Checking In On the Secondary

Less than three weeks from the opener, and still so many questions about the secondary. Let’s try to answer some of them with the help of Billy Davis and several of the players:

Who are the starters?

If the season started today, Nate Allen and Patrick Chung would be your starting safeties. Bradley Fletcher would be at left cornerback, Cary Williams at right  and Brandon Boykin would be in the slot.

If he is playing so well, why not have Boykin start on the outside?

Davis wants Boykin in the slot. He feels like the Georgia product has the best skill set for the position, and that the unit will be strongest overall if he works inside. While starting Boykin on the outside and moving him in during nickel situations is possible in theory, Davis suggested that is a lot to ask of a player — especially one with limited NFL experience.

Boykin is going to go along with whatever plan his defensive coordinator comes up with, but he clearly wants one of the starting posts.

“If I’m the best guy in the slot, then I need to play in the slot,” said Boykin. “I fully understand whatever decision they may make. But my ultimate goal is to one day be a starting corner. I’ve got the ability.

“Just being full-time player every down. Nickels maybe play 50 percent of the game depending on the game plan. I feel like I have the ability to be on the field each and every day, and that’s what I want to be ultimately.”

Last season, Boykin was on the field for 526 of a possible 1,077 snaps (49 percent), according to Pro Football Focus. He’s hoping that number goes up.

Why start Nate Allen?

This is what Davis had to say about Allen on Wednesday:

“Nate is a phenomenal athlete and a good football player. I don’t think anybody works at it harder than Nate. In the first [preseason] game he struggled a little bit, second game played well.”

A lot of it comes down to options. As in Davis has very few beyond Allen, who is probably the best center-fielder of the bunch. You can argue that the strength of  Kurt Coleman, Colt Anderson and Earl Wolff  is in-the-box play, which also happens to be Chung’s apparent strength. Kenny Phillips can’t stay on the field and David Sims doesn’t appear to be a legitimate contender. That probably leaves Allen as the best cover safety of the bunch, like it or not. Wolff could certainly prove to be the better option over time, but I’m not sure the staff is ready to commit to him quite yet.

Allen and Chung will start against the Jaguars Saturday.

Will Phillips make the team?

He made a brief return to practice Tuesday but left early and was back on the sidelines Wednesday because of a quad strain.

Phillips has a shot of making it simply because the overallgroup is questionable , so maybe they cross their fingers and hope he can get healthy. But can they afford to hand a roster spot to a player with an injury history that can’t stay on the field?

“It’s [difficult to evaluate] anybody that goes through the injury process that doesn’t get into the games or even into practices,” said Davis. “But Kenny’s got a lot of film and a lot of tape out there of him playing. So we’ll have a good feel for Kenny, and hopefully he can play in this preseason game.”

Time is running out for Phillips to make his case.

Got anything on Fletcher?

He really just blends in, which isn’t an altogether bad thing for a corner. Davis used terms like “consistent”, “a real pro” and “not flashy” to describe the 6-0, 196-pounder.

“That’s what it’s been,” said Fletcher. “I’m going to give you the same — I’m always  going to compete, I’m always going to tackle for you, and I’m going to run to the ball. That’s coming from me every day.”

The five-year pro has five career interceptions (four of them coming in 2010) so don’t expect a lot of the big plays from him. But he only missed a pair of tackles in 374 snaps last season, per PFF, while holding quarterbacks to a 55.8 rating, so he could be solid.

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  • Richard Colton

    Hypothetical: If you could go back to April, knowing what you know now, would you take the Honey Badger over either Zach Ertz or Bennie Logan?

    • EaglePete

      by all accounts Honey Badger is playing well so far right, but I think its still early to make this call. That guy could so easily fall off, outside the game. Look no further than Von Miller. Also not sure yet, the full potential of our guys but most likely yes with the sad state of our safeties. Priorities I guess. Does he stay on the straight and narrow in certain locker rooms.

      What I find interesting now, watching Hard Knocks, where would Burfict be drafted if they did that draft again, 1st, 2nd round? Leading tackler on a good defense in his rookie season. Guess, the same goes for him per off field but so far so good.

      • Richard Colton

        yeah – I said on draft day that the Badger needed to send Vontaze a fruit basket for his third round status.

    • B-West

      It seems that the Honey Badger would be sitting next to Boykin on the bench, sharing a confused conversation about why they are not on the field. Both players are 5’9″, 185 lbs.

      Playing more fairly tho, I wouldn’t do it. I really like Logan so far. Ertz looks like a player, as well as being at a position integral to Kelly’s offense.

      Simmons had somebody on the B.S. Report prior to the draft that swore by the ‘weed guy’, and thus the Honey Badger. His theory was that in every draft there were 1 or 2 guys who fell due to smoking weed, but they seemingly always turned out to be steals.

    • nicksaenz1

      Hard to justify it over those two, in my humble opinion. Had he not been taken in the 3rd, would you have traded up for Barkley still, or taken HB?

      • Richard Colton

        with 20/20 hindsight? I would prefer HB to Mark Barkley, yes. The Logan/Ertz question is more difficult. The guy is a playmaker and that’s what our defense lacks most.

        • Token

          Hes also a immature headcase. Give him time. Its hard to hide being a moron forever.

          • Anon

            That’s a little harsh for a 20 yr old kid, but i suppose you were born the mature gentleman(woman) that you are today, not everyone is that lucky, but he might turn out better as a pro given his adversity in college.

          • bsn

            Being 20 has nothing to do with making stupid decisions. It’s just a stupid excuse people use to justify someone’s stupid actions.

          • Richard Colton

            yeah. certainly true with Kenny Britt and Pacman Jones. Have you been watching Hard Knocks? Zimmer had a really interesting perspective on the issue.

        • Anon

          They have way more structure / better mentoring DBs in Arizona. We don’t have that kind of D leadership and CK likes character guys. Honey Badger is tempting, but we could have easily gotten burned b/c we don’t have have the infrastructure to mentor him. I think you chastised Vick for not being a high character guy early in his career — funny you’d go down that road with a guy that was kicked out of college…

          • Richard Colton

            no, I never did. nice try though.

          • nicksaenz1

            I think he’s in a better boat because of Peterson, more than anything else. There’s immediate comfort in an established relationship, and Peterson’s someone that HB can lean on and who can kind of watch over him.

        • nicksaenz1

          I agree with you 100%, but after last year’s debacle, the starting of a new era where getting off on the right foot with minimal distractions is key (effin Cooper), I think they made the right move by passing on him in favor of Logan and Ertz. I really believe Peterson is key for him staying out of trouble and on the field. Drafting HB would have been a whole other sideshow, in my opinion.

    • cliff henny

      heard crypien is a beast. ertz and wolff for him, guessing 5th to move up couple spots in 2nd? i wasnt much on the wolff pick, but he’s growing on me. give guy credit, he’s a willing hitter.

    • Token

      Hell no.

    • EricT

      They haven’t even played a season let alone a real game. Ask that question in 2-3 years for a fair answer.

      • Richard Colton

        well then it would be an easy answer. what’s the challenge? don’t you think that if the teams could all redraft, Honey Badger would go higher than round three, just on the preseason alone?

      • nicksaenz1

        It was a hypothetical for a reason…

    • arson81

      I was hoping that we could get him in that range. I thought the playmaking ability and potential for turnovers outweighed the potential risks of the character issues. But honestly I don’t know if he would be the same guy without Patrick Peterson being his mentor. Arizona was the perfect place for him to fall. Just like Randy Moss going to Minnesota with Chris Carter already being there.

  • usmcnole

    We’re gonna need to get a lot of pressure on the QB and play good run D to have a chance of being a mediocre defense

    • cliff henny

      can win 10 w/ medocre or less than that defense, as long as the offense is everything we hope

      • All In Eagles

        I hope you are right but that entirely depends on which O we are playing against and our schedule shows we are playing a bunch of very good ones.

  • Token

    Boykin hit the nail on the head.

    What sense does it make having maybe your best corner play 50% of the time?

    • EricT

      Is it better to have a great slot corner and two good corners or to have one good corner, one very good corner and a terrible slot corner? Maybe there’s really nobody who can play the slot as well as he can? You have to play to the overall strength of the defense and play as a team, not as individuals.

      • Token

        eh, I see what your saying.

        But your best corner should be on the field most of the time. Nothing else makes more sense than that.

        If Boykin is ready he should be out there. Stunting his potential growth as a outside corner just because you payed two stiffs makes little sense to me. This team should be building for 2-3 years from now. Giving young guys less playing time because you think you can win 7 games this year is stupid.

      • arson81

        I also see your point but I respectfully disagree. He can play on the outside in base and slide into the slot in the nickel. The Bucs did it with Ronde Barber for years, and yes even before he was a vested veteran. I don’t like when coaches pidgeon hole good football players. Again these guys are way smarter than me, but that doesn’t mean they don’t over think things at times. The kid has earned the opportunity to prove that he can’t do it.

    • Johnny Domino

      He can use the plays off to rest up for massive KO returns.

  • StormKing

    I am less concerned with Fletcher than Williams. Fletcher has looked pretty dependable, Williams giving a 10 yard cushion to receivers is only really justifiable if they are burners, who are they going to play on the top receiver? Are they set up to stay on one side and cover whoever is there or match up strengths and weaknesses? I am thinking match up Fletcher with the top receiver.

  • TXEaglesFan

    Is there any chance Phillips will ever be healthy? What about putting him on PUP and see how he is in 6 weeks?

    • StormKing

      I hope he doesn’t become another Steve Smith, where you are wondering if he is secretly playing bad for the Giants’ benefit.

  • bsn

    “Davis suggested that is a lot to ask of a player — especially one with limited NFL experience.”

    That’s a stupid excuse. You know what you do with good, talented players? You ask a lot of them.

    • Token

      This team needs to be playing every young guy with any potential that they have.

      Its a problem if by week 4 a guy like Boykin isnt starting if the two starters look bad. Or if Graham isnt playing over Cole if hes looking bad. Get these guys some playing time. We need to see whats here going forward. And if they are good players, the year of starting experience is key.

  • Tom w

    Here is a novel idea billy … Play Boykin outside in your base defense and if you go nickel or dime bring in Cary Williams and push Boykin into the slot. #mindblowing #dope

  • Anon

    I agree with you — should be merit based once there’s regular season tape on everyone. I understand that Willaims was supposed to give cushion b/c of injury, but we’ll see how it plays in real games.

  • Token

    Why is he great in the slot? I didnt see that last year.

  • Token

    I trust kelly with the offense. But im pretty worried about Davis running the D. Even more worried about basically building a new defense with him at the helm.

  • theycallmerob

    I agree. More importantly, everything about Kelly and Davis screams “play guys to their strengths”. I believe Boykin is best suited for the slot- his quickness, ball skills, and athleticism make up for his size. On the outside, he’d have a harder time with press coverage. Also, who knows how well he does playing “with the sideline”, as many DBs are taught. The open field brings out his best qualities, as we see this in the return game as well.
    Also, to be fair, it’s not as if Boykin is leaps and bounds beyond the other two guys anyway. Fletcher is what he is- a decent CB2 with good cover skills but seemingly horrible luck (consistently .5sec too late). He plays the run. Needs to stay healthy. CW is a talkative pansy who needs to be on the field, but other than that has proven NFL experience playing respectable* coverage. BB will be seeing plenty enough snaps, and let’s have him fresh for KR.

  • Token

    Even if hes 1% better outside, he should play there IMO. Get these young guys time so maybe they can grow. Why have him sitting in favor of two nobodies? We should be wanting to grow the young talent.

  • Token

    i thought he played outside in college?

    It just seems like he was our best outside corner this offseason. So why not give him a chance out there? Right now it just looks like they paid two guys so they have to start them. Not really the best guy plays type of thing.

    Id hate to have had this good outside corner sitting here for years never getting a chance just because they paid two guys. They have to find out if these young guys are players this year.

  • Maggie

    Fletcher not fast enough? Did you not watch the game against the Patriots? He was the one who ran down the running back and prevented a touchdown. You know, on the play where everybody else did not tackle?

  • Maggie

    I am just entitled to an opinion as you are RIP. Nearly everyone on this board likes or dislikes some player or other. This forum is free to us all. And there is not one single person associated with the Eagles who gives a rat’s behind about ANY of our opinions, anyway.

  • RIP illa

    SMH. What is wrong w/ you? At least once a day you post a reply that is completely off base and so far removed from what someone has commented. I wasn’t even going to get into the specifics but your just so far “out there”…please allow me to deconstruct whatever it is that you’re trying to be indignant about.

    Yes you are entitled to your opinion as everyone else is. This entitlement does not excuse your opinion from being disagreed w/, discussed, or proven wrong.

    Yes people on this board like and dislike various players. Yet what i was commenting on, about Fletcher, has nothing to do w/ me disliking Fletcher as a person nor player.

    And your point of not having a single person on the Eagles that care what we think, may very well be true but is so irrelevant and not even close to any thing of substance concerning my comments!

    You were the one who took exception, to what I said about Fletcher’s lack of downfield speed. You were the one who used a flawed example to try to disprove what I said about Fletcher’s lack of downfield speed. I pointed out the flaw in your example. And to go even further…if Fletcher had great downfield speed, and w/ his cover ability, he would have been a top tier FA instead of a 2nd-3rd tier, and would have commanded way more money than what the eagles are paying him. Matter of fact, he may not have even been a FA at all.

    Just stop. No shame in being wrong. You are right about somethings and miss on others just as I am and everyone is. There’s no need for you to not be able to admit it and/or compound it by going off on a tangent, which is completely irrelevant to the topic at hand…like you seemingly do quite often.