The proverbial hay is in the barn. With the preseason concluded, the Philadelphia Eagles must pare their roster to 53 players by Tuesday afternoon.
Zach Berman and Bo Wulf go on the record with their predictions.
Berman (3): Jalen Hurts, Marcus Mariota, Tanner McKee
This was locked up early in camp, and the only debate is whether McKee should push Mariota. The Eagles say no — McKee is at least making them think.
Wulf (3): Hurts, Mariota, McKee
Nothing to see here.
Wulf: Rookie Tanner McKee should be the Eagles’ No. 2 quarterback
Berman (4): D’Andre Swift, Kenneth Gainwell, Rashaad Penny, Boston Scott
You could convince me to keep Trey Sermon and cut one of the vested veterans only to add them back to the roster a few days later, but I don’t think the Eagles get cute. Sermon was an odd man out in San Francisco last year and goes to waivers again. But I’d put thought into keeping him.
Wulf (4): Swift, Gainwell, Penny, Scott
If there’s a shock coming at running back, it would probably be letting Penny loose, but I don’t see that happening. The four-deep stable looks pretty good, with a nice variation of skill sets. Sermon underwhelmed this summer but could return on the practice squad.
Berman (4): A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins, Olamide Zaccheaus
This is light because it’s incomplete. I’m not sure there’s a fifth receiver who’s earned his way onto the 53-man roster, and the Eagles will scan the waiver wire to see who they can add. They might look for a big-bodied receiver to be Brown’s backup. Perhaps the Eagles keep Britain Covey as the punt returner, but he’s been injured most of the summer and could slip through waivers. They might consider going with Zaccheaus in that role.
Wulf (4): Brown, Smith, Watkins, Zaccheaus
I just don’t think Covey has done enough to merit making the roster while missing most of camp. Zaccheaus can fill in as the punt returner on paper, but I expect this to be a position where Philly will add someone to the 53-man roster before Week 1, either via waiver claim or trade. Devon Allen’s speed was on display in the preseason finale, but he too should get through to the practice squad as a 28-year-old.
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Berman (3): Dallas Goedert, Jack Stoll, Grant Calcaterra
My dilemma here was whether to keep Tyree Jackson, but I went heavier on the defensive line and allowed Jackson to fall to the practice squad. It wouldn’t surprise me if general manager Howie Roseman wanted to keep Jackson for his upside, although it’s Year 3 of that experiment at this point.
Wulf (3): Goedert, Stoll, Calcaterra
This one too seems set. Jackson has never taken the next step in his development while Dan Arnold had a quiet summer. Undrafted rookie Brady Russell is a good bet for the practice squad.
Berman (9): Jordan Mailata, Landon Dickerson, Jason Kelce, Cam Jurgens, Lane Johnson, Tyler Steen, Jack Driscoll, Fred Johnson, Sua Opeta
The Fred Johnson maneuvering shows that he’ll earn a roster spot. I’m less sure about Opeta, who the Eagles have exposed to waivers before. When decisions seem close, the Eagles tend to lean toward linemen.
Wulf (9): Mailata, Dickerson, Kelce, Jurgens, Lane Johnson, Steen, Driscoll, Fred Johnson, Opeta
I’m getting a little tired of Zach looking over at my paper for the answers. I wish the Eagles hadn’t signed Fred Johnson to that two-year contract so I could have been one of the only people on the beat to predict him landing on the 53. The Eagles may not need to carry a ninth offensive lineman, but it’s not like there’s a player at another position worth sacrificing depth for up front. Opeta is the best guy left and could serve as a game day backup for Dickerson at left guard.
Berman (6): Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Nolan Smith, Patrick Johnson
The intrigue here is with the sixth spot. I’m not convinced Patrick Johnson makes the roster, but he made plays when healthy and has built some equity with the coaching staff. I could see the Eagles going with five here.
Wulf (6): Reddick, Sweat, Graham, Barnett, Nolan Smith, Kyron Johnson
Kyron Johnson is my last player on the 53, and to be honest I don’t feel great about it. With Reddick and Nolan Smith on the short-term shelf, it’s possible the team will carry Patrick Johnson as its short-term Sam linebacker. This spot could also belong to a fourth linebacker (Nicholas Morrow?) or even a seventh cornerback (Mekhi Garner is a worthwhile long-term project in my estimation). But Kyron Johnson offers the most special teams value of the players squarely on the bubble and is hopefully close to returning from his appendectomy. Minkah Fitzpatrick, for example, missed just one game last season after undergoing an emergency appendectomy. Kyron Johnson, or Moro Ojomo, could also be placed on injured reserve after the post-cut waivers process.
Berman (7): Fletcher Cox, Jalen Carter, Jordan Davis, Milton Williams, Marlon Tuipulotu, Moro Ojomo, Kentavius Street
Street sneaks on as a solid veteran with the Eagles going deeper at this point. The top four are entrenched. Tuipulotu is the backup nose tackle. Ojomo, who is recovering from a concussion, is a solid prospect to develop.
Wulf (6): Cox, Carter, Davis, Williams, Tuipulotu, Ojomo
Here’s where I expect some chicanery. Street won’t be subject to waivers, so the team can release him and then re-sign him later in the week once another player has been placed on injured reserve to open a spot (potentially Ojomo). I think the team wants to go deep at defensive tackle, for good reason, so this is where I risk losing the competition.
Berman (3): Nakobe Dean, Zach Cunningham, Christian Elliss
Philadelphia will have more than three active for Week 1 in New England, just not on the initial 53. The Eagles won’t guarantee Morrow’s contract, so they go light and either add via waiver claims or with practice squad elevations. This is also a spot for a last-minute trade.
Wulf (3): Dean, Cunningham, Elliss
Morrow has played his best football of the summer over the last week, which could have earned him a spot. I also think he might be the veteran carried on the initial 53-man roster only to be released when the team makes a waiver claim. His contract is only for $1.1 million, so maybe the Eagles won’t be super concerned with guaranteeing his contract by having him on the Week 1 roster, but maneuvering a way to keep him in the building without doing so feels a little more like their M.O.
Berman (6): Darius Slay, James Bradberry, Avonte Maddox, Josh Jobe, Kelee Ringo, Eli Ricks
The first five here are set in stone. The sixth? Mario Goodrich makes more sense as a backup slot after Zech McPhearson’s injury. But this is where Roseman’s roster math comes in. It’s not necessarily the best 53; those bottom-of-the-roster spots are players you’re afraid to lose on waivers, and Ricks might be one of those players. So the Eagles try to get Goodrich through waivers to the practice squad and keep Ricks.
Wulf (7): Slay, Bradberry, Maddox, Jobe, Ringo, Ricks, Garner
This was me furiously messaging our editor that I decided to make a last-second change. Seven corners is an awful lot, but I don’t think Roseman wants to risk losing Ricks and Garner. Meanwhile, Josiah Scott seems to have wrested away the backup nickel job from Goodrich over the past week, unless the team is just trying to hide the second-year corner. Either way, I think Bradberry can serve as the game day backup for Maddox. Ricks has serious ball skills and was on my 53 even before his impressive performance in the preseason finale.
Ranking the Eagles’ summer performances, from Reed Blankenship to Ian Book
Berman (5): Reed Blankenship, Sydney Brown, Terrell Edmunds, Justin Evans, K’Von Wallace
The change here since the last 53-man roster is Evans, who was on the bubble before the preseason opener and is now a potential starter. Wallace provides special teams value. The variable here is if the Eagles make a trade, but my guess is they want Sydney Brown to develop into a starter this season.
Wulf (5): Blankenship, Sydney Brown, Edmunds, Evans, Wallace
I’m a little worried about Wallace having played so deep into the second half on Thursday night. Is his spot fully secure? No, but he brings special teams value and a little more playmaking at the position than Evans and Edmunds.
Berman (3): Jake Elliott, Arryn Siposs, Rick Lovato
Siposs makes it at punter by default, but the Eagles could upgrade after cuts elsewhere. In fact, they could even cut Siposs and not carry a punter as a way to allocate a roster spot elsewhere. They can always use post-cut IR transactions or even elevate a punter from the practice squad.
Wulf (3): Elliott, Siposs, Lovato
A Siposs release is definitely possible, as is a weekend trade for a punter. Lovato remains the Eagles’ long snapper.
Berman: Allen, Joseph Ngata, Covey, Josh Sills, Brett Toth, Jackson, Sermon, Janarius Robinson, Kyron Johnson, Ben VanSumeren, Garner, Goodrich, Josiah Scott, Morrow, Tristan McCollum, Russell.
Wulf: Sermon, Russell, Jackson, Ngata, Jadon Haselwood, Allen, Covey, Julian Good-Jones, Cameron Tom, Toth, Dennis Kelly, Robinson, Patrick Johnson, VanSumeren, Tyreek Maddox-Williams, Goodrich.
(Photo: Mitchell Leff / Getty Images)