The Philadelphia Eagles’ defense will need to protect their cornerbacks as there’s still no guarantee of how good they will be.
The cornerback position has been nothing short of a revolving door the past few years for the Philadelphia Eagles. One could argue the secondary as a whole has left a lot to be desired since the days of former safety and former defensive coordinator Brian Dawkins and Jim Johnson, yet in terms of glaring weak spots, the cornerback position is still what sticks out. While it was beneficial to shed Byron Maxwell‘s contract, he was still somewhat serviceable. As it stands now, the Eagles are currently left with either unproven and unremarkable corners.
As of right now, it would appear Leodis McKelvin is slotted as first on the depth chart. Ron Brooks and Nolan Carroll (who’s 2015 campaign was cut short by a broken ankle in Week 12) should both be in the mix for CB2. Jalen Mills has had a terrific training camp, and head coach Doug Pederson has confirmed that Mills will surpass Eric Rowe on the depth chart. To some, that has come as a surprise. Many thought this would be Rowe’s year to shine, but apparently Mills has been very impressive.
Last year, Eagles fans were actually given the pleasure of watching a competent safety duo for the first time in years. Malcolm Jenkins elevated his play tremendously (which earned him a hefty extension through 2020), and recently retired Walter Thurmond was also a huge positive during a season that didn’t give fans much to be happy about. While losing Thurmond seemed to hurt at first, the Eagles went out in Free Agency and scooped up what was arguably an even better safety in Rodney McLeod. As of right now, it’s hard to imagine many safety tandems in the NFL looking more solid than the Eagles are going to look in 2016.
That begs two questions: Can the Eagles defense do what they’ve been incapable of doing in years past and mask their ongoing struggle at the corner position? Can the Eagles’ defense help mask their unproven corners?
If we take a look at what defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz did while leading the defense in Buffalo just two seasons ago, we see he elevated that defense to a top 5 squad in just one year. The significant thing being that the Buffalo Bills were then built eerily similar to how the Eagles are currently built: a fearsome attacking front 4, quick and athletic linebackers, and a secondary with very few household names.
Part of the reason they were so successful was because their defensive line was incredibly disruptive, and opposing quarterbacks rarely had enough time to take advantage of an otherwise average secondary.
No matter who starts at corner this year, they will certainly have their hands full. Playing the likes of New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant won’t be easy.
Getting to the quarterback early and often will be a huge deciding factor in how efficient the Eagles’ corners are and how successful the defense is as a whole. If Schwartz’s track record is any indication, the defense should be able to bail the corners out on occasion and mask their deficiencies as a whole.