The Eagles are just two days away from playing their first preseason game of 2017 at Lincoln Financial Field after an exciting new addition to the Secondary. Ronald Darby is ready to make his debut in Midnight Green, but one former Eagles cornerback was waived just a few days before. So who rose to the challenge against Green Bay and who crumbled under the pressure?
After a big play on special teams to start the game, Mills had a solid first defensive preseason shift. A screen pass early on was heading in the direction of the Eagles starter, who wrapped up the receiver and bought him to the ground, very much setting the tone for the day.
Mills racked up three tackles in total, but also forced two big incompletions. Mills came over the top of this play in zone coverage to force it dead with an aggressive tackle. One of the big problems he faced last year was keeping his back to the ball, leading to a lot of completions on comebacks and curls. Mills sniffs this one out with ease showing a clear sign of development.
One of his last plays of the game ended in a similar fashion, with Mills jumping a curl and again forcing the incompletion. Overall, it was a strong performance from Mills who will likely be relied upon to now face team’s #2 receivers. It’s a small sample size, but a strong one filled with physicality.
Prior to the arrival of Darby, Robinson was seen as the Eagles other starting cornerback who had an undulating training camp. His preseason debut was no exception. His game started off with a near-missed tackle that also became a fumble. It was a poor angle that saw him simply bounce off the receiver…but did just enough to blow up the play.
Robinson was then caught off guard once more. Fooled by a cut inside, Robinson had to backtrack to get back to the ball and allowed a severely underthrown pass to somehow end up complete. It was an impressive catch, but scrappy play from Robinson.
Perhaps it was this unreliability that prompted the Eagles to act with haste…but it wasn’t as if Robinson had the worst game of anyone. However as a starter, it’s concerning.
This was the first time we have seen Ron Brooks in action since his injury last year, and what we saw was what we became so used to in 2016; sporadic play. To start with, Brooks makes a big hit forcing the ball out of harms way when lining up in the nickel..
…only to stumble one play later after biting too early on the first step of his wide receiver. Just like when Gary Barnidge did this in week one, Brooks was saved by a target elsewhere (see Robinson’s impressive saving tackle). Brooks was unreliable in the slot for the Eagles last year, and he wasn’t much better against Green Bay in what was a small sample size.
One of the biggest training camp standouts, there were a lot of eyes on C.J Smith when he took to the field…so a slow reaction time which led to a Packers touchdown on one of his first plays wasn’t the best way to make a splash.
But what Schwartz covets in his corners is a short-memory. Defensive backs who can let bad plays lie and focus on what’s happening directly ahead of him. That’s exactly what Smith showed when he was targeted on the very next drive. The former NDSU standout bears down on his target quickly, knocking the ball loose and throwing him out of bounds. A chip on the shoulder? Check.
Smith was targeted again in the second half and made a great play on the ball to ensure it fell incomplete.
It was a game of development for Smith…but despite his early mistake, he rebounded well and showed a trait that Schwartz craves in his corners…so overall, Smith still stands strong in the cornerback battle.
One of the big things surrounding Rasul Douglas was his experience in man-coverage. While he doesn’t have a ton of it having played in the ever-changing WVU Defense, he has has plenty of reps against Alshon Jeffery during Training Camp to sharpen his skills. At the bottom of the screen, Douglas transitions his weight well to turn and run with his receiver and force him towards the sideline. More crucially, he doesn’t bite on the inside step…which is a big note for the Eagles third round pick.
Douglas also used his frame extremely well later in the second half. Using his hands to redirect the receiver the long way around, Douglas then jumps the route and ensures the ball hits the ground. It was a big play for a corner coming up against a very physical receiver in McCaffrey.
Douglas had a strong first outing for the Eagles…how do we know? It was quiet. The thing with corners is that you only really hear their names if they do amazingly well or make mistakes…a calm middle ground is a very good sign for someone who struggled with consistency throughout camp.
Like Douglas, Grymes has a relatively quiet night. Helping Steven Means on a sack certainly bodes well as he showed the team a level of versatility that they crave from their nickel backs, but considering it was his first NFL game experience inside, he played well. The only error Grymes made went largely unnoticed…and mainly because he cleaned up right after.
Grymes bit on the outside step and allowed McCaffrey to slip inside and make a reception, but a leaping tackle saw him make sure there were no yards after the catch, which is all you can ask for in that scenario.
Grymes was physical from the start and showed he can help in numerous assets of the game. Recovery speed was a plus and his ability to wrap up receivers was noted.
We can’t be too harsh on TGW since it wasn’t that long ago that he wasn’t playing in the NFL…but after writing an article showcasing what happened when he played the Eagles last year, I was intrigued to see if he would fare any better.
Unfortunately, my opinion has no changed…at all. After giving up an out of bounds completion just moments before on a play-action look, the Packers attacked number 39 again with a similar look. Glover-Wright gave up a huge cushion to his man and was left chasing acres, ending in a near 30-yard completion.
If it wasn’t for a huge hit from Tre Sullivan (and a controversial one at that), this would have been a disaster. Glover-Wright takes a bad angle and misses the tackle completely.
One of the big complaints I had with TGW’s game during that last preseason scout report was his inability to jam. It was almost like he was in two minds of where to put his hands and the hesitation left him scrapping at a jersey as Yancey stormed down the sideline to try and track an underthrown ball.
While I appreciate that this must have been a whirlwind experience for Glover-Wright seeing how quickly his life has transformed once again, it wasn’t a pretty game in the slightest.
Now this is an interesting one, because White was actually cut by the Eagles earlier this week. The former Ottawa Redblack actually had a strong game however, showing great man coverage on the play below by sticking to his man and running him to the boundary and forcing an incompletion on the sideline.
White almost gave up a big play in the endzone as well after losing the first step at the line of scrimmage, but he was able to recover well and leap over the top to force the ball incomplete.
White was then completely turned around by his wideout after he placed all his eggs in one basket and was sold on the slant. Again, White recovered well and batted away the incoming pass.
But then, almost, became a reality. White was matched up against a much bigger wideout and all it took was a big leap and the former CFL defensive back was left vulnerable, giving up the big play.
For the Eagles to cut White and not a corner who had a significantly worse game confuses me, but we’ve seen this before with Eric Rowe last year. Rowe, in my opinion, was the Eagles best cornerback last preseason but found himself traded to the Patriots. Maybe I’m just seeing things differently, but White didn’t play badly enough to get cut in my opinion.
The former Iowa State Cyclone had a tricky start to his Eagles career. His feet were planted in the ground on this look, allowing his receiver to bully his away around the outside and make a tough catch on the sideline.
Wiltz then gave up a big play after being burned by speed down the sideline. He made a big jump up, but it was slightly premature and the catch was made deep inside the 20. Two very tough plays for Wiltz and ones that unfortunately stick out like a sore thumb.
Wiltz is capable of much more…he’s a dinner cornerback as shown during his career with Iowa State. But his first outing as an Eagles was not pretty. At all.
How will the group fare against Buffalo and the return of Jordan Matthews? Only time will tell, but be sure to check back next week as we evaluate the progression/regression after each game.
Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports