The Philadelphia Eagles are in a strange spot to say the least. Going into week six, the team sit hesitantly with a 2-3 record and will travel down the i95 to face the New York Giants in a bid to right the wrongs of last week. There are still a plethora of questions surrounding this team but one of the most prominent has been amplified massively in the last 24-hours.
The injury report released by the team on Wednesday stated that Safety Corey Graham would be sidelined in the first divisional matchup of the season. This stings for a position already missing a key piece in Rodney McLeod and one that is relying on the veteran experience of Graham and an unsuspecting running-mate as a result.
“He brought some energy to us.” Jim Schwartz said of rookie cornerback, Avonte Maddox, who made his first NFL start at Safety just one week removed from his first ever taste of experience at the position. “Shows great range. He picked things up extremely quick, but I said that last week. When you play the nickel position you basically play a safety position for us.
Then when [S] Corey [Graham] got hurt early in that game that really changed the dynamic of how much he was going to play. He was up for it. I think if the end of the game went a little bit different, you would point to that play that — when we had them backed up, we went for the sack, I mean, I got aggressive with the call right there and put the corner on an island.
They were able to complete the pass. I was going for the sack, strip, touchdown, safety, whatever it was. We were inches away. This is a game of inches.
Anyway, corner got to beat. Avonte did a great job controlling that situation. Slowed that guy down. That was probably four points on that play. Got him slowed down. That’s a tough play to make in the middle of the field like that.
Like I said earlier in the week, those are two talented receivers with the ball in their hands. I thought that was a sign of good things from Avonte.”
Maddox has certainly impressed during his short stint in the NFL, amassing 6 tackles and a pick since the start of the regular season. But without Corey Graham, who was an integral part of the Eagles Super Bowl run, the Birds’ have a problem.
The safety we’ve not yet mentioned is of course Malcolm Jenkins and there’s a reason for that. The Eagles opt to deploy Jenkins as a remote-controlled missile and it’s easy to see why. The Safety has made big play after big play this year, blowing up screens, drilling receivers and stuffing the run. Jenkins is at his best when playing closer to the line of scrimmage as an explosive time-bomb just waiting to explode…but the issue now is that the Eagles may need to pull him back.
Without McLeod or Graham, the Eagles could be forced to rely on Deiondre Hall or the recently promoted Tre Sullivan. Sullivan does have experience with the Eagles, but most recently hurt the team with a horrible special teams decision in week one, leading to his cutting. Now back in the fray, could the Eagles afford to have a safety tandem of Maddox and Hall/Sullivan just to accommodate the versatility of Malcolm Jenkins?
The more natural option would be to move Jenkins back alongside Maddox to lead the secondary, but that was also the case in the times following McLeod’s injury. There doesn’t seem to be a real desire to pull Jenkins out of where he’s been absolutely dominant…but if they don’t, could you really rely on Sullivan and Maddox to hold the fort on the last line of defense?
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