The first wave of free agency crashed the shores in full force this past week; the Eagles getting into the mix after day one. The team added some talented pieces to their defense and retained the top two performers in the secondary from last year and some promising young depth pieces. Despite saying goodbye to Malcolm Jenkins and missing out on Byron Jones, there have been plenty of positives for the Birds.
Reasonably, both DT Javon Hargrave and CB Darius Slay will have a claim stake for the most influential offseason addition. In their own right, Will Parks and Jatavis Brown have ample opportunity to make their presence felt as well. If the Jalen Mills at safety experiment works out, it would be the feather atop the cap of a very smitten Howie Roseman. All in all, there is plenty to be excited about as an Eagles fan.
Yet still, there are some late season 2019 additions that have gone unnoticed and may very well have a significant impact on the new season. Neither signing made much fanfare at the time, and understandably so. However, both players will have their chance to make an impact in 2020.
Those players are CB Trevor Williams and RB Elijah Holyfield — of course. Each is in a unique position at the crux of ability and opportunity. The Eagles are lacking experience at corner and have a question mark hovering over the position behind Darius Slay. The team also lacks running back depth and has a propensity for finding opportunities for undrafted practice squad backs. There are snaps to be had for both additions, which should be fuel enough to get fans excited. Still, let’s take a look at why both players should have gotten more attention than they did.
CB Trevor Williams
First, let’s address the fact that the Eagles added a 26-year-old corner with 27 career starts under his belt on a very team-friendly contract and nobody batted an eye. Unfortunately for Trevor, he will have to overcome some adversity to return to a starting role. Ending the 2018 season on IR due to a knee sprain suffered in week 10, Williams would find himself back on the injured list in week 2 of 2019 after suffering a quad strain. Needing the roster spot, the LA Chargers waived the corner in October.
Arizona would sign Williams a day later, and he would be featured in two games, but wasn’t able to stick to the roster. In what was likely an attempt to ease him back from injury, the Cardinals sent him out for 16 total special teams snaps. It is uncertain whether Trevor was even fully healthy, jumping back into action just a month after being sent to IR. Whatever the case, the Eagles had seen enough to offer him a Reserve/ Future contract in January.
Before his injury in 2018, Williams was having somewhat of a down year. He allowed a passer rating of 122.7 and a catch rate of 73.1% when targeted. However, those numbers mask how good of a corner the guy really is.
First off, he played across from Casey Hayward — one of the most formidable corners in the league. That means, by default, opponents would target Williams’ side of the field. He responded by allowing 38 receptions on only 52 targets on 201 routes defended. He also allowed only 3 touchdowns and had a burn rate of 0.0%. Yup, that’s right, in 201 routes defended, he was not burned once. On the year, he allowed an average target separation of only 0.68 yards. These numbers mean a lot more with the proper context. So, let’s put them beside Ronald Darby’s totals from last season, and his best statistical coverage season: 2018.
|Trevor Williams (2018)||Ronald Darby (2019)||Ronald Darby (2018)|
Seemingly an immediate upgrade from 2019 Ronald Darby, Williams’ play almost rivals that of 2018 Darby. He isn’t as disruptive at the point of catch, but his coverage was as sticky as ever.
In his last fully healthy season, 2017, Williams finished the year ranked 10th at his position according to Pro Football Focus. He was the best corner in all of football on throws 2.6+ seconds after the snap — by a wide margin. He allowed a passer rating of 10.4 on those throws, Yes you read that correctly. For context, an incomplete pass would register a 39.6 rating.
That is why this signing is so exciting. The Eagles’ love to force the ball out of a quarterback’s hand quickly. Time and time again, we have seen offensive coordinators come into the Linc with a game plan that necessitates the quick throw. Jim Schwartz knows it, and is fine to let a team nickel and dime up the field only to slam the door in the red zone. However, with Philadelphia’s shaky secondary and an up-and-down pass rush, opposing teams have been willing to try the deep ball. Once in a while, the quarterback will hold on to the football. Those are the times that Terry McLaurin or (insert any moderately fast receiver here) runs free down the sideline. With a healthy Williams, those times are no longer.
Plus, he can do this:
For a profile on Elijah Holyfield, scroll down to find page 2 below.
Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports