These 5 Eagles could be surprise roster cuts, including a Super Bowl hero
PHILADELPHIA – There are always surprises on NFL cutdown day, and Saturday, when teams have to get down to 53 players, should be no different.
The Eagles’ roster currently stands at 80. But the challenge is that they don't have four preseason games to draw upon because those games were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said he can still gauge how a player progresses from the start of training camp.
EAGLES ROSTER PROJECTION:Will Sidney Jones, Jordan Mailata make the cut?
The difference, Schwartz said, is seeing how a rookie reacts to either the first live scrimmage in front of 40,000 fans at Lincoln Financial Field, or that first preseason game when, "they would blow circuits because it was their first exposure to that kind of environment."
Then he added: "Even though we had a lot of time to evaluate, you're still missing that, 'OK, what about the real bullets flying and how is this player going to react to that? Is he ready for that?' Those are things we're just going to have to go with practice film and instincts and experience to evaluate."
There will be difficult decisions coming. For the Eagles, that could include some early-round draft picks who haven't panned out. Injuries will be more of a factor in the decisions this season because of the potential COVID-19 cases that could decimate already thin rosters.
As the saying goes, "you can't make the club from the tub," even if it's a socially distanced tub.
Here, then, are five players who could be roster casualties by Saturday's deadline:
1. Sidney Jones, cornerback
It's not that cutting Jones would be a surprise at this point. The Eagles' 2017 second-round draft pick has played just 22 of 48 games in his three seasons, mostly because of injury. And Jones was supposed to challenge Avonte Maddox for a starting job this summer, but another injury sidelined him for more than a week.
Maddox has clearly won the job, not only based on Jones' absences, but because of Maddox's play. And if Jones is going to be a backup, the Eagles could be better served with Rasul Douglas and Craig James in those roles because both offer more on special teams than Jones does.
As Eagles' owner Jeffrey Lurie put it Sunday, roster versatility is essential this season, and Jones doesn't really have that. Perhaps Jones can get healthy and live up to his potential somewhere. A change of scenery might be best for him.
2. Jordan Mailata, offensive lineman
In a typical season, the Eagles could afford to be patient for one more year with Mailata, their seventh-round pick in 2018, especially since he missed all of last season with a back injury.
But the Eagles have been hit hard with injuries on the offensive line, with right guard Brandon Brooks and left tackle Andre Dillard suffering season-ending injuries. Mailata, who never played organized football before he was drafted, has no NFL game experience.
The Eagles' depth is an issue, and Mailata, when given the chance at both left and right tackle in training camp, has struggled.
Expect the Eagles to waive Mailata, sign a veteran from another team for depth, and get Mailata back to the practice squad.
3. Quez Watkins, wide receiver
Reagor's injury won't impact Watkins' chances because Reagor won't have to go on injured reserve. The Eagles can get by with five receivers until Reagor gets back.
Watkins, the Eagles' sixth-round pick, could be the odd man out. John Hightower, the fifth-round pick, has had a much better preseason than Watkins. So has Deontay Burnett, who joined the Eagles late last season.
The Eagles should be able to get Watkins to the practice squad. It's hard to see another team picking up an untested rookie, especially without any preseason video to draw from.
4. Vinny Curry, defensive end
This might be the biggest surprise because Curry had five sacks last season, and the Eagles just re-signed him at the end of July.
But with roster spots at a premium, Curry has missed more than a week with an injury. In addition, Josh Sweat has been one of the better players during training camp, and has certainly earned the chance as the first backup over Curry behind starters Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett.
In addition, defensive tackle Malik Jackson has had a strong camp, and Schwartz has said in the past that Jackson can slide out to defensive end in passing situations.
That could change if Barnett, who has yet to practice this summer because of a lower body injury, will have to miss more than the first few weeks of the season.
5. Corey Clement, running back
A lot of this depends on special teams. Clement has always been one of the Eagles' stalwarts here. But Elijah Holyfield and Adrian Killins, an undrafted free agent, have outperformed him during training camp.
The Eagles seem especially intrigued with Killins' speed, using him both at running back and wide receiver.
"He's one of the players that I think has kind of caught our eye a little bit," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. "We had him at running back, receiver, now back to running back. Someone that's come in and really done a nice job that way."
If Killins and Holyfield can play on special teams, one or both can potentially take a roster spot from Clement.
Contact Martin Frank at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.