Zangaro's pre-training camp Eagles 53-man roster projection

Zangaro's pre-training camp Eagles 53-man roster projection

As training camp draws near, it won't be long before the 2017 Eagles take the field for the opener on Sept. 10 in Washington. 

We just don't know what the team will look like yet. 

Over the next few weeks, the team will begin to crystallize leading up to when the roster must be cut down to 53 players. 

Thanks to the owners passing a resolution that eliminated the first cut, there's just one cut from 90 players to 53 this year. There used to be a cut down from 90 to 75 first, which never made any sense because those extra bodies are pretty handy for that last preseason game. 

Anyway, here's a first crack at what we think the Eagles' 53-man roster will look like this season:

QBs (2): Carson Wentz, Nick Foles
The Eagles still have Matt McGloin as their third-string quarterback, but will they value him enough to use a roster spot on him? Maybe. But I have him gone. Last year, the Eagles were prepared to carry three quarterbacks before the Sam Bradford trade, but keeping three in that situation is much different than keeping three this year. 

Maybe if Dane Evans from Tulsa performs well enough this training camp and preseason, he can be stashed on the practice squad as a developmental quarterback. That might be more palatable than keeping a third QB on the 53. 

RBs (4): LeGarrette Blount, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, Donnel Pumphrey
Corey Clement and Byron Marshall are the odd men out. For a while, it seemed like Clement would have a decent shot to make the team as an undrafted free agent. After all, at 230 pounds, he was the big back the Eagles were missing. Then they went out and signed Blount. 

TEs (3): Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton
This group seems pretty well cemented. Billy Brown and Anthony Denham don't have great odds to supplant one of these guys. 

WRs (5): Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Jordan Matthews, Mack Hollins, Nelson Agholor
The Eagles made this even easier when they released Dorial Green-Beckham this offseason, although it seemed unlikely DGB had a real chance. The biggest omission on this list is Gibson, a fifth-round pick. While Gibson finished his spring strong, it wasn't a good showing before that. He has a little bit of an uphill battle to make the team. 

OL (10): Jason Peters, Isaac Seumalo, Allen Barbre, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Stefen Wisniewski, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Chance Warmack, Dillon Gordon
I left Josh Andrews off this list, but then again, I left him off my list last year and he somehow made the team again. This time, I left him off because the Eagles have pretty good depth without him. Taylor Hart doesn't make the cut after switching from defensive tackle. 

DE (5): Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Chris Long, Derek Barnett, Steven Means
Marcus Smith and Alex McCalister are the two most noteworthy names left off the list. It seems like Smith's time with the Eagles might be coming to a close; and he was close to getting beaten out for a job by Means last summer. And McCalister has put on some weight but still just doesn't look the part. He'll really need to flash to make the squad. 

DT (5): Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, Beau Allen, Destiny Vaeao, Elijah Qualls
There's a chance Allen won't be ready for Week 1, in which case, he would be a candidate for the NFI. But for now, we'll leave him on the roster. 

LB (5): Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Mychal Kendricks, Joe Walker, Nate Gerry
Gerry might not end up making the team, but I saw enough from him in the spring to think he has a chance as he transitions from college safety to NFL linebacker. Joe Walker is another question mark, but the team really liked him before he went down with an ACL injury last year. Najee Goode and Kamu Grugier-Hill are the odd men out right now; both are very good special teams players. 

CB (6): Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson, Rasul Douglas, Ron Brooks, Aaron Grymes, C.J. Smith
Sidney Jones will likely start the season on the PUP list. Ron Brooks is still recovering from a significant leg injury, so he's worth watching in camp. Aaron Grymes and C.J. Smith snag the last two spots. 

S (5): Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Jaylen Watkins, Terrence Brooks, Chris Maragos
The depth here isn't great. Watkins vs. Brooks for the third safety job might be a worthwhile competition to watch during camp.

Specialists (3) LS: Jon Dorenbos; P: Donnie Jones; K: Caleb Sturgis
No surprises. 

With high expectations, Derek Barnett knows he still has plenty to learn

With high expectations, Derek Barnett knows he still has plenty to learn

Back near the far hedges of the NovaCare Complex's practice fields, a small group of defensive linemen in white jerseys and shorts participated in some drills. There were barely enough of them to even assemble a defensive line. More than half of the 90 men on the Eagles’ current roster were not at the team’s facilities. 

One of those few defensive linemen was Derek Barnett. On the first day of his first training camp, reporters later crowded around the first-round pick’s temporary locker as if he were the second-coming. Someone asked if he had any issues, considering his high-profile status, with the location of his locker, which is in the middle of the room and not one of the permanent stalls along the wall.

“I ain't made no plays yet,” Barnett said Monday, “so I'm cool with this locker until I make some plays.”

Good point. In terms of both Barnett’s career and this Eagles season, it is early. Very early. And to overhype the magnitude of Monday’s practice with rookies, quarterbacks and selected veterans would be silly. But Barnett knows where he stands, and he took the day as another opportunity to learn. He knows he must.

"Just keep on repping," Barnett said. "I come in and get better each day. It's not a sprint, it's a marathon."

Barnett has never lived anywhere outside of Tennessee. He hails from Brentwood, a suburb of Nashville. He attended the University of Tennessee, where his 33 sacks in three seasons broke Reggie White’s school record. Now the 21-year-old lives in Philadelphia, away from his family — especially his mother, whom he credits as his greatest influence — for the first time. They talk just about every day, and she’s been helpful in his move. Google Maps has been an aid, too. Barnett wants to know more about the city and its history.

He can absorb that knowledge over time, but the Eagles, of course, would prefer that he learns how to beat NFL offensive tackles as quickly as possible. Barnett joined a defensive end unit led by its only clear-cut starter in Brandon Graham. After that, Barnett, along with Chris Long and Vinny Curry, will get time. He might start, he might not. Any pressure that came along with going 14th overall, Barnett said, he doesn’t feel. But an internal force drives him.

“I have very high expectations for myself,” Barnett said. “And that's every year I go into a football season. I'm the biggest critic of myself.”

To get out on the field a few days early was good for Barnett, he said. After spending the time off over the last few weeks at home in Tennessee and working out with former All-Pro end Chuck Smith and Atlanta, he relished the opportunity. Given the limited numbers, Barnett lined up on both the right and left sides of the ball. He said he feels comfortable on either side. It was the not the game action he’s been anxious for, and it didn’t feel “real” without all the veterans, but it was a start.

The vets are on their way, though. The first full-team practice is Thursday, and with that will come the more polished Graham, Curry and Long. That’s three more sets of eyes to critique him, and three more sets of skills for him to watch; Barnett said observing their methods will help him get “mental reps.” The competition won’t hurt either.

The transition appears to be smooth so far. Barnett said he’s had to “unlearn” some of what he did in college, replacing it with a new set of muscle memory. The pace Monday was faster than during OTAs, but Barnett acknowledged that there are no days off in a league where everyone on the field is more capable. You can’t “slack mentally.”

"Coming in today, my coaches said, 'Just play, go, you can make mistakes, and if you do we'll correct them,'" Barnett said. "I didn't feel like there were many mistakes, but I still got some technique things … Things I need to do better."

All of it is new — the techniques, the coaches, the team and the city. Still, familiarity remains.

“It feels like I'm a freshman again, but I'm a rookie,” Barnett said. “I gotta come in and work hard and prove to my teammates that it's important to me and show the coaches they can trust me if they put me on the field.”

Eagles sign Canadian rugby star Adam Zaruba to be tight end

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AP Images

Eagles sign Canadian rugby star Adam Zaruba to be tight end

The Eagles didn't just look north of the border for their newest player. They looked to a completely different sport. 

On Monday afternoon, the Birds signed undrafted free agent and Canadian rugby star Adam Zaruba to a three-year contract, although the length of the contract is standard. 

Zaruba, a 26-year-old Vancouver native, had a tryout before being signed, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson confirmed earlier on Monday. 

Listed at 6-5, 265 pounds, Zaruba is the Eagles' biggest tight end, even bigger than Brent Celek (6-4, 255). While the Eagles have three tight end spots locked up — Celek, Zach Ertz and Trey Burton — Zaruba will likely need to shine on offense and as a special teamer if he has any chance to make the team. 

While this isn't Zaruba's first time playing football, it is his first time playing football in a while. His last competitive football game came in high school, according to TheProvince

Zaruba redshirted as a football player in his freshman year at college and then never played after that, becoming a full-time member of the Canadian national rugby team by 2014. 

He's apparently made a name for himself in the rugby world. Here are some highlights, including an impressive one-handed grab: 

It likely won't be an easy transition from rugby to American football, but the Eagles were probably impressed by Zaruba's athleticism. On June 29, he posted a video to his Instagram account claiming he ran a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash while weighting 260 pounds. To put that into perspective, that time would have ranked second among all tight end competitors at this year's combine and would have been faster than the time put up by 19th overall pick O.J. Howard. 

Zaruba isn't the first rugby player to attempt the conversion to the NFL. The most famous example is Patriots' special teamer Nate Ebner. The U.S. rugby player has played for the Patriots since 2012 and was a second-team All-Pro in 2016. 

After signing Zaruba, the Eagles' roster is full at 90 men.