By Pete Baxter
The Eagles have officially nailed down the 17 players who will make up their practice squad to start the season. It is a mix of veterans and rookies, ranging in age from 22 to 29. The final lineup, in alphabetical order by last name, is as follows:
Kayode Awosika, G/T
La’Raven Clark, T
Christian Elliss, LB
Nick Eubanks, TE
Travis Fulgham, WR
John Hightower, WR
Jordan Howard, RB
Jason Huntley, RB
Michael Jacquet, CB
Craig James, CB
KeeSean Johnson, WR
Matt Leo, DE
Sua Opeta, G
Elijah Riley, S
Jacoby Stevens, LB
Raequan Williams, DT
Marvin Wilson, DT
Some of these players are certainly not in the long-term plans for the franchise. However, a small handful of these guys still have the potential to make an impact for the Eagles this season. Let’s take a closer look at the five players with perhaps the most potential for this squad.
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Elliss is the son of former Pro Bowl defensive lineman Luther Elliss. He earned back-to-back All-Big Sky Conference honors at Idaho. Eliss went undrafted in 2021, despite putting up some serious numbers at Idaho. He racked up 104 total tackles, 4.5 sacks and an interception during his junior year. This was his last full season before his senior year was cut short due to Covid-19. He played the preseason with the Minnesota Vikings before being released by the team.
At 6’3” and 215 lbs, he is reasonably athletic (a 4.57 40-yard dash at the combine). The linebacking corps of the Eagles is a question mark, particularly in terms of depth, and Elliss has a great opportunity to earn a spot on the active roster. He could challenge equally unproven backups like Shaun Bradley and Patrick Johnson for snaps.
Travis Fulgham seemed destined to start the year as the Eagles’ third wide receiver behind DeVonta Smith and Jalen Reagor. He led the team in receiving yards last season (albeit with just 539 yards). He actually led the entire NFL in receiving through a four-week period last year. This included a 10 catch, 152-yard performance against the Steelers. He came back down to earth, however, when Alshon Jeffrey returned from injury.
However, in part due to the preseason emergence of Quez Watkins, along with a weak, unmemorable preseason performance of his own, Fulgham now finds himself on the practice squad.
That said, Fulgham is just 25 years old, starting just his third season in the league. There is no reason to think the 6’2”, 215 lbs receiver can’t still climb back onto the active roster.
During his special run last season, he showed the ability to be a number one wide receiver in a pinch. There is no reason to think he can’t find his groove and be a reliable third or fourth option for this squad.
Jordan Howard may have extended his career with a couple of well-timed blocking highlights during the preseason. The Eagles’ current stable of running backs is otherwise comprised of smaller, speedier players who won’t be impactful in pass protection. At 6’0” and 225 lbs, Howard could easily get back on the Eagles’ active roster as a change of pace power back. He could provide blocking and compliment Miles Sanders and Boston Scott.
Let’s not forget, Howard is just 26 years old. He has a Pro Bowl season and multiple thousand-yard seasons under his belt. Howard has been slowed by injuries over the past several years since. However, he should still have enough football left in him to make an impact on this offense.
The linebacker position and the defensive backfield are two of the biggest question marks left for the Eagles. Jacoby Stevens, a sixth-round pick in this year’s draft, is an intriguing prospect at either position.
He spent time at wide receiver during his freshman year at LSU before permanently making the positional switch to safety. He was named Second Team All-SEC in 2019. He recorded 92 total tackles, 5.0 sacks and three interceptions during that season.
Stevens has a diverse skillset but is a tough fit in an NFL defense. He is undersized at around 220 lbs as a linebacker but is big and lacking in coverage speed as a defensive back.
However, he is a natural leader, and became a top playmaker on a college football championship team. He is highly coachable, and if the Eagles can find the right way to use him, he could fill in a major gap on the defensive side of the ball.
Wilson is a very intriguing prospect at defensive tackle. Wilson was dominant during his junior season at Florida State, racking up 44 tackles, 5.0 sacks and a forced fumble. That season, he earned First Team All-ACC accolades and seemed destined to be a top draft pick.
However, after Wilson made the questionable decision to return to college for his senior year, the wheels fell off. He battled with FSU’s new coaching staff and played poorly in just six games. Shockingly, Wilson went undrafted in 2021. He ultimately joined the Browns as a free agent. He was released earlier this week.
That said, we have seen the how good Wilson can be at his best. At 6’5” and well over 300 lbs, he is a surprisingly athletic behemoth of a man. If he can battle his way onto the Eagles’ active roster, he would have the benefit of learning the pro game under one of the more accomplished defensive tackles in the league in Fletcher Cox.
If he can regain his 2019 form, he could easily challenge fellow rookie Marlon Tuipulotu or career backup Hassan Ridgeway for a roster spot and snaps. Wilson is a boom or bust prospect. That said, he is well worth a look for the Eagles.
The Philadelphia Eagles are going to surprise a lot of people this season. Even Cowboys legend Tony Romo has praised the Eagles as “much better than people understand.”
If these practice squad prospects can reach their full potential, or recapture their past magic, they can help this squad challenge for the NFC East crown.
More to come from Philly.