The Eagles cornerback play has been suspect to say the least this season. After a tough outing against the Lions, the depleted corps would be tasked with keeping the likes of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon at bay. A task that as we now know, proved to be just as difficult as it sounds. But on a closer look, were there any positives to take?
Snaps played: 99%
Passes Defensed: 1
Lining up against DeSean Jackson was never going to be easy and the loss rapidly became a “Welcome to the NFL” for the seventh round pick..but interestingly, despite the mistakes we will address, Mills adapted as the game went on and his level of play improved as a result.
The game started in a very predictable fashion. Surprise, surprise, Jalen Mills was beaten badly on a comeback route before wrapping up the tackle. I understand it’s a common route..but there is a direct correlation between the amount of tackles Mills racks up and how many are on plays like this. Playing with his back to the ball, Mills simply couldn’t outwit Jackson and the quick feet took the former LSU corner by surprise, giving Cousins an easy completion.
But this is where the adaptation comes in. Mills was much more instinctive on this curl route and after giving up a penalty just moments before, balanced physicality with instinct well..although he was a little late off the line of scrimmage.
The wake up call came on this play however. Jackson’s speed is just as dangerous as it ever has been..and he proved that with a beautiful 35-yard catch. Mills relied too much on his hands at the line of scrimmage and allowed Jackson to get steps you simply can’t allow him to get without being punished. However at the bottom of the screen..notice how Nolan Carroll gets completely burned outside..we’ll touch on that later.
It didn’t take long for Mills to reap revenge in the matchup though. The reactions improved and on a curl route Mills expressed his ever improving tackling ability, suplexing Jackson as if he was headlining Wrestlemania.
After being completely turned and then completely burned by Jackson one more time in what was a back and forth matchup, Mills was later lined up against Pierre Garcon and for me this was a play that for the first time this season, flashed the potential of Jalen Mills. You could not ask for better coverage on a route that his been his achilles heel all season long and to top it off, he knocks the pass out at the end of the play.
Mills then did exactly the same in the dying moments of the game. It sounds like such a minor critique, but the comebacks and curls are where Mills has really showed weakness in the opening games of the season, so to come up against such an esteemed passing Offense and adapt to ensure that that weakness is not exploited, is beyond impressive.
The development in the space of 60 minutes we saw from Mills was incredible. After the first quarter, Mills looked like a completely different corner and despite the lack of pass rush, was often able to hold his own.There were hitches along the way, some big plays given up and some looks he’d like to have back..but against one of the league’s most renowned speedsters, there was only so much he was capable of preventing given the circumstance. His play may not scream shutdown corner just yet, but despite this on the surface being one of the weakest performances of his season, when you dig a little deeper..you’ll actually find that it’s one of his strongest.
Snaps played: 92%
In contrast to Jalen Mills, Carroll in my opinion has been one of the most underperforming Eagles on the roster but has been gifted lifelines by the pass rush and Safeties, lifelines that have slowly began to fade as weeks have gone by. Against the Redskins, the narrative opened in a similar fashion.
Carroll was consistently beaten off the line of scrimmage, but it was rare to see this taken advantage of, somewhat letting him off the hook. Here, Cousins throws to Jackson and Mills is flagged for a hold. But it’s Garcon wreaking the havoc and drawing the attention of Rodney McLeod deep down the field.
Here, Garcon runs a tidy drag route and takes advantage of a favorable matchup. Carroll leaves acres of space to complete the pass but does well to wrap up the tackle.
In a similar fashion to Mills, after the opening quarter Carroll seemed to be much more consistent and showed some of his best play so far this season, including this blanket coverage on a more physical Pierre Garcon. Carroll allows Garcon outside but a push at the line and opening his hips early enabled Carroll to have the edge when the route broke. This is the kind of play that made Carroll so fun to watch in 2015, but we’re yet to see it on a consistent basis under Jim Schwartz.
The cornerback is a strange position to analyze..because if there isn’t much to say, it’s generally a good sign that they’re doing what’s asked of them. The unit had next to no help from the pass rush and missed tackles from linebackers made life even more difficult..but aside from the errors spoken about, Carroll had his most consistent performance to date. If Cousins had challenged a one-on-one matchup when Crowder or Garcon had a step or two on the veteran, then maybe this would be a different feature altogether, but Carroll seemed to be effective in the red-zone, rarely put a foot wrong in zone formations and despite being beaten often in man-coverage..was never really punished.
Snaps played: 70%
A special teamer for the Bills last season, Brooks has been one of the most improved under-the-radar players on the roster so far. A terrible debut against the Browns drew criticism..but over the course of the last few weeks, Brooks has slowly emerged as a reliable slot corner. The Redskins had plenty of weapons to keep Brooks on edge..and the aggressive corner was often feeling that pressure.
The first play Brooks was really challenged on was the beautifully crafted touchdown pass to Crowder. Even though Brooks wasn’t responsible for giving up the touchdown..if Cousins had looked over the middle, he may well have been. Brooks was beaten off the line and slow to react. As we’ve learned in previous games, he doesn’t have the speed to make up lost ground..which meant that it was a clear path for the receiver.
Later in the game, Brooks showed tremendous spacial awareness, following the quarterbacks eyes and moving accordingly..almost like something out of a video game. But then when he tracked the pass, the sporadic tendencies haunted the corner as he flew over the top of his receiver..pulling on the facemask and giving up a costly penalty. The play itself was brilliant…until the tackle, which has been the case numerous times this season.
Brooks didn’t let the facemask penalty get to him and when Nolan Carroll went down with a brief injury, he was moved outside..against DeSean Jackson, yikes. However, the physicality of Brooks saw him run an aggressive route, forcing the incompletion despite being a lot slower than the former Eagles receiver. Heavy pushes at the line and a super-glue like coverage technique completely removed Jackson from this play in what easily the highlight of the game for Brooks.
Overall, Brooks has an interesting game, but didn’t really see much attention. Playing 70% of snaps, his coverage in the middle of the field was impressive while his man-coverage technique seems to be improving..but as always, it’s the hard-hitting mindset that is the thorn in his side as it tends to hurt his team more than it helps them.
Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports