Two undrafted free agents from this past spring have made the Eagles’ final roster, but the team said good-bye to running backs Josh Adams, Wendell Smallwood, and Boston Scott, as well as a fifth-round draft pick from this past April, as it whittled its roster down to 53 players on Saturday afternoon, a roster that, surprisingly, has just two tight ends.
Adams was the team’s leading rusher last season and Smallwood was second. There was just no room for either of them with the offseason additions of Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders in addition to the Eagles’ decision to bring back veteran Darren Sproles and the return to good health of Corey Clement.
“You’re talking about our leading rusher and a guy (in Smallwood) who played for us in the Super Bowl,” said general manager Howie Roseman, forgetting perhaps that Smallwood did not play in the Super Bowl but was on the roster. “Those are hard conversations to have. It’s a testament to what we have in that room right now. We’re excited about that.
“Jordan’s had a tremendous offseason, you see his vision, his instincts, has power, then Miles has really come on, getting Darren back and what he can do in the passing game, as a returner, his veteran leadership (and) Corey really can play all four downs and he’s a heckuva special teams and he looks 100 percent, so we like how all those guys play off each other.”
The Eagles kept just five receivers in addition to the four running backs, with Mack Hollins winning the fifth receiver spot over Greg Ward.
VIDEO: Howie Roseman talks about the running back decisions
“Greg has done a tremendous job and really I don't have an answer about what he could have done more, other than we're trying to balance everyone we have at every position and what we're looking for offensively, defensively and on special teams,” said Roseman. “And sometimes it just comes down to looking for a specific role from that specific spot.”
The two undrafted free agents that made the team were linebacker T.J. Edwards and offensive lineman Nate Herbig (pictured above playing center).
Herbig was kept at the expense of veteran Stefen Wisniewski, who proved too unreliable as the backup center with snaps that didn’t find the quarterbacks’ hands often enough. Herbig was moved from guard to center recently and could be developed first to become Jason Kelce’s primary backup should an injury strike Kelce at any point this season and, secondly, as Kelce’s heir apparent.
Edwards was one of six linebackers the Eagles kept. He played well throughout the preseason and in training camp, but so did fellow linebacker Alex Singleton.
"That was a tough call for us,” said Roseman when asked what separated the two. “I think they have a little bit different skill sets, they play a little bit different spots in our defense, but really we kind of went back and forth on it and decided to go with T.J."
Clayton Thorson was among those released despite being drafted in the fifth round. He will likely be added to the practice squad on Sunday.
Roseman pointed out that the decision to sign veteran Josh McCown put Thorson in a bad spot.
“We look back at the situation the last couple of years in that quarterback room and just how Josh would fit in with Carson,” said Roseman. “Sometimes we forget Carson is 26 years old and Nate (Sudfeld) is a young player. Having that veteran in there with those guys, and you see the chemistry developing already, we’re real excited about that quarterback room.
“By the same token, obviously, then you let go of a fifth round pick. You’ll see (Saturday) a lot of draft picks cut in rounds that are higher than the fifth round and lower than the fifth round. We have to do what’s best for our football team and build our team the way we see fit. … We’re not going to just keep guys on the team because we drafted them in a certain round.”
The only two tight ends the Eagles kept are Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, after the team waived Josh Perkins and Alex Ellis.
“We look at the roster as a 63-man roster,” said Roseman, referring to the 10 players they can put on the practice squad. “So we look at the 63-man and how many numbers that we're going to keep there, and how many on the 46 (which is the number of players a team can activate on game day).
“So just because we have two on the 53, doesn't mean that we'll end up having two to practice or we'll end up having two when we go play. We'll just see what happens here in the next day or so.”
As for the defensive end position, the Eagles have six, including fourth-round picks Josh Sweat in 2018 and Shareef Miller in 2019, and Daeshon Hall, the MVP of the preseason. Hassan Ridgeway was kept ass the fourth defensive tackle as the team waived Treyvon Hester.
“Our young group has been great,” said Roseman of his defensive ends. “If you were scouting and looking around and saying what young defensive end had the best preseason, I don’t know if there’s a better young defensive end in football than Daeshon Hall this preseason. He deserves a tremendous amount of credit. He went and he worked on his body in the offseason. He came back 30 pounds heavier then he proved it on the field.
“Josh sweat had a really good camp and we expect him to be able to contribute, too, a fourth round pick. Then Shareef, he looked good in the games, you can see his athleticism, and you see he has tools in his body. At the same time, we have to understand we have to develop players.
“When we’re talking about our roster, we have a lot of guys who are good players and make good money and we have to bet on our young palyers. We have to bet on our scouting, we have to bet on our coaching and I’ll take that bet.”
EAGLES SATURDAY MOVES
Placed CB Jalen Mills on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP)
Released the following player:
G/C Stefen Wisniewski
Waived the following players:
RB Josh Adams
TE Alex Ellis
DT Treyvon Hester
G Sua Opeta
TE Joshua Perkins
RB Boston Scott
RB Wendell Smallwood
QB Clayton Thorson
T Brett Toth
WR Greg Ward