Eagles 2024 Training Camp: Is Slot CB the most exciting roster battle?

Avonte maddox Isaiah rodgers
PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 20:Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Avonte Maddox (29) warms up during the game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles on September 20, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

With Eagles Training Camp still around one month away, the calm before the storm is almost too quiet in Philadelphia. While we await the clashing of pads once more, now’s a great time to look at one of the most exciting positional battles on the entire roster.

Eagles have a cornerback conundrum

The Eagles have quite the pool of defensive backs to choose from. They’re still led by veterans Darius Slay and James Bradberry on the outside, but the drafting of Quinyon Mitchell and Cooper DeJean this offseason certainly makes things spicy. Kelee Ringo, a 4th-round pick from last years’ draft, is also a viable candidate for some playing time this year, and he’s supported by a group of undrafted underdogs all looking to make their mark.

Surprisingly, it’s the slot position that brings the most intrigue this summer. The team re-signed Avonte Maddox after allowing the Pitt product to test free agency waters, adding some stability to the inside, but what few expected was mandatory minicamp to set the stage for an almighty battle to claim the starting role this season.

Admittedly, a 3-4 defense might not demand as much play from the nickel corners, but if that was the case, the Eagles wouldn’t have loaded the boat full of starting-level prospects this past offseason. With a lack of depth at linebacker, there’s every chance that the nickel DB’s do more than carry their fair share over the coming campaign. But who’s going to get the Lions’ share of snaps?

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Michael Wilson, left, catches a touchdown pass in front of Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Kelee Ringo (22) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Eagles slot CB candidates:

Avonte Maddox

As aforementioned, Maddox rejoined the Eagles after seeing what life was like outside of Philadelphia before deciding to return to the team that drafted him. When he’s at his best, he’s one of the better slot corners in the league, but the issue has always been a worrying injury history that often seems to bite at the worst times.

Maddox suffered a toe injury on Christmas Eve in 2022 that kept him out until the postseason, and a torn pec to begin 2023 hardly elevated hopes that his durability would improve. Since being drafted in 2018, the 5’9 corner has only played one full season and has played fewer than 10 games in each of his last two seasons.

If he can stay healthy, the Eagles have a solid short-term option at the position if nothing else works out, but with the players gunning for his spot only improving over the Spring, it feels like Vic Fangio will have a tough decision to make.

Isaiah Rodgers Jr.

Very much the darling of spring workouts, Isaiah Rodgers Jr. burst onto the scene in Philadelphia with a vengeance. After missing all of last season due to violating the NFL’s gambling policy, Rodgers was poached by the Eagles after the Colts decided to part ways with him. That in itself was an ironic gamble, but one that could already be paying dividends.

Aside from his speed and special teams prowess, Rodgers has already proven himself as a solid starting slot corner and has only further cemented that with a string of impressive workouts at the NovaCare Complex.

Still only 26-years-old and with 3 NFL seasons under his belt, there is reason to believe that Rodgers will continue to improve and if he can attack the Summer the way he has OTA’s and minicamp, then he’s going to be hard to deny the starting role in the nickel.

Cooper DeJean

The wildcard in all of this is versatile rookie Cooper DeJean. Although he was drafted as a Safety, he spent most of his time playing outside last season for Iowa, but limitations might mean he’s better suited to a role where he does have some support around him. Safety probably makes the most sense, but the Eagles have made it clear that they don’t want to rush his development or put too much on his shoulders, so a transition inside makes temporary sense.

It should come as no surprise then that CDJ saw plenty of action from that spot over the Summer, and although he wasn’t as head-turning as Rodgers, this is a second-round prospect who should’ve gone in the first going off the consensus opinions of scouts and analysts. If the Eagles view him as a cornerstone for years to come, then keeping him off the field in favor of an injury-plagued Maddox or even Rodgers who they’re not financially invested in long-term, might not be in their best interests.

FILE – Iowa defensive back Cooper DeJean (3) returns an interception for a touchdown against Rutgers quarterback Evan Simon (3) during the first half of an NCAA football game, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Piscataway, N.J. Coopr DeJean was named to The Associated Press preseason All-America team, Monday, Aug. 21, 2023.(AP Photo/Noah K. Murray, File)

Of course, it all comes down to how he plays, and a tandem of both himself and Rodgers rotating based on matchup could work beautifully in this scheme. One way or another, DeJean is going to get defensive snaps this year, and the slot position makes the most sense, only adding even more fuel to an already eccentric Fire.

Josh Jobe/Mario Goodrich

The final two corners here aren’t likely starting candidates barring an injury to one of the above players, but both received plenty of looks last year in wake of Maddox and even the boundary corners on occasion. With so many corners on the roster, spots on the 53-man group will be hard to come by, making it absolutely crucial that both get off to a hot start this Summer and maintain it throughout the preseason. That elevated pressure might just create a new diamond in the rough as we’ve seen in the past, but only time will tell.

It’s really hard to say who’s going to emerge as the top dog in the slot cornerback positional battle, but the Eagles have an embarrassment of riches, and that’s a great problem to work through. Training Camp is going to be an exciting time for the Birds, but the slot position in particular could throw up more than a surprise or two.

Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire