An early look at the Eagles Cornerback carousel

The Eagles have had an interesting problem this offseason, one that many teams would love to have. There are too many chefs in the kitchen when it comes to the cornerback position and as things stand, with both starters in their contract year, it can lead to some very interesting conversations. Do you really stagnate of some of the tremendous young talent on the team if you don’t plan on bringing either Mills or Darby back?

As the Carousel begins to spin, I decided to stop it at three different points to view the depth plausible depth chart and see which one looks the best on paper.

Before we do though, we need to understand why. Yes, the Eagles are returning both of their starters from 2018, but Jalen Mills missed OTA’s due to recovering from the injury that ended his third season, and Ronald Darby is making his way back too.

On top of that, the Eagles ranked 25th in interceptions last year and the man leading the team in that category wasn’t just a backup, but was shoved so far down the depth chart, that the team brought in a corner off the street, who literally ran into Jordan Hicks on one play, before finally giving him a starting shot.

Allowing 4,308 passing yards (30th in the NFL), the Eagles have battled cornerback criticism for quite some time now. They have the talent to end that discussion, but will it get on the field?

Same old story

CB1 Ronald Darby
CB2 Jalen Mills
CB3 Sidney Jones

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CB4: Avonte Maddox
CB5: Rasul Douglas
CB6: Captain Cre’von

There’s no change in option number one. Darby and Mills start outside, with Sidney Jones lined up in the nickel. Avonte Maddox sits ahead of Douglas on the depth chart because of just how ridiculously impressive he was as a rookie, and Captain Cre’Von LeBlanc will be the backup to Sidney Jones in the nickel. It’s entirely likely that given the injury history of all three starters, the depth guys do get some playing time. But when the green flag jobs, the Eagles stick to what they know here.

This option acts as a great starting point because you can immediately make the argument that either Maddox or Douglas deserve to be on the field over Mills or Jones for very different reasons. One has consistently been inconsistent as a stater, fighting the same habits, while the other has battled injury problems throughout his young career.

So let’s shake it up a bit.

Uhhhhh…


CB1 Ronald Darby
CB2 Rasul Douglas
CB3 Sidney Jones

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CB4: Jalen Mills
CB5: Avonte Maddox (Moving up to Safety)
CB6: Captain Cre’von

Rasul Douglas hive, stand up. Given that Jalen Mills has been inactive during the offseason program up to this point, it’s fair to assume his starting spot hangs in the balance. The question is, would it go to Maddox, or Douglas? Both impressed during OTA’s and both are looking to build on a surprisingly impressive 2018.

For this solution, we’re finally going to give ‘SUUUUL’ the credit he deserves. Maddox is one draft class younger than Douglas, affording the Eagles some optionality here. Depth is light at Safety and after Maddox really took to the stormy seas like a Shark as a rookie, having never played the position before, the Eagles may look to shift him up to a Safety role, supporting Rodney McLeod.

As of right now, the team need to get their best DB’s on the field and if Andrew Sendejo is indeed cut in order to gain a future 4th round compensatory pick, it leaves Blake Countess and Tre Sullivan behind the starting tandem. Maddox is a definite upgrade and this means that Douglas, Jones, and Maddox all see the field. Hooray!

Let’s spice it up…

CB1 Ronald Darby
CB2 Sidney Jones
CB3 Avonte Maddox

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CB4: Jalen Mills
CB5: Rasul Douglas
CB6: Captain Cre’von

In every variation to this point, Sidney Jones has been the nickel corner, but surely, the second-round pick has to be pushed outside at some stage. He endured a rocky season in 2018, filled with highs, lows, and everything in-between, but I think there was enough promise to start the Washington product over Jalen Mills and ensure his progression continues.

By shifting Sidney Jones outside, it opens the doors for Avonte Maddox to return to the role in which he made his own at Pitt. The 5’9 corner is a little undersized, lending himself very nicely to the role at the next level. Maddox is everything you could want in a nickel cornerback. Speedy, willing and as reactive as a nuclear weapon. His small frame is misleading, with the former Panther packing quite a rapid punch after posting a 4.39 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine.

This variant gives the Eagles speed and potential, headed by a natural CB1. Ah, bliss.

And just for good measure, let’s break the wheel

CB1 Sidney Jones
CB2 Rasul Douglas
CB3 Avonte Maddox

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CB4: Ronald Darby (Trade?)
CB5: Jalen Mills
CB6: Captain Cre’von

I really don’t hate to be that guy, but is the secondary THAT depleted without Darby or Mills? Is it possible either is traded between now and the start of the season in order to cash in on their value? Rasul Douglas was reportedly a potential trade target for several teams around the time of the NFL Draft and let’s not forget how and when Darby was originally acquired by the Eagles.

Maybe I’m just going against the grain here, but I really feel as though this, in some hypothetically perfect universe, would be the best trio for the Eagles to roll out if they were confident in the health and progression of Sidney Jones.

Jones has a lot to prove and can only do so if given an opportunity. That’s not to say he can’t be moved around or pulled if things don’t go to plan, but having Jones, Maddox, and Douglas all on the field, all corners who are contracted past the 2019 season, just feels like the most sustainable group to build around.

In the closing weeks of 2018, it was the trio of Jones, Douglas, and LeBlanc that not only helped secure a playoff berth but then go on to oh-so-nearly overthrow the New Orleans Saints. Why not let let nature take its course and allow the cream to rise to the top?

Which variation do you want to see take to the field in week one? Let me know in the comments!

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