Eagles Mail: Which Eagles newcomer can least afford to lose?

With training camp over, the Eagles have finalized their initial 53-man roster and are now preparing for Week 1.

It’s football season.

But it’s also been a long time since our last mailbag. We have a lot of questions that I will answer over the next few days. As always, thanks for all the thoughtful questions.

Let’s get to it:

The Eagles added a lot of impact players this offseason, but most of them were on defense. The only starter they added on offense was AJ Brown. So I’ll give him a slight edge over Haason Reddick as an answer to that question.

Last year, the Eagles had the 25th ranking in the NFL. Everyone expects them to be much better in 2022 — myself included — and Brown is a big reason why. Howie Roseman traded a first-round pick and dealt a $100 million contract for that reason. And this summer Brown has already shown me that he is the real man. Of course, DeVonta Smith will be better in Year 2, and Zach Pascal was a nice addition, even more important than I originally thought.

But much of this team’s success this season will depend on the play of Jalen Hurts. And the biggest move that helped Hurts improve was bringing in his best friend, who just happens to be a dynamic receiver. It should be noted that Brown played all 16 games as a rookie, but missed two games in 2020 and four games in 2021. The Eagles could do with him missing a few games in 2022, but they really need him there.

The news that Andre Dillard broke his forearm is embarrassing, especially since he was Jordan Mailata’s insurance policy. Yeah, I’m a little concerned about tackle depth, specifically at left tackle, after this injury. But it’s also important to note that there aren’t many teams with a three at this position. And having Dillard as a backup in the first place is a bit of a luxury.

We’ll see what happens, but it certainly looks like Dillard is headed to IR. The top backups on the 53-man roster are Jack Driscoll and Josh Sills. Driscoll played exclusively right tackle all summer. Sills played guard and tackle, getting work at left tackle with the second and third teams. But will the Eagles really throw in an undrafted rookie if the Mile goes down? Probably not.

That’s why the most likely backup option for Mailata is the practice squad. Veteran Le’Raven Clark didn’t have a great training camp or preseason, but at least he’s played in the NFL, and coaches will likely feel more comfortable with him there than a rookie. The Eagles also have Kayode Awosika on their practice squad. Awosika didn’t make the roster, but at least he’s been in the NFL for a year.

This was one of the surprises in the final cut list. The Eagles kept Oklahoma State UDFA Sills ahead of Anderson, who was on the roster last year. The Giants quickly took Anderson off waivers. I agree with you that Anderson is definitely a more advanced player right now; hell, I’d just say he’s a better player right now. But in hindsight, I understand why the Eagles kept Sills. He played every position on the line in his college career and offered versatility at guard/tackle instead of guard/center like Anderson. The Eagles likely saw more value in that versatility at backup tackle.

No, I’m not worried about only having four receivers on the roster (for now) because the Eagles have Deon Cain, Devon Allen and Britain Covey on their practice squad. And I didn’t have high expectations for Jalen Reagor this season anyway, so it’s not a huge loss. The way practice squads work now, they are like an extension of the active roster and the Eagles treat them as such. Honestly, Cain deserved that spot on the list more than Rhaegar anyway. And Covey could be an upgrade in the rematch.

There was a lot more to Carter than just poor play on the field; he dealt with substance abuse issues and truly believed that his release had turned his life around. Reagor is simply struggling with poor play and a possible loss of confidence.

I guess there’s a chance Reagor goes to Minnesota and the fresh start gives his career a boost. I’ll believe it when I see it. Even if he changes his career, don’t worry. I think it’s safe to say that was never going to happen here.

You can call me Dave. Honestly, the only person who calls me David is Ray Didinger. That’s a fair question for Sanders, especially since he’s entering a contract season. The Eagles really like him and Sanders is a good runner when healthy, but injuries are clearly an issue. It would be hard to pay him a huge contract while this issue hangs over him. Still, it’s possible that if the money is right, Sanders could come back in 2022.

But it might also be time to use a relatively high pick on a running back next year. The Eagles drafted Kenny Gainwell fifth last season and he’s a nice piece, but he probably won’t be back. There’s the thought that you can just find running backs in every round of the draft, and that’s somewhat true. But most of the elite players in the NFL were taken pretty early.

Over the past five years, here’s an overview of 1,000-yard games by draft round:

First round: 10
Second round: 8
Third round: 3
Fourth round: 1
Fifth round: 2
Sixth round: 0
Seventh round: 1
VAT: 3

To be clear, I am not advocating using first round picks on running backs. But it also usually doesn’t make sense to pay running backs a lot, especially if they aren’t special.

We are always happy to speak with special teams. By the end of last season, cornerback Zech McPhearson had become a pretty decent shooter, and Josiah Scott ended up playing that role in a playoff game. They’re both on the list again, so that’s a good place to start.

Sean Bradley and Patrick Johnson return as key contributors on special teams. We know Bradley was one of the best team players in the NFC last year. The Eagles also added a guy who could become a starter on those units in sixth-round pick Kieron Johnson. The Kansas product was a big player for the Jayhawks, but he also outplayed teams. He’s a 6-foot, 235-pound rusher who ran a sub-4.4 40-yard dash at his pro day. This is a good start for Johnson to be great in coverage units.

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