Good morning. The Eagles held a rookie minicamp last weekend, and the full team will be on the field next week for the first set of organized team activities (OTAs). They will begin Tuesday.
— Zach Berman
The Eagles added two veterans earlier this week when they signed offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski and quarterback Cody Kessler. With these two players, the Eagles have a reserve with starting experience in every position group on the roster other than specialists. (They previously had no reserve quarterback or interior offensive lineman with starting experience.)
This is significant for the Eagles, who have seen what injuries can do to the roster during the past two years. Howie Roseman made a concerted effort in 2017 to have veteran depth, and the Eagles continue to stick to that approach. Here are the backups with starting experience at each position:
QB: Cody Kessler
RB: Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, Josh Adams
WR: Charles Johnson
TE: Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers
OT: Halapoulivaati Vaitai
IOL: Stefen Wisniewski
DE: Vinny Curry
DT: Tim Jernigan
LB: L.J. Fort, Paul Worrilow, Nate Gerry
S: Andrew Sendejo, Blake Countess
CB: Sidney Jones, Avonte Maddox, Rasul Douglas, Cre’Von LeBlanc
This does not mean all these players will make the roster — experience matters only so much, they’ll need to perform this summer, and the Eagles could go with a more promising player over an experienced player — but it’s a good start.
The past two years show that depth is tested. The difference between 2017 and 2018, though, was that the injuries in 2018 were concentrated to certain position groups, so the Eagles needed to add cornerbacks and wide receivers during the season just to have enough active players. In that case, the Eagles’ current depth chart might not be enough, but you can’t count on three or four injuries to a position group.
There’s also an argument that young players need to get a chance at some point. That’s what happened last year with Maddox and Adams, who were both the beneficiaries of injures. But it’s good to have options, and the Eagles have made sure they’ve created options at each position this offseason. That’s a credit to the personnel staff.
The Eagles have 11 undrafted rookies on the roster. It’s too soon to assess whether any will make the 53-man roster, because much depends on their performance, injuries, and the overall depth chart. But the undrafted players I’d watch the most going into the spring and summer are Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Edwards, Penn State offensive lineman Ryan Bates, and Weber State offensive lineman Sua Opeta.
Edwards was a high-profile player at Wisconsin who was an all-American two seasons ago. He lacks the size/speed profile that helps a draft candidate, but his production was impressive and the Eagles will have competition at linebacker. If Edwards shows he can play special teams and shows developmental ability as a middle linebacker, he can beat out veterans such as Paul Worrilow.
Bates and Opeta were named to NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah’s all-star team. Bates, a Warrington native, is beginning his Eagles career at right tackle, but his versatility is intriguing. If he shows he can play guard or even center, that’s valuable for a depth player. Opeta is beginning his Eagles career at guard, where the Eagles lacked depth before adding Wisniewski.
The problem for both Bates and Opeta is the Eagles don’t have many open spots because they already have Andre Dillard, Wisniewski, Vaitai, Matt Pryor, and Jordan Mailata, but you never know what will happen with injuries and trades.
Also, pay attention to Penn State wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins if he excels as a returner, because the Eagles don’t have a clear favorite at those spots. But my guess is they find someone above him on the depth chart for those roles.
The Eagles have assigned jersey numbers to their new acquisitions, and a few returning players made changes. It’s not earth-shattering news, but for those interested, here are the new numbers to know:
Clayton Thorson – 8
DeSean Jackson – 10
Mack Hollins – 16
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside – 19
Jordan Howard – 24
Miles Sanders – 26
Blake Countess – 39
Andrew Sendejo – 42
Zach Brown – 51
L.J. Fort – 58
Hassan Ridgeway – 64
Vinny Curry – 75
Shareef Miller – 76
Andre Dillard – 77
Josh Sweat – 94
Malik Jackson – 97
Hollins and Sweat changed to give DeSean Jackson and Curry their old numbers.
Here’s what changed: The Eagles signed Malik Jackson, who will be a third-down pass rusher from the interior. During the past two seasons, the Eagles moved a defensive end (Brandon Graham or Michael Bennett) inside on third down and played Chris Long as a pass rusher. But this season, the Eagles will play Jackson on third downs and they’ll keep their defensive ends, Graham and Derek Barnett, on the outside.
There will be times those defensive ends are on the sideline, but Long’s third-down snaps would take a dip if everybody is healthy. That’s why his role is changing. You never know what can happen this summer, but Long has been in communication with the Eagles and the team knows not to plan for him to come back.
And yes, I don’t think the defensive ends are as good as they were going into last season. They need to add someone or hope Josh Sweat or Shareef Miller becomes a factor. The defensive tackles are better.
I do. Maybe there will be some caution with his volume, but I’m expecting to see Carson Wentz out there on Tuesday. I know Doug Pederson and the team has been non-committal, but I think they’re trying to undersell it after there was so much optimism last summer and they had to pull him back.
It’s better to underpromise and overdeliver, right? My guess is that’s their approach. But we’ll see next week. If he’s still fighting the injury five months later, there’s going to be a lot of questions.