Feb 3, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Baltimore Ravens cornerback Cary Williams (29) reacts during the second quarter against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
After the last few years, the Philadelphia Eagles tried to build up their secondary and make it the best in the league. With the additions on Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, many fans believed that the Eagles were going to have the NFL’s best secondary. On paper, that was a scary sight to see for any quarterback. Heck, it seemed like something you could only do on Madden — but the Eagles were able to do it in real life.
However, all the hype these moves had around them just fell apart as the seasons progressed and the Eagles secondary became one of their biggest weaknesses.
In 2011, the Eagles ranked 10th overall in pass defense, but stats do lie sometimes as they gave up 27 touchdown passes, which was ninth in the league. With obvious holes in the secondary, the Eagles drafted Brandon Boykin out of Georgia.
Then, in 2012, the Eagles finished ninth in the league against the pass, but they gave up a whopping 38 touchdown passes, which was first in the league. They also only intercepted eight passes, which was third lowest in the league. It was obvious that an overhaul was necessary to get this team going in the right direction.
November 5, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin (22) against the New Orleans Saints during the second half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Easgles 28-13. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The Eagles brought in free agent Cary Williams from the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens. On the Ravens, Williams ranked fourth in tackles, first in interceptions, and first in interception yards. With Williams, the Eagles have an all-or-nothing type corner. He has awareness and the ability to create turnovers and make interceptions. Not only that, but he has one of the better tackling techniques of all corners. Although sometimes he allows big plays, he still is able to make the big play for his team and will definitely help out the Eagles with the interception problem.
Back in the 2012 NFL draft, the Eagles selected Boykin in the fourth round. Boykin contributed to the Eagles in the special teams area where he was mainly a kick returner. He showed flashes as a returner, but he also showed flashes as a corner. Whilst in the nickel, Boykin showed quickness and awareness to break up passes and disrupt quick routes. He was a stud in the nickel, even though he showed some rookie mistakes, he could definitely be someone to watch out for on the Eagles roster for years to come.
This year, in the 2013 NFL draft, the Eagles went with corner again by drafting Jordan Poyer from Oregon State. Now while he is a seventh-round selection, he actually grasps the game of football very well and is highly intelligent. He excels in reading the quarterback and not biting on play action and fakes; however, he does lack size and jumping ability. Poyer mirrors the receiver quite well and his biggest attribute is that he is able to put himself in position to make a play on the ball. He fits well in a zone scheme and does well with his instincts, being aggressive and always fighting for the ball. He won’t be starting in the 2013 season by any means, but may end up starting in the slot in a few years — moving Boykin outside.
Finally, there is Bradley Fletcher, a four-year veteran brought in from the St. Louis Rams. While Bradley has only played in two full 16-game seasons, there have been some moments where it looked like Fletcher could be a very good corner. In 2010, he played extremely well and was very underrated. However, in 2011 he was injured, missed quite a few games, and that put him back on the depth chart. His biggest concern is his history with injuries, which has plagued his career thus far. Although, when healthy, he can contribute very well. According to Pro Football Focus, “Bradley Fletcher gave up 0.52 yards per snap in coverage last year. Lowest of any cornerbacks with at least 250 snaps in coverage.” This shows that talent is there, it’s only a question as to if he can stay healthy.
The Eagles did a complete overhaul of their secondary, subtracting and adding both veterans and young players. With some additions to the safety position, the Eagles may be looking very good secondary within the next few years. It’s going to take some time for these players to jell together and improve, but the future looks bright for some of these players. Sure, there are question marks here and there, but talent is obviously there. With good coaching, motivation and time together, this cornerback group may end up surprising not only Eagles fans, but the entire NFL.