Eagles Wake-Up Call: CB Training Camp Preview

Each day this week, we’ll take a look at a different position group as we count down to training camp.

What’s changed?

Can I just write “everything” and move on to the next section?

Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are out. Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher are in.

In the summer of 2011, the Eagles appeared to be in excellent shape at this position. They had Asante Samuel on the roster, traded for Rodgers-Cromartie and signed Asomugha. They even drafted a developmental prospect in the third round in Curtis Marsh.

Just two summers later, Marsh is the only one still on the roster.

The pressing question: Did the Eagles do enough to improve this group?

The names are different, but will the results be?

According to the Football Outsiders Almanac, Williams finished 79th out of 87 corners in success rate (definition here) last season. As a point of reference, Rodgers-Cromartie and Asomugha finished 62nd and 65th, respectively.

Williams also allowed a combined 41 first downs/touchdowns, third-most in the NFL, per the FOA. On the flip side, he only missed two tackles all season and had four interceptions to go along with 17 passes defensed.

Flethcher, meanwhile, got benched during the second half of last season in favor of younger options, but has had productive stretches in the past.

It would be hard for the corners as a group to be worse than last year. The Eagles allowed a league-worst 33 touchdown passes in 2012 and only had eight interceptions (30th). But there’s no guarantee that Williams and Fletcher will provide a significant upgrade either.

Don’t be surprised if…

Boykin emerges as one of the better inside corners in the league. His 58 percent success rate last year ranked 15th, according to Football Outsiders.

And per Pro Football Focus’ charting numbers, Boykin only allowed three receptions in the Eagles’ final six games.

The Eagles played with at least one extra corner 49 percent of the time last year. I’d be surprised if Boykin got a shot on the outside, but if he improves in the slot, the Eagles will be ecstatic.

Roster battles to watch

While Williams and Fletcher are the favorites, Marsh has an outside chance of stealing some playing time. The third-year corner had good measurables coming out of Utah State, but he’s yet to prove he can be a productive player in the NFL.

Seventh-round pick Jordan Poyer has generated some buzz nationally as a potential sleeper. Given his versatility, he has a chance to stick, although I don’t see him unseating Boykin for the nickel job.

Brandon Hughes, meanwhile, seems to just make the cut every year.

Williams, Fletcher and Boykin look like locks to make the roster. Marsh, Hughes and Poyer will probably be competing for two spots.

WHAT YOU MISSED

The Eagles have invested $1 million in technology upgrades. T-Mac has the details.

Peter King makes a Chip Kelly/Jimmy Johnson comparison. Here’s what they’re saying about the Eagles.

Yesterday’s installment of the camp preview series looked at the running backs.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

SI.com’s Don Banks wonders whether Kelly will have the Eagles looking like an NFL version of Oregon by the end of the preseason:

Complicating the situation, of course, is the quarterback competition that will rage in the coming weeks, with Michael Vick, Nick Foles and maybe even rookie Matt Barkley vying to prove their skill set is the best fit for Kelly’s aggressive and attacking approach. The sooner the Eagles’ offense identifies its trigger man, the better. Starting next week, all seat belts should be fastened for a full-speed takeoff in Philly.

Paul Domowitch of the Daily News looks at Kelly’s decision to hold camp in Philadelphia:

As everyone knows, Kelly places a premium on players’ getting a good night’s sleep. You don’t have to be the CEO of Serta to figure out that a player is likely to sleep better in his own bed or at the Airport Marriott than on a lumpy dorm-room mattress with a 330-pound offensive lineman with sleep apnea lying 4 feet away from you.

COMING UP

Some notes on Kelly and what he looks for in the box score.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • Stuart Philp

    The secondary is a work in progress. There’s some building block type guys here, but we need the young guys to develop. Boykin, Marsh, and Poyer could be an interesting group in 2-3 years.

    Couple that with all the unknowns of the front 7 and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a lot of adjustments made on defense as we get closer, and then into, the season. I’d be happy with a middle of the road ~15th ranked D this year.

  • Johnny Domino

    Nice Domo, pick on the big fellas.

    Next time you need your couch moved, don’t call.

    • theycallmerob

      he’s got a point about the apnea. How many of the scuffles in camp do you think are related to off-field things? I’d love to have them mic’d up…..”Damnit Peters, you kept me up all night!”

  • Token

    This is a sad group. Williams is just not good. You are bound to get some INTs and defended passes when you are picked on all game every week. To make matters worse he appears to be a A-hole. Fletcher ill wait and see. In some ways it looks like he may have some talent. Hes a injury risk though.

    The worst thing about this CB group is they have a even worse group of safeties behind them.

    • keepingitreal

      Hmm… does the concept of 2012 simply escape you? Let’s examine some fun facts. This year the eagles – have abandoned the 9 Tech defense which forced safeties to be heavily involved with run defense, have eliminated the orange pylon cornerbacks who literally were some of the worst tackling pairs to ever blemish the NFL, have obtained DBs which scored excellent marks in tackling and special teams.

      The best “CB Prospects” in this past free agency were, you guessed it, the guys the eagles got rid of. So why do it?

      Well first of all, new blood was needed. Positive energy. Williams was not a stat star, but he did just finish the 2012 season as a starter for the superbowl. Marsh Boykin and Hughes were all looking to start over this year, and with some NFL experience, they will get that chance. Fletcher played well enough in his time onfield to warrant a starting shot.

      The safety upgraded the moment we declared no more 9 tech. With KP onboard, we know we have a chance at great play if his knees hold up. I think Nate Allen will surprise this year… returning to his early form.

      We do not need a shutdown defense if the offense is as good as I think it will be, we simply need a defense that can get us some turnovers and stop the other team from scoring. I think we can do that this year.

      You can be skeptical… but until you see them on the field together, comments like “sad group” simply expose your vitriol.

      Hold off on the sentencing, judge judy. This group isn’t guilty of bad play yet.

      • cliff henny

        probably right, we shouldnt convict yet…but all the signs are there. if it were just one guy who needed to inprove play or stay healthy, and the rest needed small step up, that’s one thing. but it’s literally every single guy needs either major jump in play (and sure, wide9 or coming into 3rd yr is good reason for hope) or major injury concerns (phillips not playing in ota’s is it simple rest or something more, fletch has both knees) or hoping late rounder pops. it’s also tough to discuss cbs without having some overlap with the safeties. we saw historically bad safety play last year. mean, a major jump in play, and they still only manage to get to terrible status.

        • theycallmerob

          remember, not all is lost; these guys actually played ok last year before the wheels fell off with Bowles. That was also during the time when Vick couldn’t get the ball in the end zone to save his life. If we’re scoring, and the run D improves even a little up front, the lives of the CBs will get easier. Not to say we’re pissing rainbows and sunshine, but it’s almost impossible to do worse than last year with respect to:
          -pass defense
          -inability to force turnovers
          -inability to prevent turnovers (not the defense’s fault, but the offense and ST certainly did them no favors)
          -basic ability to tackle

          A simple regression to the mean in those categories should be at least 2-3 wins.

          • cliff henny

            agree, but that’s more scheme vs individual talent. when just discussing each player on his own merit, it’s not an uplifting convo. my hope is that play on field is greater as a whole than paper talent.

          • Token

            You arent factoring in a complete change in defensive scheme and even positions for some players. Thats a huge thing to overcome for any team, let alone one with so little defensive talent.

          • theycallmerob

            Straw man. You didn’t address a single point I made

            And for some reason, you’re assuming that’s all for the worst. What scheme can possibly be any worse than what was in place last year? And there are players (Cox, Soap, Barwin, Kendricks) who should in fact benefit from the switch.
            But again, putting scheme and talent aside for a moment, a regression to the mean with regard to health, turnover differential, red zone efficiency, scheduling, and passing defense all point to an improvement. Read some Barnwell articles if you don’t believe me (see above reply to Dutch)

          • Dutch

            In which of the first 8 games did the Eagles defense qualify as having played Ok? As I can recall more than a few of the first 8 game were loss on last possession drives to go ahead of the Eagles. Roethlisberger and Stafford marched on scoring drives in the final minute of the 4th and overtime to beat the Eagles.

            In a couple games against the NFC South teams the defense couldn’t stop their drives and get off the field on third down Brees and Ryan smoked the Eagles secondary.

            Who are/were you referring to and when in your reference to the Eagles Defense playing ok?

          • theycallmerob

            Not that you’ll bother reading this, but education is the best medication.

            http://www.csnphilly.com/eagles/reid-eagles-were-better-castillo-without-him
            *I’ll even save you time- start at the 6th paragraph

            http://gcobb.com/2012/11/27/amazing-todd-bowles-has-made-the-defense-much-worse/

            http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/9459928/which-losing-nfl-teams-poised-make-playoffs

            And I’m sure no other teams were “smoked” by Ryans and Brees all year. Pish posh

          • Dutch

            I referenced the first 8 games, 3 of those the Eagles won. The Eagles loss 5, the four I mentioned in my post and the Cardinals game makes 5. IMO, the Eagles defense did not bother to get off the bus. That was evident by losing in the last seconds those games and,or not being in the other 3 games from the kickoff. The Eagles were 3-3 at the bye week, which was week 7 last season.

      • Token

        Well it seems you believe the wide 9 was the reason the safeties were bad. That tells me you cant objectively discuss the Eagles. So im not sure how far we can get with this.

        The safeties we have are the worst in the league. Im not sure how close it even is. Now if Phillips can stay healthy and be himself thats a upgrade. But thats REALLY asking a lot.

        Nate Allen cant play. He was never good. He just didnt look awful when he first got starts so fans fell in love with the idea that we may have actually drafted a solid S. Its just not the case. His instincts are awful which gives him little chance to succeed.

        Coleman kind of has the attitude you look for. Seems to try hard. But he just doesnt have the level of talent to play the game he thinks he can in his own mind.

        Chung blows. If Belicheat thinks you werent good enough for his awful secondary than I dont want you. Hes a bit more athletic version of the crap we already have at safety.

        I can only agree with your point that we dont need a shutdown D. We certainly dont have one, and your right we dont need it. But for this season im afraid this group just isnt good enough to even keep up in games. They dont have the talent and they dont have a quality DC that can get more out of subpar talent. I know everyone thinks this Kelly offense is going to explode right off the bat, but that probably wont be the case.

    • JofreyRice

      Yeah, they are bad. I have a feeling that if the success of this team is going to hinge almost entirely on the offense, and Kelly’s ability to adjust and adapt to the NFL. Considering the lack of blue chip talent, complexity of what they’re being asked to do, in terms of multiplicity and versatility (reportedly), the moribund record of the coordinator, and lack of additional impact players in FA & the draft, this defense being anything other than in the bottom third of the league would stun me. I understand the point of view of not being able to fix it all in one offseason, but I believe there were better players available than the ones they chose–it’s not a completely satisfactory answer. For me, buying into that would feel like a rationalization.

      The Saints defense, in 2009, was one of the worst championship defenses in recent memory. Getting key turnovers, protecting the football on offense, and putting up lots of points to force opponents into more predictable offensive playcalls is how they succeeded. I think that could be a blueprint for success with this squad. Of course that’s asking a lot from Kelly, but they are paying him like they expect him to be the next big thing–he’s going to have to deliver on that.

      • Token

        It seems like CK wanted to get his offense in order the best he could this offseason. Get what he knows best running the best it can. I get that. And I can live with it. But im hoping that was the case and that this wont be a yearly conversation where the defense is getting ignored with subpar FAs and mid round draft picks.

        Would Kenny Vaccaro of had a bigger impact than Lane Johnson? I sure think so. Was Herremans that bad that you had to pick a RT at #4? One that the coach himself calls raw? If you are taking a “raw” tackle at #4 you are doing it wrong.

        Maybe even more concerning is that they were absolutely ready to pick Dion Jordan. I guy who played like 40% of snaps and was unimpressive doing it.

        Personally, im unimpressed with more things about the Kelly era so far than I am impressed with things. The handling of the Vick situation on this team for this season was just not the way it should have went down IMO. Its a young team needing a fresh new start and they kept around one of the guys who needed to go to help that process along.

        Im still looking forward to this season though. I dont expect many wins and thats fine. Im looking forward to something different. Im curious how Kelly will operate a NFL offense. Im curious to see how he handles things in game.

        • JofreyRice

          You know my answer to the Vaccaro question. I really like him a lot, and I think he’s going to be a top safety in the NFL. I would have drafted him @ 4. Johnson’s going to have some ups & downs, but Kelly does really seem to value OL, and if he needs top flight OL to operate his offensive attack–which really will determine his fate, anyway–then I’m OK with it. If Johnson can be at Trent Williams level in 3 years, I think it will have been a good pick. I don’t disagree that there are going to be some instances where Johnson is beaten because he’s not as polished as Joeckel or Fisher; we’re going to have to hope that he learns quickly.

          I’m not at the “In Chip We Trust” level of optimism that some folks are–ready to follow this guy to Guyana before the team has played a snap–but you have to credit the guy for succeeding at every stop, so far. I’m definitely excited to see what he & Shurmur have devised to attack NFL defenses. I don’t think it’s going to be the boring deathwatch the way 2012 was, when Lurie made the mistake of bringing Reid back for one more season.

    • Dutch

      I also see the defensive backs and the entire back end defense as a major liability. What good is tackling from your corners if they are incapable of covering receivers in the Eastern Division? Look for the Giants, Cowboys and Redskin receivers and tight ends to run a clinic on the Eagles defensive backfield. Of all the cast away players signed in Free Agency none were expected to step up with their prior teams to meet the 2013 challenges expected. I doubt they are capable of doing much here that providing a warm body for the Eagles camp roster.

  • Birds4Life

    Yes the secondary was terrible last year but lets not forget that the pass rush was non-existent in most games. Any CB would get torched if they had to cover a WR for 10 seconds! This secondary will be fine if we can put some pressure on the QB on a consistent basis!

  • JofreyRice

    I think Boykin’s got a bright future, as a slot CB. I’d like to see what he offers as a blitzer from there, and hope that Davis’ defense features some of those DB blitzes that were so fun to watch from JJ, and so frustrating to opposing QBs.

    I remember the Steelers game, when Antonio Brown mentioned Boykin by name, calling him “sweet” etc. Interesting that a rookie would be on the Steelers radar–they must have thought he was the weak link to exploit. Now, Brown, did have a couple big plays in that game, and would have burned Asomugha for a TD, had RBerger not overthrown it, but I thought that Boykin kind of held his own against Brown, and played pretty solid football all year.

  • ReggieKush

    Remember in college when Brandon Boykin was used on offense? Maybe Chip may add another chess piece

  • theycallmerob

    “They are adequate placeholders until they either improve or a young player is drafted and developed.”

    Bingo. I think if folks accept that, we’ll be ok. Not to say we should accept mediocrity; rather, not everything can be fixed in one offseason. I’m ok with CBs who will give their best effort and attempt to tackle the RB. If the front 7 develops, Chip/Howie can put more emphasis on the secondary next year. And even with all that said, I’m not sure there were really great options to go out and get this year anyway.

  • cliff henny

    it’s not that these guys all stink, it’s that every single one of them has issues. i’m a law of averages guy. tell me 4 guys need to step up/not get hurt, i’m throwing 2 out right away. to me, it’s just too many moving parts to have any confidence. i do believe wide9 being 86’d and also not thinking we have 2 all-pro cbs so we’ll play little safer will help tremendously. from listening to kelly/davis, sounds like the heavy lifting for d will be done by front 7 and back 4 just have to tackle and be opportunistic(obviously simplifying here). little different than we’re used to, reid wanted more impact plays made by secondary. hopefully scheme helps

  • cliff henny

    lol, just had to slip this in here. well, vick said he’s learned how not to fumble, so there!