The Eagles are expecting a successful regular season in 2019 and a long run in the playoffs. The Birds have the talent to back up those aspirations.
When you have an elite lineup, and it comes time to trim the roster down to the mandated league limit, good players will be lost.
Eagles executive vice president/general manager Howie Roseman took some time shortly after the final cuts were made to this year’s roster to talk about how some of those decisions were made.
Wide receiver Greg Ward is on the Eagles practice squad for a third consecutive year, his last according to league rules.
More than a few observers believe he should have made this year’s roster over third-year pass catcher Mack Hollins, who had a good rookie season but missed all of 2018 due to injury and has played little this offseason.
This preseason, Ward, a former quarterback from the University of Houston, had six catches for 87 yards and a touchdown.
Roseman was asked if the 5-foot-11, 190-pounder could have done anything else to make the active roster.
“It’s interesting, because you go through the whole offseason and your whole goal is to collect as much talent as you possibly can,” Roseman said. “You want to build a team and you want to find the right guys. This week, you really start trying to figure out roles and responsibilities. You’re trying to build a team and trying to find the right fits. 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. And sometimes, it just comes down to looking for a specific role from that specific spot. [But] Greg had a tremendous summer.”
It is hard to believe Ward won’t see action this season, if not with the Eagles, somewhere else.
All together, the Eagles brought in at least 20 offensive linemen to look at, including incumbents and other veterans.
The massive group included a gang of rookie free agents who most said had options where to sign, but chose to come to the Eagles to be coached by highly regarded offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland.
Stoutland worked his magic again, landing four rookie free agents on NFL payrolls, three on active rosters.
Former Penn State and Archbishop Wood standout offensive lineman Ryan Bates was signed by the Eagles right after the draft. On Aug. 9, the 6-4, 302-pounder was traded to the Buffalo Bills for defensive end Eli Harold. Bates ended up making the Bills’ 53-man roster, Harold was released by the Birds.
The Birds picked up former Army tackle Brett Toth late in training camp, then cut him with the hope of putting him on the practice squad. Toth was grabbed by the Arizona Cardinals shortly after he was released.
Former Stanford standout guard Nate Herbig was signed as a rookie free agent by the Birds after he was not drafted. The 6-4, 334-pound beast was switched from guard to center, where he excelled, making veteran lineman Stefen Wisniewski expendable.
The Eagles put Sua Opeta, a rookie free agent out of Weber State, on the practice squad after he put in a solid performance in Eagles training camp.
Roseman talked about the youth on the offensive line.
“I think when you look at it, you look at our starting group and we’re really excited about our starting group,” Roseman said. “Then you talk about someone like Big V (Halapoulivaati Vaitai), who shows tremendous ability not only at tackle, where he started at left tackle in the Super Bowl, but now comes in and plays guard and shows his value there and does a tremendous job for us there.
“Our first-round pick [T Andre Dillard] is not starting for us. He’s a guy that we have a lot of confidence in,” Roseman continued. “Then you look at the backups that we have after that, and they all have versatility. You really kind of can go one by one. What we are excited about is we have a good mix of veteran players on the offensive line and also youth that we think can develop and develop into good players.”
Roseman addressed picking quarterback Clayton Thorson in the fifth round out of Northwestern. Thorson was a complete disappointment and did not get a spot on the practice squad. He did end up on the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad.
“I think for us, when we made the decision to sign Josh McCown, obviously that put Clayton in a tough spot,” Roseman said. “We look back at the situation that we’ve been in the last couple of years in that quarterback room, and just how Josh would fit in with Carson – sometimes we forget Carson is 26 years old and Nate [Sudfeld] is a young player – and having that veteran in there with those guys. You see the chemistry developing already, and we’re really excited about that quarterback room. And by the same token, obviously then you let go of a fifth-round pick. We’ve just got to figure out what’s the best. We are not just going to keep guys on the team because we draft them in a certain round.”
Roseman signed quarterback Kyle Lauletta, a fourth-round pick of the New York Giants in 2018 out of Richmond. Lauletta was 37-of-62 for 453 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in the preseason for Big Blue. Lauletta attended Downingtown East High School.
There were no surprises with whom coach Doug Pederson kept on defense. Linemen Malik Jackson and Hassan Ridgeway are veterans acquired in the offseason and were expected to stick. Fourth-round pick Shareef Miller, a defensive end out of Penn State, did not have a great camp, but the Eagles seem to be willing to give the George Washington High School graduate time to develop.
Roseman was asked to address the entire roster as it was constructed right after the final cuts were made…cuts that are rarely final.
“I think we have a lot of talent,” he said. “The question is how we come together as a football team. We started here and we had an opportunity to talk to the team first day of training camp and we talked about that there was talent in this room, but we need to come together as a team and that comes through experiences through the course of the season. That comes from dealing with adversity through the course of the season. We think that we have the right character and right leadership on this team, on the coaching staff, and on the field to do that. But now we have to go show that.”
The Eagles’ 10-man practice squad consists of TE Alex Ellis, WR Marcus Green, DT Bruce Hector, CB Craig James, QB Kyle Lauletta, G Sua Opeta, TE Joshua Perkins, RB Boston Scott, LB Alex Singleton and WR Greg Ward. ••
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