How Packers game could determine starting Nickel for Eagles

The Eagles face Green Bay this weekend for the third game in their pre-season campaign. Whilst it may be important for the likes of Sam Bradford, it’s also crucial for the guys competing over the starting Nickel spot.

After the trade of Brandon Boykin and then the injury of JaCorey Shepherd, the battle for the starting Nickel position has escalated quicker than the Eagles points tally did against the Ravens, but the question is..could it all end this weekend?

So far, the Eagles have come up against some incredible receivers. From veterans such as Steve Smith to rookie prospects like Phillip Dorsett. Whilst the Packers are now without their star receiver Jordy Nelson who recently tore his ACL, the team still have Randall Cobb. Meaning that this could still be one of the stiffest challenges the nickel corners have faced.

Why is that so important? The position is still well up for grabs and another solid outing from Eric Rowe could well seal the spot, but then again there have already been some underdogs putting in exceptional performances, look no further than running back Kenjon Barner for proof of that.

To get a rough idea over who’s going to get the most minutes this weekend, here’s a snap count from the Ravens win. All credit to http://philly.com

Eric Rowe 37 

Jerome Couplin 52 

Jaylen Watkins 46 

E.J. Biggers 22

Denzel Rice 49 

Rowe was used in the Nickel more than anyone else on this list and also contributed hugely in special teams. The Rookie out of Utah is going to have a huge impact on the team this season and remains fairly new to the Corner position having played safety for much of his time at College.

But if the team were ever worried about lack of experience in the position, Biggers has seven years of league experience to his name. We have evaluated the candidates for the position numerous times, from the undrafted underdog of Denzel Rice to the confident fourth round pick from last year Jaylen Watkins over the past month or so, but now it’s crunch time. Experience, back story, where you were drafted, none of it matters. If you can shut down Randall Cobb, that’s what matters.

Chip Kelly has already stated that competition for the position is wide open and half way through pre-season it’s fair to say he meant it. Every candidate has taken enough snaps for there to be enough film to evaluate and that strategy is going to carry on through this weekend. But this could be the most telling sign and the most important to determine a true starter.

It’s going to be needed as well when you look at how close each corner is in terms of performance.

Combined pre-season tackles so far:
Eric Rowe- 6
Jaylen Watkins-6
E.J Biggers-5
Jerome Couplin-5

Last season Randall Cobb received for 1200 yards and 12 touchdowns. Against the Eagles last season he picked up over 100 of those yards on just ten attempts. Cobb is by far one of the most electric young receivers in the league and will be a true test for the Eagles corners. He is going to separate the men from the boys and punish any error immensely. It won’t just be a few yards, it could be a touchdown.

For the Eagles corners, it’s literally going to be a case of next man up. Who can step up to the plate when Cobb is on a hot streak. Without Jordy Nelson, the Packers receiving core behind Cobb is far less intimidating, meaning that he is likely going to see more reps..therefore seeing the Eagles corners being tried and tested constantly against one of the best in the business.

Eric Rowe saw his strengths highlighted against Steve Smith whilst E.J Biggers was also able to demonstrate his physicality against the Ravens. Randall Cobb will be an entirely different challenge and a big performance here could well end the war over the Nickel Position.

Rowe looks primed to get the job done. After forcing Dorsett into a fumble in week one of pre-season and amassing five tackles, he only picked up one against the Ravens as his role altered slightly. Jerome Couplin meanwhile, coming off of an Appendix injury was able to combine for five against the Baltimore Ravens, leaving his name fresh in the mind of Chip Kelly.

This will perhaps be the most interesting story to watch come this weekend and one that could have huge repercussions in terms of who does and who doesn’t make the 53 man roster. The cut is coming and the players have very little time left to impress their coach. Coming up against a receiver so dominant may be the perfect platform to show the world what you can do.

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