Eagles CB2: A ten-year history of swings and misses

PHILADELPHIA, PA – JANUARY 05: Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills (31) celebrates during an NFC Wild Card game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Seattle Seahawks on January 5, 2020, at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Michael Workman/Icon Sportswire)

Having failed to address the CB2 spot this offseason despite it being one of their biggest needs, the Eagles could be in line to start an underdog on the outside. Whether that’s Avonte Maddox or someone like Michael Jacquet is what Training Camp will look to decide. With that said, I thought it would be a good idea to go back and look at the CB2’s of the past 10 years to see whether or not fans should be comfortable letting one of those young guns go out and earn the role.

I might have been mistaken.

2020: Avonte Maddox and the cornerback committee

As we all know, 2020 embodied everything that demanded a deeper dive into the history of the Eagles CB2 position. As just about everyone not named Jim Schwartz expected, 5’9 nickel CB Avonte Maddox struggled outside through few faults of his own. In run defense he showed plenty of desire to get involved and his impressive burst was often on show. The problem was that he’d often be matched up against far more physical receivers who provided an immediate size mismatch. With Darius Slay providing consistent coverage on the other side of the field, it enabled quarterbacks to target the left-hand side over and over again.

When Maddox went down with injury, the bleeding only worsened. Spirited efforts from Michael Jacquet and Kevon Seymour gave fans reasons for optimism, but they were often drowned out by the big plays surrendered. The real question now is will the Eagles make a late move to bolster the position as they did in 2017, or instead let one of the underdogs compete and develop under Jonathan Gannon?

2017-2019: Jalen Mills

When Ron Brooks went down with injury in 2016, Jalen Mills was thrust into the picture as a seventh-round rookie. He soon ended up playing outside too thanks to injuries across the board, but ended up as PFF’s lowest-graded cornerback. That didn’t stop Jim Schwartz from doubling down on the green goblin, his physicality, and strong leadership traits.

Overall, there were lengthy of positives and negatives surrounding the play of Jalen Mills over what became a three-year stint where he was entrenched as the CB2. For every thunderous hit and big-time play, there was a devastating double move, cringeworthy finger-wag on a play he had nothing to do with, and scenarios where teammates had to pull him away from opposing players for chirping.

Mills proved to be more efficient at Safety than he was at cornerback, but overall, he isn’t the worst CB in this article. The one thing he absolutely should be applauded for is heart. Mills was a liability at times but never gave anything less than 100%, never gave into the social media pressure or listened to the outside noise. Sure, he was frustrating to watch, but his heart was always drenched in midnight green.

2014-16: Nolan Carroll

Nolan Carroll was actually a pretty serviceable corner for the Eagles. Durability wise, he only missed four games across three years and prior to his injury in 2015, actually played pretty well. His play did drop off somewhat in 2016 and he found himself being burned more often than usual. On top of getting a little older, Carroll looked to have potentially lost a step after his season-ending injury.

With that said, he had at least 10 pass breakups and 50+ tackles in back-to-back seasons and had the speed to hold his own on an island…at least to begin with.

2013-14: Bradley Fletcher

Bradley Fletcher might be the most triggering name on this list. In 2014, he allowed more yards than any other cornerback as well as more touchdowns than all but one. Six of the eight big plays surrendered by Fletcher that year were in press coverage, leading to plenty of toast memes, an altered Wikipedia page and a growing sense of resentment from the fan base.

Not much more needs to be said here other than Fletcher’s tenure in Philadelphia was absolutely abysmal and the less said about it, the better.

2012: Dominique Rodgers-Cromate

When it rains, it pours, right? I’m quickly realizing that this article has done nothing other than bring back terrible memories of shoddy cornerback play. He started as a slot corner in Philadelphia after being traded to the team in the move that sent Kevin Kolb to Arizona. However, one year removed from the ‘dream team’, his play was a nightmare. DRC transitioned outside and played all 16 games opposite Nnamdi Asomugha but the results were less than stellar for a corner of his size and speed.

DRC was a penalty machine and ended up being the most penalized corner in the league that year. He showed he had all the speed in the world, but lacked the agility to change direction without having to drop down 6 gears, which, along with inconsistent effort levels that partnered his coverage, ultimately became his undoing in Philadelphia.

2011: Nnamdi Asomugha

Ugh. Lining up alongside Asante Samuel is never an easy task, but doing so while suddenly developing into a shadow of your former self? Not great. Nnamdi Asomugha’s time in Philadelphia will forever go down as one of the most disappointing in team history, although his lone season as a CB1 was marginally better.

He looked like a completely different player than the man who earned pro bowl nods in 3 consecutive seasons before joining the Eagles. His previously sensational speed dropped off a cliff and he looked lost way too often for a player earning $60M over five years.

Perhaps some of it was due to a schematic shift, but the fall from grace suffered by Asomugha makes little sense, even to this day.

Photo by Michael Workman/Icon Sportswire