The Eagles will narrow their roster from 90 to 75 by Aug. 26 and to 53 for the regular season by Aug. 30. The Inquirer’s beat reporters will spend the next eight days predicting who stays and who goes. Here’s the lineup:
Aug. 18: Defensive line
Aug. 19: Linebacker
Aug. 20: Wide receiver/tight end
Aug. 21: Offensive line
Aug. 22: Cornerback
Aug. 25: Safety
Aug. 26: Running back
Aug. 27: Quarterback/specialist
Zach Berman: Malcolm Jenkins, Nate Allen, Earl Wolff, Chris Maragos, Ed Reynolds
Jeff McLane: Malcolm Jenkins, Nate Allen, Earl Wolff, Chris Maragos, Ed Reynolds
Safety is not a difficult position to predict. The Eagles have six on their roster, and I think five make the team. An argument could be made for four, but five is a good bet.
Malcolm Jenkins is the big addition to the group. He’s the best safety the Eagles have had since Quintin Mikell. Jenkins was signed because of his versatility and leadership, and the Eagles need both. Jenkins needs to provide the secondary what DeMeco Ryans provides the front seven, and Jenkins believes that eliminating positioning mistakes can go a long way to upgrading the defense. He’s not a cure-all, obviously, or else he would have merited a bigger contract. But the Eagles targeted Jenkins for a reason.
Nate Allen will be the other starter. That hasn’t been announced yet, but Allen has started the first three preseason games and will not play on Thursday. So deductive reasoning would suggest that Allen will start. He was steady last year – not outstanding, and not horrible. He was also their best safety. The addition of Jenkins will aid Allen.
Beyond Allen, the Eagles have more depth than last season. Earl Wolff was a part-time starter in 2013. He did not beat Allen for the job and still needs to master the defense, but he is a hard hitter who has athleticism. He needs to continue learning the system.
Wolff is the No. 3 safety. After Wolff, the Eagles have Chris Maragos and Ed Reynolds. Maragos was signed away from Seattle mostly for special teams. He’s not in Philadelphia to be a defensive contributor, although the team thinks he can if needed. But Maragos will be on the roster in the team’s efforts to upgrade special teams.
Reynolds is a different story. He’s a fifth-round pick, which provides some security, but not complete security. He hasn’t flashed in games, but he hasn’t looked out of place. Reynolds missed part of the spring because of Stanford’s calendar, and he said he caught up in the first week. He has not yet had too many opportunities to show what he can do in coverage. That will come Thursday.
Zach Berman: Keelan Johnson
Jeff McLane: Keelan Johnson
The Eagles stuck by Johnson after his arrest. They liked him last year, convincing him to stay on the practice squad even when the Cardinals wanted to sign him. But the Eagles signed Jenkins and Maragos and drafted Reynolds. Those numbers don’t help Johnson. He could be a practice squad candidate again.
Some might wonder if Reynolds will be cut. The Eagles haven’t cut a fifth-round pick since 2007, and I don’t think Reynolds goes anywhere. In fact, the 6-foot-1, 207-pound safety could develop into a contributor at this point. In the short term, though, he might be inactive on game days.
The Eagles cut Daytawion Lowe and Davon Morgan during the weekend, which were the first moves at safety.