A year ago, Corey Clement was an undrafted rookie trying to scrape his way onto the roster.
The Eagles had an idea of what the running back could do, but Clement played in the preseason finale like so many other roster bubble players. It goes almost without saying the impact he would eventually have on the Eagles' season and their performance in Super Bowl LII.
While most of the players who participate in Thursday's preseason finale against the New York Jets won't be on the team next week, about a dozen will survive Saturday's 4 p.m. deadline to trim rosters from 90 to 53. And who knows the importance they may have down the road.
But if circumstances were different, the other 35 or so players who get cut could, in most cases, just as easily be in their shoes.
"People don't make teams for a lot of different reasons," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said earlier this week. "Whether it's not a good scheme fit, maybe a numbers position or maybe an injury. It's very rare that a guy just flat out isn't talented enough. I mean, that certainly happens, but perseverance is a big thing."
Cut-down day is considered among the most trying for teams, especially coaches. While the personnel department often views players as pieces on a chessboard, coach Doug Pederson and his assistants have worked closely with athletes who might not make the cut for months, and in some cases, years.
"It's without a doubt the worst day of this job," Schwartz said, "to see guys that work as hard as everybody else, that literally don't get on that bus."
Some teams take coaches out of the equation. Howie Roseman has final say over the roster and while the executive will take Pederson's evaluations into account, he has other factors to consider. Predicting the final roster – final being a relative word – can be difficult because there are contract and salary cap implications.
Roseman is always game to wheel and deal. But most of the spots are set and an annual tradition calls for this beat reporter to give his roster projection (with the understanding that it could change over the next 48 hours) as the Eagles head into their preseason finale:
On roster (3): Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, Nate Sudfeld.
Cut: Christian Hackenberg, Joe Callahan.
The top three on the roster have been settled for some time. The only question – aside from when Wentz will be ready – is whether to keep a quarterback for the practice squad. Hackenberg is finally slated to play against his former team, the Jets. He has greater upside than Callahan, and could be worth keeping as a future reserve if or when Foles leaves next offseason.
On roster (4): Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, Josh Adams.
Cut: Wendell Smallwood, Donnel Pumphrey, Matt Jones.
Adams, an undrafted rookie, has missed time because of injury but he has greater potential than his competitors. Smallwood has done enough to make the team, but he has seemingly capped out. It's hard to see Pumphrey, who can't stay healthy, getting another shot.
On roster (6): Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Mike Wallace, Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson, Markus Wheaton.
Cut: Kamar Aiken, DeAndre Carter, Bryce Treggs, Greg Ward, Rashard Davis, Tim Wilson, Darius Prince.
Gibson could find himself starting in the opener with Jeffery (shoulder) expected to be out and Hollins dealing with a sports hernia issue. The Eagles will likely have to carry six receivers — at least to start the season — and if Wheaton can return to his pre-injury form against the Jets, the job could be his. Roseman will certainly scour the waiver wire or look for an upgrade via trade. With Aiken and Treggs sidelined, Carter has taken advantage of increased playing time. But he looks better suited to the practice squad.
On roster (3): Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers.
Cut: Joshua Perkins, Billy Brown, Gannon Sinclair, Anthony Denham.
Rodgers, who has a knee sprain, is unlikely to be ready for the opener. The Eagles could keep an additional tight end, but Perkins is still in concussion protocol and the other options aren't as appealing. Offensive lineman Isaac Seumalo can also help with three tight end sets for the time being.
On roster: (9): Jason Peters, Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks, Stefen Wisniewski, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Isaac Seumalo, Matt Pryor, Jordan Mailata.
Cut: Chance Warmack, Toby Weathersby, Taylor Hart, Darrell Greene, Jon Toth, Aaron Evans.
Pryor and Mailata – the Eagles' sixth and seventh-round draft picks – have shown more than enough promise to warrant their places. They're developmental lineman who won't open the season on the active game-day roster. Their inexperience, especially if starters were to suffer injuries, would be the argument for keeping Warmack. The Eagles will try to deal the former first-round guard, but the film this preseason hasn't been good.
On roster (6): Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Michael Bennett, Chris Long, Steven Means, Josh Sweat.
Cut: Joe Ostman, Danny Ezechuukwu.
Means is another veteran the Eagles will dangle on the market. For all his potential, he was inactive for 21 games over the previous two seasons. Sweat, a fourth-round pick, would make more sense in that developmental fifth end spot if the Eagles were looking to go heavy elsewhere.
On roster (4): Fletcher Cox, Haloti Ngata, Destiny Vaeao, Bruce Hector.
Non-football injury list: Tim Jernigan.
Cut: Elijah Qualls, Aziz Shittu, Winston Craig.
Jernigan could be out for an extended period following back surgery. The Eagles may gamble with just three tackles since Bennett and Graham can rush from inside on passing downs, but Hector could be another undrafted gem — he's earned his way onto the team ahead of Qualls and Shittu.
On roster (5): Jordan Hicks, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nathan Gerry, Joe Walker, LaRoy Reynolds.
Reserve/Suspended: Nigel Bradham
Cut: Kyle Wilson, Asantay Brown, Jaboree Williams.
Bradham has been suspended for the opener. When he returns, the Eagles will likely trim from another position. The oft-injured Walker hasn't stood out but he's the only natural middle linebacker behind Hicks. Free agent Corey Nelson was supposed to compete for the weak-side position but the team released him on Sunday, all but securing Reynolds' spot.
On roster (6): Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox, De'Vante Bausby.
Cut: D.J. Killings, Chandon Sullivan.
The Eagles are as deep as ever at corner. Killings and Sullivan won't likely survive the guillotine because of numbers. Baubsy could be in trouble for the same reason. He petered off late in the offseason, but learning the slot spot made him more versatile.
On roster (4): Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Corey Graham, Tre Sullivan.
Physically unable to perform (PUP) list: Chris Maragos.
Cut: Jeremy Reaves, Ironhead Gallon.
The addition of Graham early in camp spoke volumes about safety depth. Neither Sullivan nor Reaves, an undrafted rookie, made a claim for the third spot. Sullivan gets the nod for the last spot by default. Roseman could act swiftly and bring in a replacement, especially with Maragos' future in doubt.
On roster (3): Jake Elliott, Cameron Johnston, Rick Lovato.
Elliott and Johnston have been shaky but the Eagles didn't have competition in camp, and a switch at this point would be panicky.