The Philadelphia Eagles are thinner than a ball-point needle at the cornerback position right now. They have transitioned James Bradberry to the nickel spot while sliding Josh Jobe outside. It’s very much a work a progress heading into Week 5, to put it in mildly.
Bradberry has mostly locked the inside down, but Jobe has struggled to stick with receivers down the field. The Eagles are never a team to sit on their hands when holes need to be plugged so they pounced on free agent cornerback Bradley Roby. He started 10 games for the New Orleans Saints and played a hybrid role, logging 488 snaps out wide and 424 in the slot (via Pro Football Focus). Head coach Nick Sirianni talked about the plan for Roby forward and hyped up his experience in the slot and on the outside.
“He has a lot of experience both on the outside corner and at the nickel spot,” Sirianni told reporters. “So, we’re a little banged up there right now so he gives us some depth and a guy who’s done it before and we’re excited to have him on this football team.”
Roby, a first-round pick in 2014, earned a career-low 49.6 coverage grade in 2022 which was significantly down from 67.2 in 2021. Prior to that, the 31-year-old spent time with the Houston Texans and Denver Broncos. He has 11 total interceptions and 85 pass breakups in 126 career games (60 starts). Sirianni wouldn’t say if Roby would jump into a starter’s role immediately for the Eagles. The coaching staff has to wait and see how quickly he picks up the defensive scheme.
“You never really can tell. The plan is still being worked out, obviously, we don’t have our game-plan finished yet, and we still have multiple days to work on that,” Sirianni said. “So, we’ll see how long it takes. I know he’s a really sharp guy. We’ll see. Everybody’s a little bit different, though.”
When asked if the goal was to move Bradberry back to the outside — remember, he grabbed All-Pro honors there in 2022 — Sirianni didn’t commit to a long-term plan. The Eagles are just searching for more flexiblity at cornerback.
“Again, he has experience and we’re banged up there right now so Howie did a great job of going and finding a guy that we thought was pretty good last year when we went into to play them when he was in New Orleans,” Sirianni said. “And so it gives you more flexibility to do different things. We’re confident in James [Bradberry] at outside corner and at the nickel position but it just gives you more flexbility there.”
Updating the Eagles Depth Chart at Cornerback
Looking at the cornerback depth chart is a torturous chore these days. The Eagles lost starting nickel Avonte Maddox to a season-ending pectoral injury in Week 2. He already went under the knife with a long rehab scheduled.
Mario Goodrich broke training camp as the backup in the slot but he’s been hit or miss in emergency action. That’s why the Eagles decided to move James Bradberry inside. Problem is, Josh Jobe has struggled on the outside which makes the situation extra perplexing for new defensive coordinator Sean Desai.
“He did what we asked him to do as a defense, what we needed kind of from them as a defense,” Desai said of Bradberry. “Every week we look at our matchups and try to put our guys in the best position, whether that means in the coming weeks he becomes more of a corner, then that’s what we’ll do. But as we’re getting into this process trying to go against the Rams, we’ll figure out what’s best for him and really us.”
Sydney Brown — the rookie safety who is fighting a hamstring injury — has also seen action in the slot, particularly in the Eagles’ big nickel package which features three safeties on the field. Undrafted rookie Eli Ricks and fourth-round pick Kelee Ringo are the other two options to plug and play there. It’s an ongoing experiment for Desai and his assistants, including Defensive Backs Coach D.K. McDonald and Nickels Coach Ronell Williams.
“Walk-through is such a big part of our foundation and our philosophy and that’s a huge part of where you can get reps,” Desai said. “So, we’ve done a really good job and I would plan on continuing doing that good job in the back end with Sydney, also, to get him the reps he needs at all the positions because he’s got to be there for us.”
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