Another day, another tweet about the Eagles not signing a CB2. At least, that’s what the par for the course seems to be right now. The reality of the situation is that the need a CB2 is far less than what fans deem it to be. Here are three reasons why.
Look at the linebacker position
I pointed out yesterday on Twitter just how violent the change at linebacker has been.
Only two years ago, the Eagles were dealing with Nate Gerry facing the wrong way and struggling to do much of anything. Fans were naturally crying out for a change, but 2021 saw the implementation of a new defense that asked a different list of responsibilities from its linebackers.
This saw Alex Singleton go from playing to his strengths to having his weaknesses exploited, and a real glaring need for speed at the WILL and SAM spots. Genard Avery and Davion Taylor were unable to tick that box for numerous reasons, but Haason Reddick does it with room to spare.
Add in Kyzir White on the opposite side and Nakobe Dean in the middle and that group has entirely transformed in a matter of months. The fact that such a transition can happen so quickly should only instill confidence that Roseman knows what he’s doing when it comes to the secondary.
If he really felt a desperate need to bring in a CB2, he would’ve been aggressive in free agency. If he thought the hole needed a young playmaker on the cusp of unseating Darius Slay, he would’ve drafted Andrew Booth Jr. There’s clearly a plan here, or if not, at least a sense of comfort that the guys on the roster can get the job done.
Believe it or not, the Eagles may already have a viable CB2 on their roster. Right now, there appears to a line of succession in the secondary. In the nickel, Avonte Maddox, Zech McPhearson, and Kary Vincent Jr. form the pecking order. There are three outside corners sat behind Darius Slay, all vying for a starting role this upcoming season and they may be a lot closer to making that jump than you think.
Tay Gowan was the second corner acquired by the Eagles via a trade during the heart of the 2021 campaign. He was a 2021 draft selection, coming out of UCF and being picked by the Cardinals in round 6. He’s lengthy, relatively quick, and a menace at the catch-point which is exactly what the Doctor ordered. The Eagles wouldn’t have traded for him if they didn’t forsee a role opening up…
Then, there’s Mario Goodrich. The Eagles raced to the phones once the NFL Draft came to a close in a bid to pay Goodrich a substantial amount of money and secure the services of a Clemson corner who was expected to go on day two. He sustained cracked ribs at the Senior Bowl and as a result, was at less than 100% when it came to individual drills. Perhaps this contributed to his NFL Draft dream coming to an end. Either way, he’s an Eagle now and is going to be breathing down Gowan’s neck.
Then, there’s Josh Jobe. The Alabama product also surprisingly slipped through the cracks of the NFL Draft and like Goodrich, it may have been injury-related. A foot surgery at the end of the year summed up a disappointing 2021 season for Jobe, but the Eagles saw the value. He’s a physical corner who is just nasty in the run game and makes his living at the beginning of the route.
These three young players could all really benefit from experience in that CB2 spot and could one day look to inherit Darius’ Slay’s role if all goes well. If not, there’s an exciting draft class coming and another round of top free-agent targets to hone in on. There’s no harm in waiting and giving young players a chance…especially because of the scheme they play in.
Unlike Schwartz’s cover-3 nightmare that saw DB’s constantly having to shade routes over to the Safeties (who were often drawn elsewhere, leaving the corners to be humiliated), Gannon’s scheme is a little different.
There’s a regular sense of security over the top with the safeties, and the linebackers aren’t relentlessly playing man-coverage. This means that the corners really only have to worry about vertical routes, screens or curls/comebacks. Anything that goes inside will be passed onto the linebackers. This gives them a sense of confidence and played a large role in Darius Slay’s 2021 resurgence.
If Schwartz was still the coordinator, then dropping a young corner into the fire would be ill-advised (as we found out the hard way). But here, there’s a sense of forgiveness at the position that should allow an inexperienced corner with a high upside a window to get his feet wet and build his skill-set playing off-coverage as Steven Nelson did last year.
There’s not an urgent need for a CB2 in this scheme. Competent linebackers were far more integral to its structure, as was a nose tackle who is a freak of nature and whose presence alone will take weight off the shoulders of linebackers, allowing CB’s play closer to the line and get more aggressive in their matchups.
Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire