The Eagles could be facing a full secondary rebuild this offseason

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For arguably the fourth year in a row, the Eagles pass defense has been questionable at best. The secondary has been filled with the same problems that have plagued it since the day Jim Schwartz took over:

Injuries
Miscommunication
Missed tackles
A lack of trust (?)

But for the first time during his tenure, his secondary may be headed for a natural rebuild. Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills are both pending free agents, as is Safety Rodney McLeod. Malcolm Jenkins has also made his contract intentions very clear.

So, the Eagles have a lot to think about and there are few different ways this can go. But 2020 should be the year (permitting Schwartz stays and doesn’t sign with the Browns) that we finally get an answer to the question – ‘is it scheme or talent that’s causing so many issues?’

If the Eagles decided to let both Mills and Darby walk, they would be left with a plethora of young corners who have all started games, but may not be at a starting level just yet.

Rasul Douglas

With six starts to his name in 2019, Douglas continued to develop his skillset as a strong tackler, and rangy corner who can make plays at the catch-point. The problem is, he still can’t seem to find a full-time role in this defense. He reminds me a lot of Eric Rowe in that regard and the chances of him flourishing elsewhere are high. Another 10 pass breakups to his name this year saw Douglas pick up where he left off, but clearly, isn’t what the coaches want in a starting corner and while he’s been inconsistent, he’s flashed all the right traits. However, at this point, it may make more sense to trade him to a team that will value his skillset and give him a chance to start, cashing in before his contract ends next year.

Sidney Jones

It’s easy to look at Sidney Jones and think of his incredible play at the end of 2019, but let’s not forget he was called out by Doug Pederson in a presser with an expectation to ‘play through pain like a veteran’, and took indirect shots from Malcolm Jenkins soon after. After being benched for six weeks, Jones looked to atone for his sins, but we all knew he had that level of play buried inside somewhere, we’ve seen it before. Is that really enough to justify granting a full-time starting role? And if it isn’t, questions over drafting are bound to arise.

Avonte Maddox

Maddox took a significant step back this year after his rookie-season breakout, but it’s still way too early to give a firm grade on him and he did rank 5th in team tackles. He’ll likely be the team’s starting nickel corner in the event Jones becomes a CB1/2.

Cre’Von LeBlanc

Captain Cre’Von should have inside running to the starting nickel spot next season, purely for the impact he had upon his return to the defense in 2019 after a Lisfranc injury ripped most of the season away. A few wobbles against Seattle were the first time there had been anything less than impressive play on the field, and LeBlanc should become a permanent fixture next year.

At the very least, the Eagles are going to have to add a cornerback of some kind, be it a free agent acquisition, a tradee, or a draft selection. The question is, just how high is it on their priority list? That will all come down to the confidence they have in the names already on the roster.

The Howie Roseman free agent prototype is around 28-years old, signing a prove-it contract, coming off a subtly good year. Players like Trae Waynes make sense, while Tennessee’s Logan Ryan would likely demand a much bigger bag, but guarantee you a starter for a few years.

It’s also worth noting that ever since the Byron Maxwell shambles (remember that?), the Eagles haven’t really paid their cornerbacks anything substantial. Much like running back, it’s become a position of young players and cheap hole-fillers. Is this year that the Eagles finally heavily invest in a free agent cornerback once again, or will we see another day-two pick added into the equation?

While perhaps a little early to speculate, it’s safe to say that the catalyst in it all will be whether or not the team opt to retain Mills and Darby.

Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

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