The Eagles have to narrow their roster to 75 players by Tuesday and to 53 by Sept. 3. Here's a look at each position as final cut-down day looms:
Aug 23: Offensive line
Aug. 24: Defensive line
Aug. 25: Linebacker
Aug. 26: Wide receiver/tight end
Aug. 29: Running back
Aug. 30: Defensive back
Aug. 31: Quarterback/specialist
Wide receiver/tight end
WR: Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham, Rueben Randle, Josh Huff.
TE: Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton, Chris Pantale.
Wide receiver will be one of the most scrutinized positions on cut day, and the Eagles could keep six. But if they go with five, I'd keep the five listed above.
Jordan Matthews is the Eagles' top wide receiver, even if he misses the entire preseason. Much has been made about Matthews playing on the outside, and you'll see him there, but his best role will still be navigating in the slot. He flirted with 1,000 yards last season as the top receiver in an up-tempo system. If he stays healthy and the Eagles get productive quarterback play, he could near that again. I wouldn't expect him to lap that number, but he's a solid receiver who is entering his third season, which is usually when development in wide receivers can be seen.
Nelson Agholor had a disappointing rookie season and hasn't shown much this summer to prove that the second year will be better, but he should have the opportunity and there is talent there to be groomed. Agholor can also mix into the slot, which he didn't get to play much last season. If improvement is judged against his 23 catches for 283 yards and one touchdown as a rookie, then he should be improved. That's an uninspiring benchmark. Nonetheless, with the trade for Dorial Green-Beckham, he might need to concede playing time.
And that brings us to Green-Beckham, who can tantalize at 6-foot-5 and 237 pounds. It's not just potential – he had 32 catches for 549 yards and four touchdowns last season. If Agholor had that production, there would not have been nearly as much concern about the position. Green-Beckham arrived late, but look for him to play a role on the Eagles. He'll be a top-3 wide receiver, and potentially even a starter as the season progresses. Right now, the team is having him focus on the "X" position.
After those three receivers, the roster cuts get interesting. I kept Rueben Randle even if the preseason has not inspired much confidence. He was one of the steadiest wide receivers during training camp, and he has more production in his career than any other receiver on the roster. Without much experience at the position, the Eagles could use someone who averaged 661 yards in four NFL seasons -- regardless of the warts.
For the fifth wide receiver spot, I went with Josh Huff. This could be Chris Givens or Paul Turner, but Huff's role on special teams gets the nod. He's their top kick returner at this point and can play on the other units, too. He'll be buried on the depth chart as a wide receiver in this scenario, so don't expect much offensive production.
One way to keep six wide receivers is if the Eagles keep three tight ends, but that doesn't appear to be the way Doug Pederson is leaning. Pederson wants to use the fourth tight end as a fullback and on special teams, which is how Chris Pantale makes the roster.
The top tight end is Zach Ertz, even if Brent Celek starts the game. If you play fantasy football, take Ertz. He could be primed for a bigger year than last season, when he finished with 75 catches for 853 yards. Ertz is healthier this season, he has a strong connection with Sam Bradford, and this offense features tight ends. Four tight ends led their teams in receiving yards last season, and Ertz could join that category this year.
Celek is a solid veteran who can block and catch. He'll need to concede playing time to Ertz – the Eagles are better with Ertz on the field – but Celek will still have a big role. And though Trey Burton is the third tight end, his summer warrants more playing time. The Eagles can find creative ways to use him, whether it's splitting him out or putting him in motion. Burton has only three career catches. It would not surprise if he gets into the teens this season, considering the way the Eagles plan to use tight ends.
WR: Chris Givens, Paul Turner, Marcus Johnson, Cayleb Jones, David Watford.
TE: M.J. McFarland.
The toughest cuts here are Givens and Turner. Givens is a proven deep threat who was brought in to provide that vertical element to the offense, but he has not been productive enough in the preseason and the trade for Green-Beckham made the numbers tough. Givens could still make it over Randle, but I'd lean toward Randle.
Turner has a strong case to make the team with the way he has played this summer. He has been the best of the undrafted rookies, leads the team in receiving through two preseason games, and has caught the attention of the coaches and teammates. But he profiles as someone I'd try to develop on the practice squad. You can argue he should be on the team over Huff, but does he provide more special teams value? The next two games could answer that question.