Grading and analyzing performances of Eagles CB’s in win over Vikings


The Eagles pass rush stole the show during Sunday’s win over the Minnesota Vikings, but the Eagles cornerbacks also had a lot of work to do. Ron Brooks left the game early with an injury and the slot role was then filled largely by Malcolm Jenkins. Due to the nature of a suddenly blitz friendly Defense with a lot of moving pieces, the slot position becomes hard to grade..however I did focus heavily on it during an All-22 on the pass rush itself. So for this article, we will focus on the outside corners and the role they played in the week 7 win.

Nolan Carroll:
Snaps played: 99%
Tackles: 5
Passes Defensed: 2

Carroll hasn’t exactly had a brilliant start to the 2016 season..and against an Offense with so many weapons on the outside, his inconsistencies were expected to be targeted by Norv Turner’s Offense.

It didn’t take long for that trend to take shape. Carroll was burned by Johnson early on after hesitating, but recovered extremely well to break up the pass. Carroll balanced aggressive play with caution..which may not sound too important, but the Eagles have given up way too many penalties in recent weeks and discipline had to be a priority.

One of the main criticisms I’ve constantly found myself writing about when it comes to Carroll is his inability to jam at the line. Against the Vikings, this was MUCH better. Carroll’s able to stay with his receiver much longer as a result and completely shut down the dig route.

This next play was slightly confusing however. I understand that Carroll was playing zone and I get that he was waiting to see if the intermediate route was targeted..but his positioning baffles me. He doesn’t even recognize the receiver who runs straight past him and turns and faces the quarterback in a pocket of space, nor make any kind of positional adjustment to what’s going on around him. Maybe he was simply supposed to sit in that spot and this is something I’ve gotten wrong, but it’s the first time all year I’ve seen an Eagles cornerback simply sit in the same spot for the duration of a play as if someone had put the controller down on Madden.

Carroll was then later burned on yet another dig route. The adjustment he made to Thielen’s cut simply gave up too much room given that there was just a single Safety over the top for help. It could have been an easy pass for Sam Bradford had he not been flooded by the Eagles pass rush.

Carroll was sat in zone coverage again on the play below, but reads the situation much better. Keeping his eyes on Bradford, Carroll spies the reception and darts inside to make the tackle. His closing speed and ability to shut down what was a completely open lane was impressive.

Overall, Carroll didn’t have the worst day..and there were certainly signs of improvement in lacking aspects of his game. Physicality was a big step forward this week for Carroll, but had the Eagles pass rush not been so dominant..his lack of awareness at times could well have cost the team dearly.

Grade: C-


Jalen Mills:
Snaps played: 36%
Tackles: 4
Passes Defensed: 1

The development of Jalen Mills has become one of the most exciting things to watch when it comes to the Eagles cornerbacks..and this game was no exception. Surprisingly, Mills rotated with McKelvin throughout the game and played in 27 total snaps. One of his most impressive, was his pass breakup deep down the field. Mills was initially beaten but recovered well and positioned himself in front of the explosive Stefon Diggs, forcing the incompletion.


The tackling technique Mills possesses has proven to be one of his strong points throughout the early stages of his career. That was apparent again on Sunday with tackles like this. Dropping back into zone coverage, Mills takes a few steps to shadow his receiver before dropping off. What we’re used to seeing is Mills play with his back to the ball and often fight from behind..but keeping his eyes on Bradford, he’s able to dissect the play, close in and make a hard tackle.

The achilles heel of Mills’ play has been the comeback route however. Every game this is something that continues to present itself, whether it be punished or unpunished. Mills, playing zone here closes MUCH faster than we’re used to seeing. It’s interesting to compare it with Carroll at the bottom of the screen, who while playing man-coverage, reacts much more instinctively..but it’s nice to see the improvement take shape.

Finally, it has to be said that Mills did an excellent job in detecting screen passes. It appears that the seventh round pick plays with much more comfort in zone coverage situations and was able to read the play, react quickly and close in for the tackle. What he may lack in man-coverage technique or awareness at times, he makes up for in clinical tackling..I haven’t seen Mills miss a tackle yet (hopefully that doesn’t jinx it).

Mills, despite playing in a more limited role, made the most of his time on the field against the Vikings with one of his more complete performances to date. There were a few wobbles along the way, but the development in his play is startling. He’s turning his back much sooner, staying on his toes as opposed to planting his feet in the ground and becoming a more nimble threat. It’s taken a while, but Mills is finally finding his groove in the NFL..oh, and he’s even showing leadership tendencies.

Grade: B+


Leodis McKelvin:
Snaps played: 58%
Tackles: 2
Passes Defensed: 1

This is the first time we’ve seen McKelvin back in a majority snap sense since his injury a few weeks ago..but he was still rotating with Mills on the outside. McKelvin has played just one game “fully-healthy” for the how would he fair in what we now presume to be his second?

His game started with some impressive redzone Defense. Engaging in physical play off the line and forcing his receiver to the back of the endzone, McKelvin set a stern tone in the early moments of the game.

McKelvin did a great job of picking up his receiver and completely taking him out of the play during the fumble that saw Jenkins recover and take it to the house as well before being nullified. Slightly slow off the mark, McKelvin opened his hips early knowing that there was help over the top. By sticking to his man and turning him inside, McKelvin took the deep play out of Bradford’s mind, despite it being his initial read..this ended in a huge fumble that nearly turned into six points for the Eagles.

Then toward the end of the game, the former Bill really turned the heat up. I earlier praised Mills and his ability to detect a screen pass, but McKelvin took that and ran with it. Playing in zone, he immediately adjusts to react to the quarterback and ends up jumping a short pass, being inches away from an interception. It was a huge play for McKelvin, whose reactions and positioning were both near perfect on this play.

McKelvin was burned by Patterson in the latter an identical route that did the same to Carroll earlier on. The difference here is how McKelvin reacts. Closing off the end of the route and shadowing as opposed to continuing to run vertically as he’s changing direction, McKelvin sticks much closer to his receiver..and ends up just ahead of him. Meaning that if a pass was thrown over the middle, he simply has to reach in and bat it down or make the tackle, not play catch-up.

But, it was all too good to be true. Right at the end of the game, McKelvin just makes a slight mistake and gets caught out by the positioning of his teammate, leaving a wide open Patterson to haul in the easy grab. The instincts from the Vikings wideout to cut inside at that point were impressive..but McKelvin was simply outwitted here and unable to make up the lost ground in time.

McKelvin returned to the Linc in impressive fashion, he wasn’t perfect..but in comparison to the last time he was on the field, he was much better. The question is, can he sustain this performance over the duration of a full game and not just 58%?

Grade: B


Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports