Many of the questions for Howie Roseman on Saturday evening concerned a seventh-round rookie offensive tackle who probably won't play much this season.
This reflected two things: Jordan Mailata, the Australian rugby player who played his first-ever football game in the preseason opener, is a gripping, amazing story, and – just maybe a little more important, in the long run — the defending Super Bowl champions have a strong roster that didn't need a lot of last-minute tweaking. There weren't a lot of surprise cuts in the journey from 90 players down to 53. This is pretty much the team we envisioned when training camp began.
Roseman, the Eagles' executive vice president of football operations, spoke of how cut-down day is always difficult, but this one was made even tougher by the fact that the team starts its season Thursday, instead of next Sunday, so all the players were in the building Saturday beginning preparations.
"Probably a little different tone than normal. Normally you have the opportunity to do it without the other players in the building," Roseman said. "These guys [being cut] don't get their moment to absorb what's going on."
The biggest question mark all camp has been depth at safety. To address that, the Eagles brought back Corey Graham on Aug. 5, and then Saturday evening, while Roseman was speaking, they finalized a trade for Bears safety Deiondre' Hall, who was a fourth-round draft pick in 2016. The Eagles gave Chicago a conditional seventh-round draft pick. Hall is ineligible for the opener, because of a prohibited substance violation.
"We did our background work on him – [player personnel vice president] Joe Douglas was with Chicago when they drafted him in 2016. He's a safety who has a corner background as well," Roseman said. "We'll bring him in, get his physical, then we'll have to send him home … get him back on Friday."
Because he is suspended, Hall won't count against the roster limit for the opener. Ditto for suspended Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham.
>> READ MORE: Eagles prepare for Week 1 without Nigel Bradham
When camp started, it might have seemed there would be a reserve role for one or both of the veteran wideouts the team had signed, Markus Wheaton and Kamar Aiken, but both battled preseason injuries, and they were outplayed by 2017 fifth-round wide receiver Shelton Gibson and well-traveled 25-year-old late arrival DeAndre Carter.
Carter, signed July 28, has been on the practice squads of the Raiders, Patriots and 49ers, but he said after Thursday's preseason finale that this was his best training camp and preseason, in four tries, and now he has made a regular-season roster for the first time.
"You've got to go with what you see," Roseman said. "DeAndre came in late," but like Hall, he had a Douglas connection, this time with Baltimore, in 2015. "Every day he came to practice and made a play … You see the separation, you see the versatility to play inside or out. He's strong to the ball … He's got incredible speed. We'll see how he does as we get going here, but certainly deserved the roster spot."
There was a bit of suspense around the identity of the fourth running back, behind Darren Sproles, Jay Ajayi, and Corey Clement. Undrafted Notre Dame star Josh Adams, from Bucks County, was a popular candidate among Eagles fans, and the team had Donnel Pumphrey, a fourth-rounder in 2017 who missed his rookie year with a hamstring problem. Adams looked good but battled a foot injury; Pumphrey reinjured his hamstring and never really got going. Holdover Wendell Smallwood took the job, at least partly because he can play special teams. Adams or Pumphrey could reappear on the practice squad, to be established Sunday at 1 p.m., an hour after the waiver period ends.
"Another tough call," Roseman said. "As we get going here, early in the season, we want to make sure the coaches have what they need on the 46-man roster [the active players on game day] … a lot of things come into play for that, especially in the backup roles. Special teams are a part of it, and then a body of work, too."
Roseman said defensive end Steven Means was "the last cut." Means came to the Eagles from the Texans' practice squad in 2015. He has been active for only 14 games in three seasons, but he is greatly respected by the team's starting offensive linemen because of the way he competes in practice. He figured to be sixth on the defensive end depth chart this season, though, behind Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Michael Bennett, Chris Long and fourth-round rookie Josh Sweat.
"Because of what he means, as a person and a player, really hard. Hard one," Roseman said. He indicated that it would have been difficult to find playing time for Means. "Incredible person, a guy who's meant a lot to us on and off the field."
Roseman was happier talking about Mailata. He said when the Eagles swapped seventh-round picks with the Patriots and threw in a seventh next year to move 17 spots in the final round and draft the man who would become the team's youngest player (he turned 21 on March 31), they figured they would give him two years to develop as a left tackle.
"The strides that he's taken have just been incredible," Roseman said. "You saw it in the Cleveland game, you saw it against the Jets – he just gets better and better. It's so hard to find guys who are 6-8 and  pounds who can run like that, who have the core strength that he does. Certainly there's no guarantees, but we want to develop players, and when you can find guys at hard-to-find positions to develop, it gets you excited."
Here were all the transactions:
Released: WR Kamar Aiken, DE Steven Means, WR Markus Wheaton
Waived/Injured: CB D.J. Killings, TE Gannon Sinclair, T Toby Weathersby
Waived: RB Josh Adams, CB De'Vante Bausby, LB Asantay Brown, TE Billy Brown, QB Joe Callahan, DT Winston Craig, WR Rashard Davis, TE Anthony Denham, G Aaron Evans, DE Danny Ezechukwu, S Ironhead Gallon, G Darrell Greene, QB Christian Hackenberg, T Taylor Hart, RB Matt Jones, DE Joe Ostman, WR Darius Prince, RB Donnel Pumphrey, DT Elijah Qualls, S Jeremy Reaves, DT Aziz Shittu, CB Chandon Sullivan, C Jon Toth, WR Bryce Treggs, WR Greg Ward, LB Jaboree Williams, LB Kyle Wilson, and WR Tim Wilson.