This is The First 53, and you know it's going to change for the Philadelphia Eagles because that's the nature of this NFL and that's the mindset of Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman, who is going to continue to address this 2022 roster. The 53 will turn into 70 (16 practice squad players plus International Programs player Matt Leo) and we know the door is always revolving.
You are an Eagles fan and that's why you are here, and you have every right to be excited about what's going on at One NovaCare Way. An offseason plan that began the night the Eagles landed back in Philadelphia following their playoff loss in Tampa Bay, greeted by the ice and the stark reality of a journey ended took another turn on Tuesday with the unveiling of The First 53. Some of the highlights, and then some observations …
1. Roseman pulled off a trade with New Orleans for versatile defensive back Chauncey (C.J.) Gardner-Johnson and a 2025 seventh-round draft selection, sending draft picks (a fifth-rounder in 2023, a sixth-rounder in 2024) for a player who gives the Eagles another piece in the secondary. Head Coach Nick Sirianni didn't want to specify how the Eagles plan to use Gardner-Johnson, a terrific nickel cornerback/safety with the Saints and a player the Eagles saw excel at the University of Florida. He'll have a chance to make an immediate impact, but it's a day-by-day process here as Gardner-Johnson has to learn the system to the point where the coaching staff feels comfortable with him on the field in the regular season. However, it's promising. Gardner-Johnson was a high-level starter in New Orleans and the Eagles are always looking for versatile, physical players who love the game. He fits into those categories.
2. All five of the 2022 draft picks made the initial 53-man roster. Tight end Grant Calcaterra said after Saturday night's game in Miami that he was being tested as an in-line blocker and that he felt he did well, and clearly he did. He's the third tight end behind Dallas Goedert and Jack Stoll. Linebacker Kyron Johnson showed some terrific burst throughout the summer and as he grows and adds strength and bulk, he will have a chance to expand his repertoire. Initially, Johnson will have a chance to earn reps on special teams. Obviously, defensive tackle Jordan Davis, center Cam Jurgens, and linebacker Nakobe Dean showed up every day in Training Camp and learned and improved and earned the trust of the coaching staff.
3. Three non-drafted players made the 53: safety Reed Blankenship, cornerback Josh Jobe, and offensive lineman Josh Sills. Blankenship was a five-year starter and a three-year captain at Middle Tennessee State and he impressed the coaching staff from Day 1 with his football intelligence, his toughness, and his versatility in the secondary. Roseman mentioned former Eagle Quintin Mikell as a comparison, and while he didn't say Blankenship was at the level of Mikell, an 11-year NFL player, the initial path and some characteristics are there.
Jobe is a big, rangy cornerback from Alabama who has done a good job in coverage against the very best in college football and the Eagles want to work with a young player who has that kind of strong background and athletic skill set. Sills played in 52 games at West Virginia and Oklahoma State, and he quietly threw people around in Training Camp and in the preseason games playing both guard and tackle. He's 6-6 and 325 pounds and Jeff Stoutland is looking forward to working with him. Sills was good enough that the Eagles released veteran tackle Le'Raven Clark and young veteran guard Jack Anderson.
The Eagles announced the initial 53-man roster after Tuesday's 4 PM final cutdown.
4. Roseman said that the offensive line, because of the depth the team had put together, was the toughest group to sift through on the way to the 53-man roster. Not a surprise. The Eagles returned their line from last season and added Jurgens in the Draft and brought in some impressive non-drafted players, with Sills leading the list.
5. There are five wide receivers on the roster—A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins, Zach Pascal, and Jalen Reagor.
6. There are two quarterbacks on the roster – Jalen Hurts and Gardner Minshew. Roseman indicated that the Eagles would certainly have another quarterback in the building, likely on the practice squad.
7. The Eagles are carrying three running backs at this point – Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, and Kenneth Gainwell.
It is all a fluid situation, as Roseman acknowledged and as you all know by now. The Eagles may make waiver wire roster claims, and if so they will find out on Wednesday if they were awarded any of those players. There are veterans who were released on Tuesday whom the Eagles can immediately add to the roster, so that is always a possibility. It is, as they say, a work in progress.
And that's kind of the attitude the Eagles are taking into this whole thing. It's been suggested on social media that the Eagles "went all in," given the offseason moves they made and with the Gardner-Johnson trade announced, and while that is a compliment to the way Roseman and his staff have upgraded the roster, it's not really true. What the Eagles have done so brilliantly is walk the high-wire act of doing everything they can to win as many games as possible for 2022 and at the same time add an extensive amount of future NFL Draft capital – an extra first-round pick in 2023 and an extra second-round pick in 2024, for example.
Going "all in," to me, means mortgaging some of the future for the present and the Eagles have not even come close to doing that. They have leveraged their situation and maximized their assets and here we sit with a team that is "heading in the right direction," as Roseman said on Friday as the team conducted its walkthrough practice before the preseason finale the next night. "The roster is in a better place than it was last year, we feel, but we've got a lot of work to do."
All of that is true. The Eagles haven't yet won a game, so nobody is losing perspective here.
"We've gotta have a good week and a half of practice and we're going to have a challenge with a Detroit team that is going to be fired up in Detroit," Roseman said. "And we'll just kind of take it week by week here. A lot of things are going to happen this season. There are going to be ups and downs. I'm excited to go on this journey with this group, but we've got a lot of work to do to prepare for that."