The Eagles may have found their next hidden gem at cornerback

NFL: NOV 01 Cowboys at Eagles
PHILADELPHIA, PA – NOVEMBER 01: Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Michael Jacquet (38) looks on during the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles on November 1, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA.(;ewis/Icon Sportswire)

It seems to happen every year. The Philadelphia Eagles run themselves into the ground, injuries rip through the team, and a new hero emerges from the unlikeliest of places…usually the practice squad. From Boston Scott and Cre’Von LeBlanc, to Alex Singleton and T.J Edwards, the Eagles have a habit of finding diamonds in the rough. Michael Jacquet is no exception.

The Eagles find a diamond in the rough

Jacquet was signed as an undrafted free agent following the NFL Draft and has stuck around on the team’s practice squad ever since. What’s interesting is that he doesn’t fit the typical ‘Jim Schwartz’ mold.

At 6’1, 195 lbs, the former receiver has a wingspan of 82 1/8 inches – 4 longer than any other DB recorded at the combine, along with 33.5 inch arms. Not only is he rangy, but he’s fast. Jacquet ran a 4.42 40-yard dash at his pro day and that speed constantly showed up on tape.

Jacquet flashed his upside in a game against Alabama back in 2018 as a member of the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, breaking up a touchdown pass intended for Jerry Jeudy in the process. It was clear he had a long way to go, surrendering a touchdown on a stutter-step, but also apparent he had plenty of potential.

A true ‘dinner CB’, Jacquet thrives at the catch-point with his receiving instincts and can high-point the ball well. He recorded 5 passes defensed and 2 picks last year and 9 PD in the season before that.

With only two years of experience at the position, Jacquet has every athletic tangible you could want from a cornerback but lacked the fundamentals.

His backpedal is smooth and he has some good speed when carrying a receiver or breaking on a ball, but he can get taken advantage of when asked to mirror quicker receivers because of limited agility and change of direction. Jacquet’s tackling form was sporadic and he was still figuring out the basics of coverage. But there was enough on show for the Eagles to take a flyer.

Michael Jacquet vs elite talent

Prior to Sunday’s breakout, Jacquet had spent a lot of time on special teams since returning from an injury. However, he was dropped into the deep end against Amari Cooper when Darius Slay picked up a knock in the team’s first matchup against Dallas. He played in 30 snaps, mostly lined up against Amari Cooper, and held his own. Cooper caught 3 of his 6 targets, with the UDFA allowing an impressive 56.2 passer rating when targeted.

On his second taste of defensive experience, he waltzed onto the field against the Packers in week 13 and impressed once more, playing in 21 snaps and making sure the only pass that came his way fell incomplete.

Then came his first NFL start.

The Arizona Cardinals

With both Darius Slay and Avonte Maddox down, the Eagles had no choice but to turn to their prized UDFA in the hopes he could stand his ground against a formidable trio of DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, and Larry Fitzgerald.

Michael Jacquet was seen early on giving Hopkins some trouble at the line with a firm jam and it’s safe to say Kyler Murray wanted that matchup. Jacquet battled with everything he had, batting down a pair of passes while being used all over the defense.

Used as an extra blitzer at one point, he stormed into the backfield to bring down Kyler Murray for a huge sack and forced fumble, while also rallying to 7 tackles and 0.5 TFL.

He wasn’t perfect, but against such a potent receiving corps, I don’t think anybody expected the level of production he somehow was able to reach.

Up next for the Eagles underdog

Darius Slay should be out of concussion protocol this week and that will keep Jalen Mills at Safety in what is a very light position group. With only two games remaining and depth minimal, it’s not only likely we see much more of Jacquet, but it’s almost impossible for the Eagles not to give him a run at CB2.

Every corner not named Darius Slay has struggled mightily this year and even the marquee man has had his off-days. Jacquet’s fearlessness and hustle should be enough to earn him a short window working opposite the former Detroit Lion, delivering him an opportunity to truly emerge as the team’s next underdog success story.

Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire