Philadelphia Eagles: Who Starts Opposite of Byron Maxwell?


One of the main reasons why the Philadelphia Eagles didn’t see playoff action last season was due to the ridiculous amount of “x-plays” given up by the secondary. Whether it was a breakdown in technique, or a miscommunication, the cornerbacks were consistently a culprit in giving up these backbreaking plays. The team made fixing this issue a big priority and the team will lineup two brand new starters at the cornerback position in 2015.

The team paid big money for cornerback Byron Maxwell, and while he will man the duties of the team’s #1 corner, the spot opposite of him is up for grabs and is a bit of mystery. There are many candidates to fill the void. As of right now the favorite to earn the starting role is Nolan Carroll. Carroll was brought in last season to compete but was somehow beaten out by the infamous Bradley Fletcher.

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Carroll fits the criteria that head coach Chip Kelly has when looking for an outside corner. Carroll is 6-1, has long arms and is ideal for a press man scheme. Carroll has apparently had a great summer and has received praise from coaches and teammates. Carroll played the role of dime linebacker last season but played well when given the opportunity.

The people looking up at Carroll for the starting spot are rookie Eric Rowe and Brandon Boykin. Rowe was drafted with high hopes that he can help turnover the secondary. Rowe also fits the classic mold of an outside press corner at 6-1, 205 pounds. Rowe took second team snaps behind Carroll through OTAs and mini camp, but this isn’t uncommon as Kelly likes to make his rookies earn their spot.

Brandon Boykin might be the team’s best corner even with Maxwell included. It’s been the same narrative with Boykin throughout his career thus far. He outplays every other cornerback on the roster but is still limited to only covering the slot as a nickel cornerback. His size isn’t ideal at 5-10 which is likely what’s keeping him off the field. For three years Brandon has gotten nonstop questions about playing on the outside but has still been pigeonholed to a slot corner.

Defensive coordinator Billy Davis and Chip Kelly have stated that the best players will play, but it seems like that the coaches stubbornness with the size criteria they like with their corners have blinded them with Boykin. For better or worse, the coaches have a set of standards that Boykin does not meet. Boykin will not start this season, that’s just the sad reality of the situation.

One wildcard to start is the team’s sixth round pick JaCorey Shepherd. Shepherd was considered the steal of the draft, and possesses some serious talent. Shepherd started playing cornerback in college and led all the 2015 defensive backs that were drafted in pass breakups. Shepherd was a wide receiver before making the transition and you can see his ball skills shine when he’s covering receivers. Shepherd has had a good summer and might make a run at starting somewhere along the defense.

Shepherd is 5-11 so he still isn’t the perfect fit for Kelly, but he played in a very similar scheme in college. Shepherd’s stock fell after a slow 40-yard dash time after dealing with hamstring issues. But Shepherd has the talent and instincts to play in the NFL, there’s no doubt about that.

The Philadelphia Eagles have a nice battle for the starting spot across Maxwell going on. Carroll looks to be the favorite when training camp begins, but there are interesting players behind him that could make a serious push. Rowe has the tools to play, Boykin has the talent, and Shepherd brings a wildcard factor. Yet Carroll looks to be the starter for now.

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