Eagles Wake-Up Call: The Corner Question
As you look around the Eagles’ defense, there’s clarity at most positions. We know the two starting tackles and three rotating ends; we know the pair of starting safeties; and we have a pretty good idea of who the starting linebackers will be.
But what’s unknown, and likely won’t be settled any time soon, is who will have what roles at cornerback.
“It’s not clear at all, and I think a lot of guys are jockeying for position,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “There’s a lot of depth and a lot of competition, and we’re just waiting to see who emerges from the pack.”
During the first day of OTAs, Eric Rowe and Leodis McKelvin started on the outside, while Ron Brooks was in the slot with the first team. However, Nolan Carroll only participated in individual drills and not team work, so we don’t know how he currently fits in. Even when Carroll is fully cleared, the competition will only just begin. It seems unlikely any two players are firmly entrenched in the starting roles, so training camp and the preseason will provide opportunity for defensive backs to separate themselves.
Jenkins also mentioned how the team is looking forward to seeing JaCorey Shepherd as he returns, and he singled out Randall Evans for having a “really good” minicamp. One of the rookies — Blake Countess or Jalen Mills — could push for some playing time with their performance over the next few months as well.
Jenkins is particularly paying attention to the battle at nickel corner, as that will impact how Jim Schwartz deploys the safety. Similar to last offseason, Jenkins won’t practice in the slot until the end of training camp to allow the coaches the chance to evaluate the corners, but he could find himself closer to the line of scrimmage again this year depending on how that battle plays out.
“It really is going to come down to what personnel we end up going with into the season,” Jenkins said. “So when we get into our sub-packages, is our fifth-best defensive back a safety or a corner? That’ll dictate whether I play in the slot or not.”
Jenkins doesn’t anticipate his responsibilities in coverage changing under the new defensive coordinator, but what he does against the run will be different. Instead of being a force player on the edge, he’ll be responsible for the ‘B’ and ‘C’ gaps inside.
He also explained how Schwartz’s defense “really isn’t that complicated,” but that this offseason time is important not to get to know the coaches better, but to understand the schemes.
“It’s a new offense and a new defense, so the quicker you can catch up to speed, the better you’ll be come September,” Jenkins said. “It’s just a race to get that experience in the offense, in the defense. Not so much about a new head coach, but more so about the system.”
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WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Doug Pederson must now prove he can actually develop quarterbacks, writes the Inquirer’s Mike Sielski.
It all sounds wonderful, and it may very well turn out to be, for Wentz and the Eagles. Maybe Pederson will come to be known as a quarterback guru, the perfect coach both to extract excellence from Sam Bradford and, over a longer period of time, to coax greatness from Wentz. But just because the Eagles insist Pederson will be that coach, and just because Pederson believes he is that coach, doesn’t mean he is. If he were, it might be apparent from his experience. It’s not.
When the Eagles made Pederson their quarterbacks coach, it was his first significant job as an NFL assistant. Those were tumultuous seasons for the franchise: the Eagles’ 12-20 record; the buildup, the crashing, and the burning of the “Dream Team;” the end of Reid’s 14-year tenure as head coach. To say that there were mitigating factors then, that any evaluation of the Eagles’ quarterbacks over those two years will be inherently incomplete, is undeniable.
Brandon Graham is excited, not discouraged, about the defensive end rotation, says CSN Philly’s Dave Zangaro.
From the time Brandon Graham entered the league in 2010, he worked toward becoming a starter for the Eagles.
That finally happened last season, although he’s now back to coming off the bench for the Eagles this year.
But the veteran, entering his seventh NFL season, said he doesn’t care. In fact, he quite likes the rotation new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is implementing at the defensive end position. The Eagles have three starting-caliber defensive ends, but Graham thinks there will be plenty of snaps to go around.
“Enough sacks and everything for everybody out there, as long as we keep it going,” Graham said on Tuesday, as the Eagles kicked off OTAs. “Like Schwartz said, we’re not trying to tire people out early on. We’re trying to play in December, January, February, so we have to make sure we’re doing what it takes.”
We’ll keep you updated on the latest news.