The Eagles may have steamrolled over the Colts defensively in their third consecutive preseason victory, but the cornerback play as a whole was far from dominant. The starters saw the majority of the first half, while the likes of C.J Smith and Jalen Mills battled to show their value to the coaching staff in the latter stages..but who shone, and who didn’t? Here are grades and analysis of every cornerback’s (still on the roster) play against the Colts.
Snaps played: 34%
The Eagles starter continued his solid preseason with a game of consistent coverage. Whether that be almost becoming a human barrier on curl routes or wrapping up receivers with a strong tackle, there wasn’t really much to say about McKelvin’s game other than it’s what we have come to expect.
One of the most impressive aspects of McKelvin’s limited playing time was the instinct shown by the former Buffalo Bill. McKelvin was able to read the play fast and efficiently, meaning that he can contribute effectively in various areas. For instance in the play below, McKelvin watches the eyes of Andrew Luck and immediately turns back on himself upon realizing the short pass was not the intended option. Jenkins had support behind him in the case that he lost the duel with Moncreif and the Eagles were able to cut any YAC opportunity short.
McKelvin spent most of his snaps covering the 23 year old receiver and for the most part had him under wraps. When Luck’s second drive fell short at the final hurdle, it was McKelvin who got himself in front of Moncrief in the endzone, limiting Luck’s passing options.
McKelvin may have been quiet, but he was effective. There are no alarm bells ringing after the final dress rehearsal before the regular season with McKelvin looking to emerge as a reliable starter in Philadelphia.
Snaps played: 54%
Pass deflections: 1
Nolan Carroll’s play against the Colts surmised everything I have said about him so far. He was inconsistent and let up some big plays but redeemed himself with a “gimmie” interception in the endzone and a nice pass breakup. Carroll is a highlight player for the Eagles, but reliability could prove to be an issue.
There were positive moments in his game, some solid coverage downfield and a willingness to get to the ball if the pass had been thrown elsewhere, but there were also several errors.
Carroll was beaten inside numerous times and like several other corners on the roster, struggled to jam at the line of scrimmage. There were a few lucky moments for the Eagles cornerback, but a promising start to the second half that saw much tighter coverage and quicker reaction times seemed to gloss over his bumpy first half effort.
That was until, he made a big mistake that cost the Eagles valuable yards. Carroll missed a crucial tackle deep into the third quarter, allowing Dorsett to pick up 39 yards on the play…not pretty.
But, in traditional Nolan Carroll fashion, he picked off a pass on the endzone that completely diverted any attention to his missed tackle to what was instead a saving play. A miscommunication on the Colts Offense saw Carroll sat in perfect position to pick off the ball that was thrown in confidence
Carroll reads Defenses exceedingly well and is able to capitalize on any Offensive errors, jumping routes and coming up with big plays when the team need them most. But against the Colts, he also showed a few weaknesses that could come back to haunt him considering that the passing yards allowed are a release valve for the aggressive wide-nine scheme.
Snaps played: 52%
For a cornerback widely regarded as a potential starter or at least someone that sits ahead of Eric Rowe on the depth chart, Ron Brooks struggled heavily against the Colts. Brooks played in 52% of Defensive snaps and failed to make his presence felt for a variety of reasons.
The first was that he seemed extremely slow off of the line of scrimmage all night. McKelvin, Carroll, Rowe and even C.J Smith would be moving the moment the ball is snapped, even if it’s just to get ready for a sudden adjustment. Brooks on the other hand looked like he had been caught day-dreaming several times.
A direct consequence of this was that Brooks was beaten inside on near enough every play. It was rare to see a circumstance in which Brooks had covered his man without letting up a lot of breathing room. The few times that Brooks showed more instinctive play were overshadowed by an inability to keep up with his receivers or failing to stop them cutting in front of him.
Then, there were the penalties. Brooks picked up two flags on the night, one for defensive holding and the other for an offside when rushing the passer. The second penalty was a shame because the explosiveness showed off the line was eyecatching. Brooks broke through the trenches and was inches away from a big play when the flag was thrown. It’s a shame, but that raw tenacity is something that flows over into his tackling and similarly, if he can control the aggression and become more patient then he would be much more consistent.
Brooks had a rough night that wasn’t helped by the amount of action he saw. But if he’s going to be lining up as a potential starter for the Eagles, these issues simply have to be ironed out as soon as possible. There were positives to his play, but unfortunately they were overshadowed by inconsistency.
Snaps played: 55%
Smith saw a heavy workload in the Eagles third preseason game..and he made the most of it. This performance was much closer to his emphatic outing against the Bucs than it was his much quieter night against the Steelers. Not only did he lead the team in tackles, Smith showed just what he brings to the table against some intimidating receivers.
In this play against T.Y Hilton, Smith allows just enough space to close in should a curl route unfold but quickly adapts and forces the receiver out of bounds moments after the catch. Hilton averaged 16.3 yards per catch last year, so keeping him ahead of you is probably a good strategy to adopt.
The seven tackles amassed by the NDSU rookie show an insight to just how involved he was against the Colts. Smith always seemed to be around the ball, whether he was making a play or helping support his teammates once the ball had been released, Smith was simply everywhere.
The other huge positive was his “bend, don’t break” mentality. He was targeted countless times on Saturday night and numerous times on comeback routes. Smith showed brilliant awareness and an ability to read the quarterback’s eyes efficiently. While he may seem like “the weak link” in comparison to the more notable receivers, Smith made sure that the Colts thought twice about throwing his way again.
A great example of his coverage can be seen here. Smith (bottom) covers his man, allowing him to cut inside before following him all the way to the sideline and pushing him out of bounds. On the a similar route on the other side of the field, Ron Brooks gave up acres of space due to a late reaction.
Smith had a big game against Indy and with Pederson paying close attention to the defensive backs on Thursday, is in a great position to shine one more time.
Snaps played: 28%
Rowe didn’t see a lot of action on Saturday night and like both other preseason games thus far, didn’t show up on the stat sheet much. Another solid game by Rowe should reassure anyone doubting his ability that he has the potential to start in the future for the Eagles but for those still unsure, here’s yet another example of what he brings to the table.
There were a few times where Rowe was beaten at the line of scrimmage by Moncrief and others where he seemed to fall behind his receiver down the sidelines a little, but there was no real cause for concern that kept arising. He was consistent, strong on the sidelines and rarely let up any breathing room when his receivers cut away..which is exactly where Brooks lacks. If you combined the explosiveness of Brooks with the man-coverage ability of Rowe, you’d have a dream corner for the Schwartz system.
Rowe had a quiet game..which isn’t exactly a bad thing. It wasn’t his strongest night and he did jam poorly at times..but he showed the same level of consistency he has all preseason long, which is an achievement in itself.
Snaps played: 24%
Talking of a cornerback who had a quiet night, Jalen Mills was arguably the quietest of all, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After his struggles against the Bucs and some less than convincing play against the Buccaneers, Mills just needed to fly under the radar, make a play when needed and do his job without worrying about the environment or the future.
In my opinion, he did just that. It’s clear that there has been improvement in his game since we last saw him on a field and his tackling was met with a calmness and patient attitude, a direct contrast to what we saw in week one.
Keen not to make the same error again, Mills looked to almost pause before both of his attempted tackles to ensure his technique was correct. Comparing this to the recklessness Denzel Rice displayed just seconds beforehand and the consequence it almost carried, it was refreshing to see Mills adapt a different mindset.
His coverage also seemed to improve, it was rare to see him make an error and he seemed much more conservative at the line of scrimmage, eliminating the room for a slip up.
Mills looked relaxed and ready on Saturday night, seeing less snaps and as a result less pressure. Pederson’s metaphoric Microscope will be out on Thursday night however so it’s time for Mills to take this performance and turn it into confidence.
Photo credit: Darron Cummings, AP