For the first time in what feels like forever, the Eagles will enter the season with a secondary that may finally be well-fortified. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of questions that will need answering this Summer. Here’s everything you need to know about one of the most notable position groups on the entire roster and most perplexing of the entire Doug Pederson era – The Eagles Cornerbacks.
Slay bells ring
The Eagles had been after Darius Slay for quite some time prior to poaching him from Detroit this offseason. Whether it was the rumblings at the time of the 2013 NFL Draft, or murmurs at the deadline, the Birds finally got their man at the beginning of free agency.
Since being drafted, Darius Slay leads all Cornerbacks in interceptions with 19, despite being ranked at 92 in the NFL’s top 100.
You have to wonder if that just comes with the territory of him being in Philadelphia. Will Schwartz bend his scheme in order to allow his former padawan to thrive? Can Slay do what fans have been crying out for and lock down the NFC East’s finest?
The Eagles have finally acquired a lockdown cornerback and even paid Slay top dollar with an extension.
A Nickell for your thoughts?
Following the trade for All-Pro cornerback Darius Slay, the Eagles then signed Nickell Robey-Coleman to a very unique one-year deal after the Rams declined the veteran’s option. Coleman has had the eye of Howie Roseman for quite some time, with the Eagles GM speaking highly of the corner after the signing:
“He’s explosive. He’s twitched-up. When he became available as a free agent the first time (in 2017), we were interested in signing him because he can really mirror receivers and he’s got the competitiveness, the speed, the toughness we’re looking for in our defensive backfield.”
It’s safe to say that Nickell hasn’t lost a step. He’s still one of the top 5 slot corners in the NFL and was ranked as the 19th best corner in the league last season by PFF. NRC will likely enter training camp as the team’s primary nickel option and could easily have the highest upside among Eagles cornerbacks.
The battle for CB2 begins…
While the Eagles have solidified the CB1 and Slot spots, there’s still a matter of finding the right player to line up on the opposite side of Slay. Here’s where the questions begin to arise; The Eagles have three corners that they’ve invested in for the last few seasons.
They drafted Sidney Jones in the second round in hopes that he would one day be their top corner, that hasn’t panned out due to injuries and other reasons.
Last season, Jones was on the wrong end of the Malcolm Jenkins tirade when the former Eagle called out Jones for his lack of confidence on the outside. Even with all that against him, Sidney Jones finished the season strong against the Giants and the Cowboys. He came up with a clutch interception against New York and possibly saved the Eagles season with a pass deflection against the Cowboys.
Then there’s Avonte Maddox who is loved by Schwartz and his staff. Maddox provides the Eagles with great versatility but struggled against man coverage at times last season. Maddox may still have the upper hand but don’t underestimate the fact that the front office wants Jones to succeed.
Last but not least is Rasul Douglas. Douglas has been a training camp stand out for the last two years but hasn’t been able to translate that onto the field. He went on to seek help by the Footwork King, Rischad Whitfield, who trains with Darius Slay every offseason. Whitfield is on record declaring that Douglas could be CB2 after his training with Footwork King. A vote of confidence like that is bound to make its rounds with coaches in the Novacare Complex.
So, Who’s left in the mix?
Cre’von LeBlanc. The man was signed to an extension but has yet to truly get his shot. Sure, he was riddled with an injury last season but the talent is there. LeBlanc can easily sneak his name into the conversation as a back up at Slot or even in the CB2 mix. Cre’von has been an afterthought with all of the moves that have transpired in the secondary but you shouldn’t count him out.
There’s also the legend of Craig James. The man who contributed to the win against the Packers. James is suffering from the same fate as LeBlanc but his talent may not be on the same page as Cre’von. With the rosters being trimmed down significantly, James could be the odd man out unless any injuries occur which isn’t new for the Eagles cornerbacks.
Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports