Eagles have plenty of secondary options for cornerbacks

Ed Benkin
August 12, 2018 - 4:36 pm
Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelphia Eagles preseason game

© Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — What a difference a year makes.

Heading into last year's training camp, one of the biggest positions of concern for the Eagles was cornerback. The unit received a boost in the trade that brought Ronald Darby to Philadelphia, but his injury early in the season forced other defensive backs to step up. 

Fast forward to 2018, and the Eagles appear to have one of the deeper secondaries in the NFL. Starting cornerback Jalen Mills is happy to have plenty of depth behind him as training camp progresses.

"It's very important," said Mills. "Anything could happen. A shoestring could bust or a chin strap could come off. You need guys who are going to be able to come up the sideline and get in the game. It looks like when the starters are out, we don't miss a beat."

The Eagles did lose a valuable member of the secondary when Patrick Robinson signed with the New Orleans Saints. However, there appears to be plenty of capable replacements who will fit in behind Darby and Mills.  

Sidney Jones is completely healthy after recovering from an Achilles injury throughout most of last season. Rasul Douglas showed promise during his time in the secondary a year ago. There is also rookie Avonte Maddox, who is making a strong first impression at training camp. Like many of the cornerbacks, Maddox is seeing time both inside and outside in the secondary.

"It's a challenge," Maddox said. "But I'm up for any challenge. I've been moving inside and outside. I didn't play as much in college inside so when I got here, I was going to focus on nickel so I could learn that spot as much as I can. At the same time, I've got to make sure my head is in the playbook in the corner so if they throw me out there, I'll be prepared and ready."

Jones has been one of the most intriguing players to watch at camp. The Eagles knew when they drafted him last year that he would have to spend most of 2017 on the sidelines. Now, Jones is ready to play a significant role in the secondary, and Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz likes what he sees from the second-year cornerback as he rotates throughout the defensive backfield.

"He's trending up," said Schwartz. "He's very assignment-sound in there and he can play both positions, and again, that's something maybe he has to do maybe over the course of the year. We had P-Rob [Robinson> last year who basically manned our nickel position, but there were some key moments in the season that he stepped outside and played. All those guys that are in that rotation at the nickel, none of them are only in nickel. They all play outside, too."

There are still three preseason games to play, which will help sort out the rotation, but Schwartz has the pleasant dilemma of finding playing time for as many cornerbacks as possible. In this pass-happy age of the NFL, a team can never have enough quality cornerbacks. Now, it will be up to Schwartz and his staff to put the pieces together. 

"He's just trying to find that perfect math equation," Mills said. "Last year, we had P-Rob in there and us as a group went to the Super Bowl. They're just trying to find that perfect setup."