Eagles Add CB Prater, Waive Curtis Marsh

The Eagles today claimed cornerback Shaun Prater off waivers from the Bengals and waived/injured Curtis Marsh.

Prater (5-10, 190) was a fifth-round pick out of Iowa in 2012, but was sidelined during his rookie season because of a knee injury (patella tendinitis, per the Bengals’ Web site). He was a three-year starter and two-time All-Big Ten first-team selection with the Hawkeyes. Prater had seven career interceptions and forced four fumbles as a senior.

According to Bengals.com, Prater was a linebacker/safety in high school. But the coaches at Iowa moved him to cornerback.

“I had no idea how to play corner,” he said. “I’m a football junkie. I watched Deion Sanders for his man coverage, Darrelle Revis for his press coverage. Off technique from Champ Bailey.”

He may be a “football junkie” but Prater has other interests as well.

“I’d love to go work for the FBI,” Prater said. “Both of us [him and his brother] want to do something dangerous, exciting. A secret agent. The Navy. Or SWAT. We’re people that love to take risks. It makes us feel alive instead of working 9 to 5 at a desk.”

Per Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Bengals would have liked to keep Prater on their practice squad, but he was the team’s seventh-best corner.

As for Marsh, the 2011 third-round pick injured his hand during the preseason. The Eagles’ top three picks from that draft – Danny Watkins, Jaiquawn Jarrett and Marsh – are not currently on the 53-man roster. Marsh had a chance to earn playing time last year with the struggles in the secondary, but he couldn’t get on the field. He had good speed and size measurables coming out of Utah State, but never put it together here.

The Eagles still have six cornerbacks on the roster: Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Prater, Brandon Hughes and rookie Jordan Poyer.

Williams and Fletcher figure to start, with Boykin as the nickel.

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Ten Takeaways From Howie Roseman

Vinny CurryYesterday, we took a look at what Howie Roseman had to say about Danny Watkins. But the Eagles’ GM touched on a variety of other topics during a session with reporters at the NovaCare Complex.

Here are 10 items that stood out.

1. The Eagles only have three outside linebackers on the roster: Connor Barwin, Trent Cole and Brandon Graham. Barwin is the only true 3-4 OLB among that group. Chip Kelly and Roseman parted ways with Chris McCoy, Everette Brown and Travis Long. When asked for his thoughts on the Eagles’ depth at that spot, Roseman provided an interesting response.

“We look at a guy like Vinny Curry, and you talk about a guy who can rush the passer,” Roseman said. “If he stood up, he can set the edge. He can do some of the things that the outside linebacker does.”

Curry bulked up in the offseason and has been practicing all summer at defensive end.

“And then when you talk about a Casey Matthews possibly if you got in a bind in a game, he could play outside,” Roseman said. “When Chip talked about the versatility of the back of the roster, we didn’t want to duplicate a lot of skills. So that’s what made some of the choices at the back of the roster, maybe some guys who played well in the preseason but maybe they were duplicating the skills that some of the guys we had. Did it make sense to keep them or try to find guys that did some different things?”

The guess here is that the Eagles will be looking for outside linebacker help from other teams.

2. I mentioned Cole above. Roseman might have offered a hint about how the veteran will be used in the regular season.

“A lot of times, what you see in preseason is working on not only the things they do well, but also the weaknesses to get a sense of what guys can really do,” he said. “As you know, things change during the regular season.”

According to Pro Football Focus, Cole was on the field for 41 passing downs in the preseason, and he dropped back into coverage 39 percent of the time. Given that he didn’t exactly look comfortable doing so, perhaps Roseman is suggesting Cole will be more of a pass-rusher in the regular season. We’ll find out shortly.

3. As for the roster overall, expect the team to be active in the next few days.

“We’ll continue to look for ways to upgrade this team,” Roseman said. “So, as we sit here, it’s a constant evaluation. It’s a constant evaluation of the back of the roster. If we have opportunities to continue to add some young players that we think will help our team, if we get that opportunity, we’re gonna look at it.

“We’re prepared. We have a draft board set up. We’ve spent an inordinate amount of time on guys that we thought would be on the bubble. And so we’ve just gotta see who’s really out there.”

4. One area to keep an eye on is cornerback. The Eagles went heavy with six: Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Curtis Marsh, Brandon Hughes and Jordan Poyer.

“You want to put your coach in position to win games here in the early part of the year,” Roseman said. “You’ve got a couple guys who are coming back from some injuries and haven’t played in a little bit. And then you talked about Poyer. And Poyer was affected by not having the offseason. You saw that he kept coming on, not only in games, but in practice. He’s instinctive, he’s tough, he’s physical, he’s got size to him. So we just felt like he was a guy we wanted to grow with and have here. Obviously, you look at the numbers there and you see six corners and there’s some uncertainty just because you’ve got to have availability at that spot.”

Marsh and Hughes both suffered hand injuries in the preseason, but Roseman said they’re “not long-term injuries at all.” He indicated that the team expects both guys back “shortly.”

5. The Eagles have nine players on the roster left from the 2010 and 2011 drafts: Curtis Marsh, Casey Matthews, Alex Henery, Julian Vandervelde, Jason Kelce, Brandon Graham, Nate Allen, Riley Cooper and Kurt Coleman.

The projected starters from that group are Kelce, possibly Allen and Cooper, who is only filling in because Jeremy Maclin went down.

Asked if those two drafts set the franchise back, Roseman said: “I think that’s probably a fair question. When you have drafts that don’t work out, you’ve gotta find those players somewhere else. Like I said when we started this, the big part taking from that is that we are forced to look and figure out the ways to do things and the way we have done things over a long period of time, and then where our team was and evolve from that. And I think that’s the positive to be taken out of it.”

6. The Eagles provided a bit of a surprise at wide receiver, cutting Russell Shepard and Greg Salas, while keeping Jeff Maehl.

“Tough decisions at the wide receiver spot,” Roseman said. “When we traded for Jeff, we knew that he was a guy who could play inside or out. He was a safety in high school when Coach recruited him. And so you knew that he would bring something to special teams as well.

“And then when you talk about the roster, I think it’s an evolving process too. How it looks today, to tell you that it’s gonna look like that in Week 10, we’re gonna be constantly on the lookout. We’re trying to build this team, and we’re trying to get players that we think can be here for a long time. We’re open to things that we think could make us better.”

Translation: Maehl might not be here in a few days. The Eagles could add a back-of-the-roster wide receiver from another team.

7. While there was plenty of talk about the 2010 and 2011 drafts, Roseman did suggest that he thinks the Eagles found some good core players in 2012, specifically on the defensive side of the ball.

“When you talk about Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks, I don’t see any reason why those guys shouldn’t be big-time players in this league,” he said. “Between what’s in their body, physically, you’re talking about guys who have the traits to do it. And then they work really hard. And then there’s nothing I’ve seen out here or on the field during games that says they shouldn’t take this step from first- or second-year guys to really be core members of our defense for a long time.”

8. The Eagles have three undrafted free agents from this class on the roster: offensive lineman Matt Tobin, defensive lineman Damion Square and linebacker Jake Knott.

Roseman said it was evident as soon as the pads went on that Square was a violent technician who had a good chance to stick.

He also praised Tobin’s versatility.

“He’s probably a four-position backup if you put him on gameday active,” Roseman said. “And I’m not so sure that he couldn’t play center too.”

He added that Knott would have definitely been drafted if not for the shoulder problems.

“You go through the draft-day decisions and Jake was a guy that we were really considering taking in all three of those seventh-round picks,” Roseman said. “We feel very fortunate to get him. His character and football intelligence, he’s a good player.”

9. The Eagles went with Emil Igwenagu over Clay Harbor for the final tight end spot. The reason?

“We were looking for different skill sets in the back of the roster,” Roseman said. “So some of the conversations we had about the fourth outside linebacker applies at this moment to the tight end spot. And we didn’t feel like there was another guy on the roster who was as good as a point of attack blocker. He’s a physical guy. We also felt like those other three guys were good receiving threats.”

10. Roseman made a good point about why it’s tough to trade near the cut-down deadline.

“The problem is it’s very rare to find someone to offer you a player and to not think that player’s gonna get cut,” he said. “When you’re in March and April, you know that there’s a long time so people are gonna hang on to them and maybe they’re telling the truth: ‘Hey, I’ll hang on to him if I don’t get what I’m looking for.’ But this time of the year, everyone’s basically calling each other’s bluff.”

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Eagles Practice Observations

No running diary from today’s session. With the rain falling, note-taking proved to be a bit of a challenge.

And the truth is, the setup was pretty much identical to the previous two practices that were open to the media. So if you’re looking for detailed accounts on how Chip Kelly is running these sessions, click here or here.

Below are some observations from today. We get another look Friday, and there are three open practices next week.

OFFENSE

* As we mentioned earlier, Jason Peters was missing from practice today. That left the Eagles with an offensive line of Lane Johnson (RT), Todd Herremans (RG), Dallas Reynolds (C), Allen Barbre (LG) and Dennis Kelly (LT). This was the first time we’ve seen Johnson running with the first team. Kelly had been getting the nod at right tackle, but he moved over to the left side.

* One name missing from that group is Danny Watkins. There was an opening for the third-year player, but it instead went to Barbre. A six-year veteran, Barbre has spent time with the Packers and Seahawks. Originally a fourth-round pick back in 2007, he was suspended for four games last season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. The Seahawks ended up releasing him, and Barbre did not play in the league. Watkins, meanwhile, practiced at left guard with the second team.

* Completed passes were hard to come by in what was an overall sloppy day for the offense. On one play, wide receiver Nick Miller was downfield blocking a defensive back, but apparently, he was supposed to be in a route because Nick Foles threw the ball at his back. Riley Cooper, meanwhile, dropped a beautiful 40-yard pass from Michael Vick.

* By my count, Vick spent three team periods (meaning the offense goes against the defense) as the starter, while Foles got the nod for two. On the last team period of the day, Vick and LeSean McCoy fumbled a handoff on the first rep. Kelly blew the whistle and called for the second team.

* Today was a big insertion day, Kelly said, meaning a bunch of new plays were installed. That could be part of the reason for the sloppiness. On one play, Chris Polk lined up to Matt Barkley’s left and McCoy was to his right. Barkley took the shotgun snap, faked the handoff to Polk, and McCoy circled behind him, running a wheel route down the left sideline.

* During 7-on-7 drills, there are no offensive or defensive linemen. But Kelly didn’t want to make things easy at the line of scrimmage for his quarterbacks. So he had three assistants wear special contraptions to simulate 6-4 defensive linemen. They were basically shoulder pads with black boards attached to the back that extended up about 3 feet past each guy’s head. No word on if Kelly plans to take the idea to Shark Tank this offseason. I’m sure Mark Cuban would be interested for the right offer.

* Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Vick fired one pass directly into the board for an incompletion. Like I said, rough day for the offense.

* One bright spot though that will make this crowd happy: Vick hit 6-7 WR Ifeanyi Momah for a touchdown during the red-zone period.

* Interesting unbalanced line look on one play. Dennis Kelly moved to the right of Johnson, essentially giving the Eagles two right tackles. To the right of the center were three offensive linemen. And to the left was a guard and the tight end.

DEFENSE

* Defensive coordinator Billy Davis tried to explain last week that the coaching staff is still feeling out roles for many of the players. I’m convinced Trent Cole is one of the guys he’s talking about. Today, Cole lined up as one of three down linemen (Clifton Geathers and Fletcher Cox were the others) during one part of practice. Cole has also seen plenty of reps at right outside linebacker. I’m not sure exactly where the veteran is going to fit in. And I’m not sure Davis does either.

* Disguise is going to be a big part of Davis’ scheme. On one play, Cox, Connor Barwin and Mychal Kendricks were all lined up on the left side, standing up near the line of scrimmage. The Eagles only had two down linemen on the play. Remember, Davis comes from the Dick LeBeau/Dom Capers school of zone blitzing. Part of that is simply trying to disguise who’s rushing and who’s dropping back on any given play.

* Curtis Marsh and Bradley Fletcher were the first-team cornerbacks, as has been the case during all three practices open to the media. This is the first time Cary Williams has been present. He lined up with the second team. At safety, Nate Allen and Patrick Chung lined up with the first team. More here on the cornerbacks from T-Mac.

* On one play, Foles rolled to his right, and Brandon Graham gave chase from the left outside linebacker spot. Defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro ran after him yelling. Sometimes, from afar, it’s tough to know whether coaches are ripping a player or praising a player. But in this case, Bo Wulf of PhiladelphiaEagles.com convinced me that Azzinaro was actually praising Graham for his effort.

* Some 4-2-5 nickel looks with four down linemen today. One of them was a bit of a flashback to last year. Graham and Cole were the defensive ends, and Cox/Cedric Thornton the defensive tackles.

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Cary Williams Behind, But Predicts ‘Cream Will Rise To the Top’

With Cary Williams missing a good chunk of these OTAs, cornerback Curtis Marsh has been running with first team opposite Bradley Fletcher. Now that Williams is back, the assumption was that he would supplant Marsh at right corner. On Tuesday, though, that was not the case — Marsh was still with the ones.

Williams strongly recommended that the media not make too much of it.

“If you guys look into that situation outside, I think that’s an issue,” said Williams. “It’s not an issue to me.

“I have taken a month off. I understand that and I understand what the coaches want: they want guys that are able to communicate, who understand the defense so that we can run seamlessly through the plays. I haven’t been here, so I’m trying to get acclimated to what the calls are, what the defense wants of me.”

Williams took some time away from the game to get married and get a few other things in order. The time off was planned before he was signed by the Eagles, he said. The last time he was with the team the coaches had only installed three coverages. Now they are up to somewhere between 30 and 40 coverages, according to Williams. There’s some catching up to do.

“He did miss a good amount of insertion when we were in Phase II during that first week of  OTAs, but he’s a sharp kid, really gets football really, really quickly,” said Chip Kelly, “so it’s just a matter of Coach [John] Lovett and [Todd] Lyght getting those guys up to speed, but I think he’s starting to feel a little more comfortable out there.”

In the meantime, Marsh gets an opportunity to try and impress (as much as one can impress while running around in shorts, anyway).The third-year player out of Utah State was unable to establish himself under Andy Reid, and few factored him into the cornerback competition heading into this season, even with the departures of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha. But the 6-1, 197-pound converted running back is hoping to take advantage of the fresh start.

“Sure, I feel like everybody has a clean slate opportunity with a new coaching staff because they are going to want to form their own opinions about the players and do their evaluations themselves,” said Marsh.

“I’m not reading into anything because we’re in May right now. Camp starts in August, season starts in September. Just continue to work hard until then and not take anything for granted.”

As for Williams’ take?

“Once we put the pads on it’s a different ball game,” he said, “and the cream will rise to the top.”

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Depth Chart Leftovers

Chip Kelly has warned repeatedly not to draw any depth chart conclusions in May.

And he has a point.

Practice is about getting players acclimated to the offensive and defensive schemes. Reps, reps and more reps.

Having said that, there were a few surprises on Monday, the first time practice was open to the media.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the positions of note.

Quarterback: As T-Mac explained yesterday, it was a mixture of Michael Vick and Nick Foles with the first team. Jeremy Maclin said last week that Foles was “sprinkling” in with the starters, but I’d say it was a little more than that. There were clearly defined portions of practice where Kelly wanted Foles running with the starters. In other words, we are where we thought we were. It’s open competition, but Vick is still the favorite.

Right tackle: Instead of No. 4 overall pick Lane Johnson running with the first team, it was second-year player Dennis Kelly. This one seems pretty close to meaningless. Johnson hasn’t had much time in the program and got on the field with the second team. If this doesn’t change by August, we can discuss it more. But the truth is, it will probably change by next week.

Outside linebacker: Trent Cole and Connor Barwin ran with the first team, and Brandon Graham played with the twos. As we’ve talked about previously, Graham was easily the team’s most productive pass-rusher last year. But the coaches have to figure out what Graham and Cole are capable of as they make the switch from defensive end.

“With the outside linebackers, they have to be able to rush the passer, set the edge and drop into coverage, but we need to evaluate them rushing the passer, setting the edge and dropping into coverage, so that’s what this whole process is about,” Kelly said.

Don’t get me wrong. This is clearly an area to watch. But I believe Kelly when he says they need to figure out what they have in Cole and Graham right now as outside linebackers.

Cornerback: Curtis Marsh joined Bradley Fletcher with the first team. But that’s because Cary Williams just got married and is on his honeymoon. I’ll be surprised if Williams isn’t the starter when the season begins.

Marsh didn’t show much under the previous regime, but he’s 6-1 and ran a 4.46 40 coming out of college. Maybe Kelly and his staff are encouraged by the tools they have to work with.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Inside a Chip Kelly practice with what I saw, heard and observed.

Full details on the QB competition from T-Mac.

DeSean Jackson sounds like he plans on being the Eagles’ punt returner.

The Eagles depth chart outlook series continues with a breakdown of the defensive line.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

According to Paul Domowitch of the Daily News, Donovan McNabb will retire as an Eagle during the team’s Week 3 matchup against Andy Reid and the Chiefs:

McNabb confirmed Monday on his radio show on NBC Sports Radio that he will be retiring as an Eagle in September. He said the team has suggested doing it on the 19th when Reid, the man who selected him with the second overall pick in the 1999 draft, will be there.

The Eagles have not yet made an official announcement, and did not return a message asking for a comment.

Bo Wulf of PhiladelphiaEagles.com has the full playlist from Monday’s practice:

You’ve read all about it. You’ve seen the tweets. Heck, if you live close enough in South Philadelphia, you might have even heard it with your own ears. We’re talking, of course, about the blaring music at Eagles practice under head coach Chip Kelly.

Throughout practice, save for the occasional “teach” session, the players and coaches conduct business with loud music in the background. Kelly’s use of music during practice dates back to his time in New Hampshire and he says, “There’s a lot of science behind it.”

COMING UP

Plenty more to get to from OTAs.

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Eagles Depth Chart Outlook: Cornerbacks

This is the second in a series. Throughout the next week or two, we’ll take a position-by-position look at the Eagles’ roster. Yesterday, we broke down the safety situation.

The initial overhaul during the summer of 2011 didn’t work out, so the Eagles tried again this offseason.

Gone are Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha. In are Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher.

During the draft, the Eagles didn’t find corner help early, but they grabbed Oregon State’s Jordan Poyer in the seventh round.

Returning from last year’s roster are nickel corner Brandon Boykin, 2011 third-round pick Curtis Marsh and veteran Brandon Hughes. The Eagles also have Eddie Whitley, who spent the last four weeks of 2012 on the practice squad. And 2010 fourth-round pick Trevard Lindley is still around as well.

Here’s a look at all the cornerbacks on the roster (alphabetical order):

 
Height
Weight
Age
Years/Starts
Brandon Boykin5-10185221/4
Bradley Fletcher6-0200264/26
Brandon Hughes5-11185263/1
Trevard Lindley6-0183271/1
Curtis Marsh6-1197252/0
Jordan Poyer6-0191220/0
Eddie Whitley6-0191231/0
Cary Williams6-1190285/33

Pencil ‘em in: Williams, Fletcher, Boykin.

While we’re still about four months away from the opener, Williams and Fletcher seem like the favorites to start. Williams started 32 games for the Ravens the past two seasons. Fletcher only started four games in 2012, but he will have every opportunity to win the job opposite Williams.

Boykin certainly had his share of growing pains as a rookie, but overall, he held up pretty well in what turned out to be a dysfunctional secondary. He’s got the inside track on the nickel job, although it should be noted that Poyer can play inside and should provide some competition.

Fighting for spots: Marsh, Poyer, Hughes, Lindley, Whitley.

The measurables on Marsh were good coming out of Utah State: 6-1, 197, 4.46 40. But we’ve seen no signs that he’s a starting-caliber player. Marsh has played a total of 75 snaps the past two seasons (per PFF) and is squarely on the roster bubble.

Poyer has a really good shot of sticking because of his wide array of skills. Poyer has experience playing inside, outside, safety and special teams (returner and coverage). Of course, if Chip Kelly and the coaches determine that Poyer is not particularly good at any of those skills, he could be let go. But at this point, he’s got a good chance of making the team.

Hughes’ value comes on special teams. He was the first man down in coverage a team-best 37 times last year, according to stats kept by the coaches.

Lindley and Whitley are long-shots.

Bottom line? There’s a good chance only two players from this group will make the team. My guess is Poyer takes one of the spots, but the other one will be up for grabs.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Revisiting the 2011 Draft

Most analysts agree that it takes three years to properly judge a draft class.

But in the case of the Eagles’ 2011 picks, we might only need two.

Bucky Brooks of NFL.com recently re-picked the first round, knowing what we know now. Instead of Danny Watkins at No. 23, he has the Eagles taking cornerback Jimmy Smith:

The Eagles could avoid the failed “Dream Team” experiment by a selecting a Nnamdi Asomugha-like corner in this do-over. Smith is the long, rangy press corner needed to take on the likes of Dez Bryant, Pierre Garcon and Victor Cruz in the NFC East.

Smith was originally taken four spots after Watkins. He has only five starts in two seasons, but played a significant amount of snaps for the Ravens’ Super Bowl squad last year,

Watkins, meanwhile, enters his third NFL season not knowing if he has a future with the team that drafted him.

He was inconsistent in 12 games as a rookie before being sidelined with what Andy Reid deemed a “chronic” ankle injury after six starts in 2012. When Watkins got healthy again, his spot had been taken by 31-year-old Jake Scott. Now he’ll try to get a fresh start with Chip Kelly and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, but nothing is guaranteed.

The miscues from the 2011 draft extend well beyond the 28-year-old guard. The Eagles continue to look for safety help after missing badly on Jaiquawn Jarrett in the second round. And they added a pair of corners in free agency, partly because Curtis Marsh, a third-round pick, has yet to show he’s worthy of getting a shot to start.

The players remaining from that class are Watkins, Marsh, Alex Henery, Dion Lewis, Casey Matthews, Julian Vandervelde and Jason Kelce.

Henery will continue to be the team’s kicker, and Kelce figures to have a bright future if he can recover from last year’s knee injury. But everyone else in the group will be fighting for a roster spot.

Earlier this offseason, Jeffrey Lurie took Howie Roseman off the hook for that draft, indirectly pointing the blame at Joe Banner and Andy Reid. But it’s evident that many of the holes the team went into the offseason with (right guard, safety, cornerback) can be traced in part back to misses during the 2011 draft.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Here are three leftovers: DeSean Jackson on tempo, Brandon Graham on sports science and Jason Peters on getting a playoff win.

T-Mac rounds up the latest draft buzz.

The Eagles have hosted Darius Slay, the fastest cornerback in the draft, for an official visit.

They have also worked out Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson.

EJ Manuel delivers his latest draft diary.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Mike Mayock tells Paul Domowitch of the Daily News that Cincinnati tight end Travis Kelce is a second-round pick:

“He’s going to end up going in the second round. There were some questions about him off the field and some durability issues. But I think he’s addressed a lot of that. Most people have bought into him. The tape is pretty darn good. This kid can go deep. He catches the football. He’s really athletic. And he’ll also compete in the blocking.”

In an Allentown Morning Call piece, Jimmy Kempski takes a look at Lane Johnson as an option for the Eagles:

Johnson played RT at Oklahoma in 2011, then moved to LT in 2012. If the Eagles were to draft him, Johnson would fit in well with how the Eagles might use him. The idea would be for Johnson to slide right in at RT from Day 1, while Todd Herremans would move to RG.

COMING UP

We’re 17 days away from the draft. Plenty to get to today and this week.

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The Eagles’ Options At Cornerback

One of the Eagles’ biggest offseason tasks will be rebuilding a broken secondary that failed to meet expectations in each of the past two years.

The first step of that process is evaluating the current personnel – most notably Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha.

Rodgers-Cromartie is an unrestricted free agent, and according to Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com, the Eagles will not use the franchise tag on him. The one-year designation would cost the Eagles about $10.7 million. And the two-week window to use the franchise tag starts today.

At 26, Rodgers-Cromartie has plenty of things going for him. He’s young, has tremendous athletic ability, has flashed a Pro Bowl ceiling and appears to be a good teammate. New Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis coached Rodgers-Cromartie when he earned the Pro Bowl berth in 2009.

On the flip side, his tape fails to match up to his talent level. Rodgers-Cromartie lacks physicality, is a terrible tackler and gives up too many big plays. If the Eagles want him back, they could try to work out a long-term deal before Rodgers-Cromartie is able to test the market on March 12. If he’s not signed by that time, chances are another team will swoop in.

Asomugha, meanwhile, turns 32 in July. His current contract calls for a $15 million base salary in 2013. That’s not happening. The Eagles can either re-structure Asomugha’s deal or release him, which would cost $4 million. Given his struggles, my guess is they’ll let Asomugha walk. But as always, the decision depends on the market.

We’ll have more in-depth breakdowns of the free-agent options as March 12 nears, but Rotoworld has a good list up for now. Aqib Talib has had off-the-field issues, but started for the Patriots last year. Atlanta’s Brent Grimes is recovering from an Achilles’ injury and might sign a one-year deal before trying to cash in next offseason, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Sean Smith, 25, has started 56 games the last four seasons, but he could be tagged by the Dolphins. Detroit’s Chris Houston (28) has 78 career starts under his belt.

Jacksonville’s Derek Cox (26), Baltimore’s Cary Williams (28) and Tampa’s E.J. Biggers (25) are all scheduled to be free agents.

As for the draft, some project Alabama’s Dee Milliner to the Eagles at No. 4, but as Mike Mayock of NFL Network pointed out, he’ll need to prove he’s got the speed worthy of such a high pick at the Combine. The Eagles could certainly look to add a corner in the first three rounds like Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks, Washington’s Desmond Trufant, Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes or Oregon State’s Jordan Poyer.

The team’s final option would be to promote from within. Brandon Boykin (5-9) played well last year, and while he saw some time on the outside, he was used primarily in the slot. He could be given an opportunity for more playing time in 2013, although if Chip Kelly favors length on defense, Boykin will probably stay put.

Curtis Marsh, a third-round pick in 2011, could get a look too, although he’s pretty much an unknown, having played just 62 snaps last season, per Pro Football Focus.

As moves continue to be made around the league, we should have a pretty good idea of what the Eagles’ options are when free agency starts three weeks from now.

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All-22: What the ‘D’ Looked Like Without Washburn

From Mychal Kendricks to Fletcher Cox to Colt Anderson, here’s an All-22 look at what the Eagles’ defense looked like Sunday against the Bucs.

Play 1: Here’s what Jamar Chaney told Tim yesterday about the changes on the defensive line.

“It’s better for the linebackers. If you ask any linebacker what scheme or how they would want to do it, they would want the linemen to hold up the blocks and they go make the plays.”

And here, we see why Chaney said that. First, let’s take a look at the pre-snap alignment.


The Wide-9 lines the defensive end up outside the tight end. Here, you can see that’s not the case with Brandon Graham. Take a look at a photo of Jason Babin from a game earlier this season against the Giants to see the difference.


To be fair, the Eagles had not been lining up in the Wide-9 on every play, even with Jim Washburn still here. And it doesn’t appear to be completely dead, as you’ll see below.

On this play, you can see Chaney has no offensive linemen to deal with as he makes his way towards Doug Martin. Same for DeMeco Ryans.


Chaney does a good job finishing, as he and Nnamdi Asomugha tackle Martin after a 1-yard gain.


It should be noted that the Eagles were not getting gashed against the run this year. They were 13th in the league, allowing 4.1 yards per carry, going into this game. Martin ran for 128 yards in this game, averaging 4.6 yards per carry, although I thought the run defense held up pretty well.

The effect goes beyond the numbers though. The Eagles had been horrible in coverage the previous six games. Blown assignments, safeties with run responsibilities biting on play-action, etc. We’ll see if the change up front improves the pass defense in the final few games.

Play 2: Nice job here by the Eagles’ two second-round picks. Mychal Kendricks was moved to the WILL spot, and Vinny Curry got reps at right defensive end.


Kendricks blows up the play and helps force Martin back inside, while Curry hustles from the back side.


Curry finishes, dropping Martin for a 1-yard loss on 3rd-and-1.


Play 3: A couple things to note on this third-down play in the second. One, the Wide-9 is not completely dead. Look at where Trent Cole is lined up.


And two, there’s been a lot of discussion about what the Eagles’ secondary is going to look like in 2013. One question that needs to be answered: Can Brandon Boykin play outside? The rookie’s been mostly used inside this season. But against Tampa, the Eagles kept Asomugha (and Curtis Marsh when Asomugha was injured) on Vincent Jackson when Jackson moved to the slot.


Boykin fared well on this play (and in this game). A lot of teams are moving their No. 1 receivers inside at times to gain an advantage. We saw it with Calvin Johnson earlier this season. In the offseason, the Eagles have to decide whether Boykin is an every-down player who can play outside, or just a nickel corner.

Overall, the Eagles were much better in coverage, limiting Josh Freeman to 41.2 completions. In the previous six games, opposing quarterbacks were completing 76.3 percent of their passes against the Birds.

Play 4: Fletcher Cox can thank Marsh, Kendricks and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for his second-quarter sack. Cox and Cole ran a stunt up front.


It didn’t result in immediate pressure on Freeman. Here you can see he’s got a pretty nice pocket actually.

But the Eagles’ coverage on the back end was outstanding.


And Cox did away with left tackle Donald Penn.

Play 5: Many of you have asked about Colt Anderson. In coverage, the Eagles parked him deep on many passing plays and didn’t ask him to do too much. Against the run, when he avoided blockers, he showed could make plays at or behind the line of scrimmage. But if an offensive player gets a hand on him, he has to prove he can still be effective.

For example, in the fourth, Anderson made a nice read on a Martin run.


Cullen Jenkins did a nice job disrupting the play, and you’ll notice Graham is not caught upfield. Anderson flies in and stops Martin for no gain.


But later in the game, on Martin’s touchdown run, Jackson gets to Anderson and provides a key block for the score.


Kurt Coleman is unlikely to play Thursday night so Anderson should get another shot.

Other notes:

* Kendricks really played well. He was active throughout, totaling seven tackles (according to team stats) and playing well in coverage too.

* Rodgers-Cromartie played one of his best games in a long time.

* Credit to Asomugha for fighting through the injury, but he gave up too many plays in coverage.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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