Free agency has been kind to the Eagles secondary. Philadelphia finally has a lockdown cornerback in Darius Slay and today, it was reported that slot corner Nickell Robey-Coleman is signing a one-year deal with the team. Wonderful. There’s a common saying in life – ‘if it’s too good to be true, it usually is’.
The current depth chart looks a little like this:
CB1: Darius Slay
CB2: Sidney Jones/Avonte Maddox (Gulag fight)
CB3: Nickell Robey-Coleman/ Cre’Von LeBlanc (Gulag fight)
CB4: Gulag losers who ragequit…or Trevor Williams? Or Rasul Douglas? Maybe another Gulag fight is needed.
The hurdles immediately become clear. The Eagles have solidified the secondary, there’s no doubting that. But every action has a reaction and the butterfly effect here is going to push at least one corner out in the dark, while leaving others vulnerable to the cold. Did someone day trades?
On the outside looking in
Rasul Douglas is the first name to watch over the next few weeks. Entering his contract year, the West Virginia product has enjoyed some ball-hawking highs and some toasty lows with the Eagles. But if one thing is clear, it’s that he’s not the Jim Schwartz prototype DB.
Every other corner on the roster is 6’0 or below and outside of Darius Slay, all have slot experience or are better suited to a role inside. Douglas has a lengthy wingspan at 6’2 and is much more of a ballhawk than the firmer tacklers and quicker running mates around him.
I explored the idea of a potential Rasul Douglas trade recently after reports cited that he was being shopped around the league. I think it’s likely the team do move on from him and Douglas deserves a shot to earn a starting role somewhere as opposed to being continuously chained down by the coaching staff who would rather sign players off the street than give him a shot (CC: Dexter McDougle).
Even if the Eagles move on from Douglas, there are still other names now worth noting…
Sid the Kid
This game’s not for suckers,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “If you aren’t confident on the outside, then we can’t use you. Our defense is going to call for guys to be able to go outside and cover.”
That quote may define Jones’ 2019 season. He was benched for four consecutive weeks after this post-game rant left the lungs of Jenkins, only to return in the clutch and make some of the biggest plays of the entire year.
Jones is a former second-round pick who has battled injury setback after injury setback, and had his mental toughness then questioned. Perhaps a change in DB coach will help him, but now in his contract year and likely facing Avonte Maddox for the CB2 job, the Eagles may be willing to cash in while they can or simply rotate him as needed.
In the space of a month back in 2018, LeBlanc went from a corner buried on the depth chart who was signed for depth purposes mid-season, to an Eagles hero.
LeBlanc finished the season with PFF grade of 72.3 and 32nd among cornerbacks. But a Lisfranc injury would rip the former Chicago Bear of a shot at earning a starting role, as well as half of his second season in midnight green. The-then 24-year-old was sent to IR, but notably given a contract extension, rewarding his stunning efforts from one season ago.
Captain Cre’Von returned in emphatic fashion and put up a truly stunning game in week 17, one where the Eagles simply had to win. His playoff performance wasn’t excellent but Strap, who was rewarded with a new contract while injured, made his intentions clear.
The signing of Nickell Robey-Coleman does complicate matters in the slot…namely because every corner not named Rasul Douglas (yes, even Slay if he’s traveling) has nickel experience. If NRC, who has played in every game except 1 of a possible 112 since entering the league in 2013, is gunning for the starting role, he’d better be ready to give it all he’s got against LeBlanc, who won’t let that role go without a fight.
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