The Eagles have a cornerback problem as preseason approaches

PHILADELPHIA, PA – AUGUST 12: Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Zech McPhearson (27) looks on during the preseason game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers on August 12, 2021 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

The Hall of Fame game took place last night which means football season is finally upon us. The Philadelphia Eagles are about to embark on a three-game preseason with a pair of joint practices to spice things up and while there is plenty to keep an eye on, the pressure in the secondary is growing by the day.

The Eagles have a cornerback problem

If your name is James Bradberry, Darius Slay, or Avonte Maddox, everything is fine and dandy. You get to go on a little tour, laugh on the sidelines during a preseason outing and encourage your teammates. If you’re a cornerback without a starting role as of right now, the situation couldn’t be any more different.

There are currently 12 cornerbacks on the Philadelphia Eagles roster. There are 3 starters and potentially 3 backups. That means that we could be saying goodbye to 6 of those names by the time the roster gets slashed down to 53.

How did we get here?

What makes this process even more important is the fact that this secondary is a little unique in its construction. Usually, we see the starting trio, a savvy vet or two, in case of injury, and some young, developmental names to learn away from the spotlight. Most of those underdogs won’t push themselves into a starting conversation, but if they can become valuable rotational corners, or even become intriguing trade assets for a team, then that’s just as crucial.

The Eagles did things a little differently in 2021. With Darius Slay entrenched as their CB1, they went all-in on acquiring young, developmental corners. Why wouldn’t they? The roster was filled with these players and without pressure to contend right away, they could actually build up those younger players over a few years. They drafted Zech McPhearson, traded for Tay Gowan and Kary Vincent Jr. and took flyers on UDFA’s Josh Jobe and Mario Goodrich, who absolutely should’ve been taken in the latter rounds. There were two things that GM Howie Roseman didn’t expect, however.

  1. Avonte Maddox would ball out as a nickel corner and earn a contract extension, placing a glass ceiling over the head of McPhearson.
  2. James Bradberry would miraculously not only become available, but want to come and play for Philadelphia.

As a result of these developments, the back-end of the secondary is filled with scrappy corners who could easily be CB4’s on many rosters across the NFL. Sprinkle in a proven name like Jimmy Moreland, who has somehow become a forgotten name due to the depth here, and the issue becomes clear. Sure, the practice squad is a possibility, but the Eagles are likely going to be unable to keep a hold of all of these players, even with the new protection rules that promote the retention of players and stop other teams swooping in.

Why preseason matters

Preseason is going to be absolutely vital for this group. With only three games and a pair of joint practices to show what they can do, they cannot afford to be average. If iron sharpens iron, then these corners should be razor sharp. The fact that at the end of the fourth quarter, we could be seeing Goodrich and Jobe, guys who should really be vying for roster spots, is astounding.

It’s astounding that the Eagles have built a positional group so deep and the byproduct of that is a problem many teams would dream of having – too much talent.

While watching these hungry dogs compete is going to be, in my opinion, the most exciting part of the preseason, it could equally be the most upsetting. Knowing that there’s a good chance some of these corners who would be dream fits in midnight green, are already anticipating futures elsewhere, is gut-wrenching.

The original plan to develop young corners as they once did with names like Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas and CreVon LeBlanc, has now been abandoned in favor of a desire to win now. Nobody can blame Roseman for doing all he can to land James Bradberry, but it doesn’t make those farewells any easier to stomach.

Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire