John McMullen Takes His Crack at the Eagles' First 53

A new coaching staff, the more liberal COVID-inspired roster rules, and a host of short-term injuries make the first 53 more complicated than usual
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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - It’s more complicated than normal when it comes to predicting the Eagles’ first 53.

The cutdown date of Tuesday at 4 p.m. will be impacted by everything from a new coaching staff, the more liberal COVID-inspired roster rules, and a host of short-term injuries that could have GM Howie Roseman juggling things for days.

As far as the Tuesday edition of the 53, however, it’s time to play Occam’s Razor - the simplest answer is usually the correct one - so that’s put all the conspiracy theories to rest and focus on merit and potential, the two traits that will swing the difficult decisions for the Philadelphia brass.

QUARTERBACKS (3): Jalen Hurts, Joe Flacco, Gardner Minshew

Cut: Nick Mullens

You need three quarterbacks in the pandemic era and the Eagles weren't comfortable with Nick Mullens after a poor summer coming off elbow surgery although Mullens did play a little better against the Jets on Friday night and seemed more decisive.

On Saturday morning the Eagles quickly made a move to acquire former Jacksonville starter Gardner Minshew for a 2022 conditional sixth-round pick.

The QB factory is back.

RUNNING BACKS (4): Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Kenny Gainwell, Jordan Howard

Practice squad: Jason Huntley

Out: Elijah Holyfield

The wrangling here is between Howard and Huntley with some trying to play 3-D chess and assume Roseman will release Howard, a vested veteran, only to bring him back in Week 2 when his salary isn’t fully guaranteed but don’t overthink this.

The coaching staff likes what Howard brings to the table and he’s not making a ton of money. A rib injury hurt Huntley but the Eagles should be able to get the speedy back onto the PS.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5): DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins, Greg Ward, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside

PS: Travis Fulgham, John Hightower

Out: Marken Michel, Andre Patton

Arcega-Whiteside did enough against the Jets to give Roseman the plausible deniability to give the former second-round pick one more chance and the nod over Fulgham, who had a poor summer, falling from potential starter to practice squad.

TIGHT ENDS (3): Dallas Goedert; Zach Ertz, Tyree Jackson

PS: Jack Stoll

Out: Richard Rodgers (for now), Cary Angeline

Here’s where you might see some Roseman manipulation with the Eagle keeping Jackson, a terrific developmental project with a very high ceiling as a player, despite the fracture in his back that will keep the former college quarterback on the shelf for two months.

Once the first 53 is put together, the Eagles can shift Jackson to short-term injured reserve, elevate Stoll from the PS for Week 1 and bring Rodgers back for Week 2 when his salary will not be guaranteed for the entire season.

OFFENSIVE LINE (10): Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Isaac Seumalo, Lane Johnson, Jordan Mailata, Andre Dillard, Landon Dickerson, Nate Herbig, Jack Driscoll, Brett Toth

PS: Sua Opeta, Kayode Awosika, Le'Raven Clark

Out: Matt Pryor, Ross Pierschbacher

The Eagles go heavy on the offensive line because Dickerson should be ready to go before Week 7 and Toth is too good not to make the team. All 15 linemen the Eagles have belong in the NFL and Roseman would probably like to spin off Dillard, Pryor, or both.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9): Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Josh Sweat, Derek Barnett, Ryan Kerrigan, Hassan Ridgeway, Milton Williams, Tarron Jackson

PS: T.Y. McGill, Marlon Tuipulotu, Raequan Williams

IPP Exemption: Matt Leo

Out: JaQuan Bailey

McGill deserves to make this team on merit but the guess is Roseman sticks with the upside of Jackson over the journeyman especially now that you can put veterans on the PS. The only other question mark is Ridgeway but the Eagles seem to default to him.

LINEBACKERS (6): Eric Wilson, Alex Singleton, T.J. Edwards, Davion Taylor, Shaun Bradley, Genard Avery

PS: Patrick Johnson, JaCoby Stevens

Out: Rashad Smith

Taylor is another candidate for short-term IR once the first 53 is set and then the hope will be to get Johnson or Stevens back on the 53 if they clear waivers.

CORNERBACKS (5): Darius Slay, Steve Nelson, Avonte Maddox, Zech McPhearson, Craig James

PS: Josiah Scott, Mike Jacquet

Out: Kevon Seymour

The Eagles could easily chop off an offensive lineman or a receiver if they want to keep six but there’s no great need if you believe you can get Scott through waivers.

SAFETIES (5): Anthony Harris, Rodney McLeod, K’Von Wallace, Marcus Epps, Andrew Adams

PS: Elijah Riley, Grayland Arnold

Out: Blake Countess

Adams had a tough finish vs. the Jets but he’s a good special teams player and seems to be ahead of the younger safeties when it comes to football IQ.

SPECIALISTS (3): Jake Elliott, Arryn Siposs, Rick Lovato

We know we are getting one category right.

John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is theNFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.