Philadelphia Eagles’ Secondary to be Tested Early and Often


The revamped Philadelphia Eagles secondary has it’s work cut out to start the regular season. Philadelphia will see five different opposing 1,000 yard receivers in the first seven games. Later on in the season, Calvin Johnson and Philadelphia Eagles killer Larry Fitzgerald will be on tap. Given their struggles in recent years, it’s imperative that defensive coordinator Billy Davis gets his secondary playing at a higher level than previous seasons.

Corner Byron Maxwell, the subject of much excitement (and criticism), fared well opposite Richard Sherman in Seattle. Maxwell has familiarity in being the target of opposing quarterbacks. According to Pro Football Focus, quarterbacks targeted Maxwell an average of once every 5.7 snaps. Despite all the attention he saw in coverage, Maxwell graded higher than 81 other qualifying cornerbacks in 2014.

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The Philadelphia Eagles are going to need an equal, if not better,performance from Maxwell against the big three receivers in the NFC East. And the criticism is already running rampant whether the newfound secondary of the Eagles is up to the task. Honestly, it’s easy to criticize players at this point based on experience, or lack thereof.And Walter Thurmond personifies this empty criticism.

Entering an NFL training camp for the first time as a safety, Thurmond lacks the experience that we all had hoped one of our starting safeties would have at this point. But for those that lauded for Landon Collins (myself included), would a rookie really inspire that much hope? Collins’ draft stock dropped considerably, and there were not any safeties in this draft of the Earl Thomas caliber. Besides, Thurmond’s experience in the slot should serve nicely in the man-to-man coverage the Philadelphia Eagles tend to run.

The main focus defensively will center on the names of Julio Jones, Dez Bryant, or Odell Beckham. But seven of the Eagles opponents finished in the bottom half of the NFL for sacks allowed last season. It’s also not far-fetched that the Eagles have upgraded elsewhere defensively to aid the secondary. Acquiring linebacker Kiko Alonso bolsters a Philadelphia Eagles defensive front seven that only lost Trent Cole. This is already a defense that finished tied for second in the NFL in sacks and first in forced fumbles last season. Even a slight upgrade in the secondary could mean great things for the Eagles.

Patience is a necessity with the secondary. The Philadelphia Eagles are in the middle of rebuilding their roster the way the coaching staff sees fit. Chip Kelly will use Eric Rowe sparingly until he grasps the nuances of the pro game. Nolan Carroll has had a solid offseason and should finally get playing time along Maxwell and incumbent nickel corner Brandon Boykin. Further down the depth chart, JaCorey Shepherd and Randall Evans will try to make the 53-man roster.

No longer will the status quo be acceptable from players like Nate Allen however. There will surely be bumps in the road, and potentially as early as Week One. But if the members of the Eagles secondary can survive the early gauntlet, I believe they will be a formidable defense this upcoming season.

Next: Previewing the Eagles and Cowboys

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