The first Eagles report to training camp next Monday, and the play that happens on the field there and in preseason games will go a long way to establishing the faces we see on the final 53-man roster. Before all that mess about earning the jobs gets underway, here are our prohibitive favorites to make the cut. The order of the names aren’t exactly meant to be a depth chart, but you could probably read them like one.
QB (3) — Sam Bradford, Chase Daniels, Carson Wentz
This group seems set in stone, barring injury. Wentz may not be suiting up to start the season, but he won’t be leaving the 53-man roster anytime soon either.
RB (4) — Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, Byron Marshall
Mathews and Sproles are locks. Either Smallwood, Kenjon Barner or undrafted free agent Marshall will make the team as well. Since Doug Pederson has been open about wanting to use a committee approach, and the starter is injury-prone, we’re letting two of them slip on. Marshall’s versatility allows the team to consider him a sixth wide receiver as well.
FB (1) — Chris Pantale
Pantale might be more appropriately slotted at tight end, but this is where he figures to spend the upcoming season, with little competition so far.
WR (5) — Jordan Matthews, Reuben Randle, Nelson Agholor, Josh Huff, Chris Givens
Matthews is the cream of the crop. Randle just arrived. Huff and Agholor have both disappointed, but last year’s first round pick isn’t going anywhere and Huff’s chances would be a lot longer if he were on a team with more talent at the position. Givens has met or exceeded expectations since being picked up, and rounds out the core nicely.
TE (3) — Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton
If every position had depth like this, the Eagles would be fine. Ertz is every season’s breakout candidate. Celek has the career numbers to match any tight end in Eagles history, and Burton is a weapon in his own right and special teams star.
OL (10) — Jason Peters, Allen Barbre, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Stefen Wisniewski, Isaac Seumalo, Matt Tobin, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Dennis Kelly
Lock in Peters, Kelce, Brooks and Johnson as starters. From everything the coaches say, Barbre seems to have the inside track at left guard, but we’ll see once camp begins. Wisniewski and Seumalo are his stiffest competition there, and both can also fill backup roles at center, if needed. Depth at the outside of the line is weaker. Tobin is better suited to guard play, Vaitai is a fifth round rookie and Kelly returns by default. Undrafted free agent Darrell Greene received a huge signing bonus, but there are still two rookies the Eagles decided to draft ahead of him.
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DL (9) — Vinny Curry, Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Mike Martin, Marcus Smith, Bryan Braman, Aziz Shittu
Cox and Logan are starters at defensive tackle. Curry, Barwin and Graham essentially make up three starters at defensive end. Martin was brought in to backup the inside of the line. After that, the choices are down to holdovers transitioning out of the 3-4 and largely undrafted rookies.
Braman thrives on special teams and that should keep him on the roster. Smith will be hoping the move to the line revitalizes (vitalizes?) his career. He’ll be up against Alex McCallister and Steven Means. Inside, Beau Johnson and Taylor Hart will be trying to hold off newcomers Shittu, Connor Wujciak and Destiny Vaeao.
LB (5) — Mychal Kendricks, Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Najee Goode, Joe Walker
The starters are penciled in and, barring injury, solid to good. If those injuries aren't barred however, linebacker could start to look ugly. Goode is the top backup, and Walker has been playing second team in camp.
But several of the bodies that have filled the linebacking corps the last few years are either gone or pass rushers who would be masquerading at OLB in a 4-3. Left are undrafted free agents (and Walker is a seventh round pick himself). Myke Tavarres starred in college, but at Incarnate Word. He could make the roster with a good preseason.
CB (6) — Eric Rowe, Nolan Carroll, Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, Jalen Mills, Denzel Rice
Rowe, Carroll and McKelvin are set to battle for the starting jobs. Rowe improved as a rookie but hasn't earned a locked down spot yet. Carroll was better than anyone expected in 2016 but it remains to be seen how he returns from injury. McKelvin, brought in by his old coordinator, might have the best shot.
For the same reason, Brooks might be the favorite at nickel back. Jacorey Shepherd impressed in camp last offseason, but is still a sixth round rookie returning from an ACL tear. Mills, considered a possible steal in the seventh round, has turned heads since being moved to corner.
S (4) — Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Chris Maragos, Blake Countess
Jenkins and McLeod make the starters here as talented as anywhere else on the roster. Behind them the depth is shaky, but shouldn’t be called on too often. Maragos contributes to special teams and coaches seem to like Countess at safety over cornerback. If worst comes to worst, Mills and Rowe both have experience playing safety in college and could fill in in a pinch.
K (1) — Cody Parkey
It’s weird when one of the most intriguing battles in camp is kicker, but here we are. Parkey, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2014 before falling to injury last season, will try to take his job back from Caleb Sturgis. We’re betting he will.
P (1) — Donnie Jones
Challengers come and challengers go. Donnie Jones will punt. That is all.
LS (1) — Jon Dorenbos
Dorenbos has some competition here, since the Eagles actually gave a signing bonus to undrafted free agent rookie John DePalma which is … well, rather unusual for a long snapper. Dorenbos is also off competing on "America’s Got Talent" at the moment. The end may be near, but it’s still hard to see one of the NFL’s best being unseated this offseason.
Practice squad best bets:
OL Darrell Greene
DT Destiny Vaeao
DE Alex McCallister
CB Jacorey Shepherd
LB Myke Tavarres