The legend of Captain Cre’Von has been well documented by this point. But less than a year after his iconic interception against the New Orleans Saints, the Eagles have already groomed another underdog cornerback.
Meet Craig James.
When Avonte Maddox went down with injury after enduring a terrifying collision with Andrew Sendejo, the Eagles were left with no choice but to insert the former UDFA into the game. He was the only other healthy cornerback available.
Ronald Darby? Injured.
Jalen Mills? Injured.
Cre’Von LeBlanc? Injured.
Sidney Jones? Injured.
Avonte Maddox? Injured.
The Packers drove down to the Eagles goal-line with the game on the line and time ticking inside the final minute of an intense showdown. Rodgers had thrown for close to 500 yards already, with the roaring Lambeau fans spurring him on. It seemed obvious then, that the elite quarterback would smell blood in the water when James, who appeared in 3 games as a rookie for Minnesota last year, jogged onto the field.
The 5’10, 195 lbs corner covered deep-threat Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who ran a slat route to try and bully his way inside. James expected the ball to come his way and through everything he had at the wide receiver, doing just enough to force the pigskin into the air and into the hands of Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham.
It was only one play, but James, who has been bouncing on and off the Eagles practice squad for several weeks now, showed plenty of promise. It’s just as well too. The Eagles may have a mini-bye at their disposal but are riddled with injuries in the secondary and there’s a strong chance we see much more from the Southern Illinois product.
“Yeah, he is definitely a viable option.” Doug Pederson said on Friday morning. “He was primarily a special team’s player when we brought him in initially, and obviously has been elevated. He’s a smart kid. He has really, I think since that Atlanta game — and he’s been on the 53 [man roster] and practice squad and then elevated again. It can be challenging for players, but he handled that extremely well. It’s kind of like your backup quarterback or backup offensive lineman, you don’t get a ton of snaps during the week. A lot of mental reps there in that position, and he did a great job of stepping in.”
The Eagles will face the New York Jets in eight days time, giving James a whole week of practice with the first-team. There is bound to be plenty of talk about Jalen Ramsey and a flurry of other moves the team could make between now and then, but this isn’t the first time that the team has found a real diamond in the rough at a clutch time.
Cre’Von LeBlanc was one of the main pieces holding the secondary together last season during the team’s most pivotal moments and as a result, was guaranteed a future in Philadelphia, despite his injury.
The scouting department may have found another hidden gem at cornerback and if history does repeat itself, they may have potentially found someone to build the bridge over troubled water until the injury bug releases its claws.
Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports