The final part of our ultimate Eagles OTA preview sees us examine the brand new secondary. The Eagles completely revamped their Secondary throughout the offseason, parting ways with Leodis McKlevin and Nolan Carroll, and replacing them with long-term option Sidney Jones, and lengthy corner Rasul Douglas. But just about every single position at CB is up for grabs..while it’s open season at the third Safety Spot. Here’s what we’re watching for when OTA’s kick off today.
Can Rasul Douglas stun as Jalen Mills did one year ago?
The one real standout at OTA’s last year on Defense was seventh round pick Jalen Mills. The LSU product would continue his hot start and eventually earn a prominent role in the Eagles Defense. This year, it’s third-round pick Rasul Douglas who will look to shine.
Douglas clearly has the length, aggression, and overall playmaking ability to make it as a solid press corner at the next level, and with a slew of wide receiver talent opposite..he will be tested just moments after being dropped into the water.
In his senior year, Douglas intercepted 8 passes and broke up 8 more. Douglas contributed heavily to a Mountaineers defense that dominated the Big-12, and has all the makings of a strong press corner.
Douglas is a true dinner corner..and one with rare length. In 2015 he amassed 8 tackles and one pick in 11 games, before his eye popping senior year that along with the aforementioned 8 picks, saw him rack up 70 tackles.
With Sidney Jones watching from the sidelines, and every single role up for grabs..the spotlight will be placed heavily on Douglas as OTA’s get underway.
Progress of the Green Goblin:
After being thrown into the deep end in week one against Cleveland, Mills would later hold his own in numerous roles for the Eagles. From working out of the slot, to surviving a one-on-one against Alshon Jeffery, the development of Jalen Mills could be seen on a near weekly basis.
Mechanics aside, his overall leadership was beyond impressive. For a seventh-round pick to be so vocal and lift the guys around him really stood out last year, and with existing veterans around no longer, Mills is one of the few returnees at CB heading into OTA’s, which means just as Jordan Matthews had to, Mills will be taking on a leadership role as he competes for a starting role outside.
Mills came on leaps and bounds during 2016, but if he is to earn a starting role this year, Mills will need to show us just how far he’s come since that fateful first snap against the Cleveland Browns.
The Canadian invasion:
I broke down why it was that the Eagles dug so deep into the CFL at cornerback, bringing in both Aaron Grymes, and Mitchell White for this offseason, and after a successful draft and strong free agency, those reasons still stand.
Grymes was a near lock to make the Eagles roster until a torn AC Joint against the Steelers ended his hopes of making the cut. Former Ottawa Redblack, Mitchell White now enters the fray, as both look to compete for depth spots on the roster.
Prior to the commencing of the offseason, that was at least the fate we envisioned..but after a complete overhaul, there’s no reason why another strong outing during OTA’s and beyond can’t propel them beyond special teams contributors.
From the above article, Ottawa DB coach Ike Charlton spoke exclusively on the duo and what makes them so interesting:
“They’re both good players. I think Grymes is a different animal. Grymes has the mentality that he is the best. He works hard. He competes in everything he does and has the mentality that you’re looking for in a DB. He has a short memory but doesn’t give up a whole lot. I liked Grymes from the time I first saw and worked with him. His mentality is what you’re looking for.”
The return of Aaron Grymes and the intrigue surrounding White may be among the most interesting aspects of the CB position moving into OTA’s.
The one wildcard to keep an eye on entering OTA’s, is Patrick Robinson. The veteran slot specialist has seen mixed success throughout his career, but has shown plenty of promise when working out of the most difficult corner spot to play in the NFL.
Competing alongside him, will be the returning Ron Brooks, who was saved from some poor plays several times during his limited 2016 action, before an injury cut his season short. After taking a pay cut it will very much be a last chance opportunity for the former Jim Schwartz pupil in Buffalo.
The other names to watch include UDFA, Jomal Wiltz, who spoke with us exclusively about joining the Eagles just days after signing.
“I hear about how tough the city is, the fans can be crazy on players, and the media can be a bit tough as well. But honestly that fits me perfectly, I feel like I fit that style, I want my fans I play for, be loud and tough, and let us know when we aren’t playing up to par. I love it, I think when we are playing well, and in the playoffs, or whatever, the fans will be amazing then as well. The one thing that stands out about the fans, is they are loyal, they might mess with you but no one else can, and it was a part of what sold me to come here.”
Former Jags corner, Dwayne Gratz could be another name to watch as OTA’s kick off, after struggling to make a significant impact during his 2016 action.
All things taken into account, the battle over the starting slot role that will allow Malcolm Jenkins to return to his natural three-down Safety role, will be nothing short of electric.
Competition behind the starting tandem:
The Eagles Safety position is set for years to come. The tandem of Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod may be one of the most efficient in the league, while special teams ace Chris Maragos adds crucial value to Fipp’s unit. The question becomes, what about the backup spot?
Jaylen Watkins transitioned to Safety during Training camp last year, saving his future with the Eagles and going on to play a vital role, filling in for Jenkins as he covered slot duties. But after signing a one-year tender, his long-term future is in doubt..and there are several candidates licking their lips at the chance to make an impact this offseason, proving their worth to Jim Schwartz.
Former Raven Terrence Brooks and UDFA Tre Sullivan will be the two names looking to displace Watkins, or at least find a spot on the practice squad in case they’re needed. While Jenkins and McLeod have their roles secure, the battle at the third Safety spot is one that could have a huge impact, given how much action Watkins saw last year.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports