Philadelphia Eagles Build 2015 Defense On Shoestring Budget

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Dec 14, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; Denver Broncos secondary coach Cory Undlin (right) gives cornerback

Aqib Talib

(21) a hug after he intercepted a pass during the fourth quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Backs

The Philadelphia Eagles have wiped the slate clean, only two years after wiping the slate clean.   This time, the team has decided to hold onto safety Malcolm Jenkins, and bring in former Seattle Seahawks cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Byron Maxwell.    Rounding out the remaining cornerbacks are Brandon Boykin, Nolan Carroll, and Jaylen Watkins.  The remaining safeties are special teamers Chris Maragos and Chris Prosinski, Ed Reynolds, Earl Wolff, and an intriguing prospect in Jerome Couplin III.

The team has brought on new secondary coach Cory Undlin, and his presence was felt as the team made cornerbacks (and a failed attempt to get a safety) a priority in free agency.   I believe the team is not yet done with the secondary however.   Surprisingly, the team will not be grabbing safeties early in this draft.   The reason is that the 2015 NFL draft is shallow in the safety position, and nearly exhausted in quality free safety talent before a single player is selected.  On the other hand, the cornerback position is fairly robust, and several prospects with good measurables have experience at both position.   Assuming that the team gives Jerome Couplin III a shot to compete for the starting safety position (I’m a big fan of his), the roster currently sits at five cornerbacks and six safeties.

There is no way this defense can support a full season of nickel and dime packages with a mere five cornerbacks.  On top of this, the recent wave of free agent departures has left the team with no prospects waiting in the wings.  In short, the draft will be about cornerbacks.

Shoestring Budget

I think that the team can “grow” the starting safety from the current roster.   With Maragos, Prosinski, Reynolds, Wolff and Couplin competing, there is no way to say who that will be at this point.  But the team will look to pick up a later draft safety with cover skills if one becomes available.   I really like the thought of the Eagles picking up a free safety on day three of the draft.   At cornerback, the story is the opposite.   With two new faces and the secondary in disarray, the team needs to lock down the future by drafting a quality starting cornerback in 2015.   As much as I believe the team cannot avoid drafting a wide receiver, and think they may try to fix the gaff in the 2014 draft at outside linebacker, the team cannot avoid the inevitable.  They must draft a cornerback who can compete for a starting role now.   Furthermore, they must find hidden gems on day three or as undrafted free agents to bring in and coach up.     Look for the team to double the five cornerback positions to ten for training camp, and to add a late draft safety as well.

Shoestring Summary

The Eagles are in good shape defensively compared to previous years.  They seem to have addressed some question areas with upgraded talent and do not have a feeling of being completed yet.  While they are in relatively good shape currently at both defensive line and linebacker, I cannot rule out the team trying to wipe the 2014 first round pick memory out by using the better depth of the 2015 linebacker prospects to add to the mix.   Even if they do, I cannot see how the Eagles can avoid addressing the cornerback position in the draft.   While they have a number of candidates who could compete for the other free safety position, the cornerback roles seem to be Byron Maxwell and a trifecta of Brandon Boykin/Nolan Carroll/Walter Thurmond.   In 2015, the team will have virtually no depth to run the sixteen game gauntlet.   With Boykin, Carroll, and Thurmond contracts expiring at the end of this season, and the sting of buying a premium cornerback in the open market still reverberating in the checkbook, the team needs to keep an eye on the salary cap and work to fill one of the most expensive positions with inexpensive talent – namely via the NFL draft.

Or they can go shopping again in 2016, with fewer dollars.

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