster down to 70 players. Released were LB Don Cherry, DT Winston Craig, WR Rashard Davis, TE Anthony Denham, QB Dane Evans, LB Carlos Fields, CB Aaron Grymes, DE Jake Metz, C Tyler Orlosky, T Victor Salako, LB Christian Tago, DT Gabe Wright, TE Adam Zaruba, QB Matt McGloin and WR Paul Turner.

CB Sidney Jones was placed on the Reserve/Non-Football injury list

Nfierro@mcall.com

Twitter @nickfierro

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