Oct 5, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Cary Williams (26) and free safety Malcolm Jenkins (27) react as pass intended for St. Louis Rams wide receiver Brian Quick (83) falls incomplete on fourth down late in the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles defeated the Rams, 34-28. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
The Philadelphia Eagles have struggled in the secondary since the departure of safety Brian Dawkins. Two years into the Chip Kelly era, not many improvements have been made to a secondary that was the worst in the NFL in former head coach Andy Reid’s last two years. The Eagles made one major upgrade last offseason, but the Eagles’ secondary still needs improvement.
Former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins was an all-world player; he was a safety who could do it all. He was great in pass coverage and as a run defender, and he was famous for laying the boom on opposing players.
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The greatest effort to improve the secondary came in 2011 when the Eagles traded quarterback Kevin Kolb for rising star cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second round pick, and picked up All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. It was quickly apparent that neither was going to be successful in Philadelphia. Asomugha had been keeping his reputation because quarterbacks had stopped throwing his way.
The Eagles also had safeties Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman, who were among the worst safety tandems in the NFL, if not the worst. Neither could tackle and both were almost consistently beat deep in coverage.
After two years of Rodgers-Cromartie in the slot and Asomugha starting outside, each was allowed to leave in free agency as Chip Kelly became the head coach. Kelly brought in Super Bowl champion cornerback Cary Williams from the Ravens, underrated cornerback Bradley Fletcher from the Rams, and free agent safety Pat Chung from the Patriots.
Williams and Fletcher have been serviceable, but Chung was just as bad as Coleman had been. By far the best pickup in the secondary has been safety Malcolm Jenkins last offseason. Jenkins has been a difference maker, and quite honestly one of the best, most versatile safeties in the entire NFL.
This offseason, Fletcher’s contract expires and Williams’ contract balloons to $8 million, much more than he is worth. If the Eagles got rid of both players right now, they would have Nolan Carroll and Brandon Boykin on the outside with rookie slot corner Jaylen Watkins playing in the slot. That would be a lot of unknowns.
This offseason the Eagles are going to have to either re-sign Fletcher and re-work Williams’ contract or pick up a free agent corner and draft another cornerback in the first round. Neither option seems to be ideal.
Also, drafting a safety like Alabama’s Landon Collins in the first round to replace Nate Allen would not be a bad move either. As of right now, the Eagles could use upgrades at three out of four spots in the secondary. With Williams’ contract ballooning to make him not worth keeping, and Fletcher’s and Allen’s contracts expiring this offseason, the Eagles will have the opportunity to vastly improve and completely rebuild the secondary.