The Eagles need better CB play in 2013 if the defense is going to be effective. Simple as that. Last year the team had a pair of big name corners, but they didn’t come close to playing to their reputations. Now both are gone.
Bradley Fletcher is one of the new guys that will be starting at CB. Fletcher is a tough subject. He’s had moments in the NFL when he looked like he could be a star CB. And yet he finished 2013 as the #4 CB for the Rams.
Let’s talk about that angle to begin with. Fletcher had a solid season in 2013. The problem is that he was coming off a knee injury and the Rams couldn’t count on him. So they signed Cortland Finnegan to a big deal. Then they spent high picks on Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson. Early on, Fletcher played on a regular basis. He struggled with PI penalties against the Patriots in late October. From that point on, his snaps went downhill. The Rams knew they weren’t going to re-sign him so they wanted to get Johnson on the field.
I have watched tape of Fletcher, both before he was an Eagle and since then. I thought he had the best pure man cover skills of any free agent corner. I guess technically DRC had those, but he wasn’t coming back. Fletcher’s big problem in the NFL has been durability. He’s played in 43 of 64 possible games. If he can stay healthy, I think Fletcher can be a good starting CB.
Check out this note from PFF.
FWIW Bradley Fletcher gave up 0.52 yards per snap in coverage last year. Lowest of any CBs with at least 250 snaps in coverage #Eagles
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) March 13, 2013
Fletcher is a good fit for Bill Davis and what he wants to do. Fletcher has good size at 6-0, 200. He plays big. Fletcher likes to be physical at the LOS. The Rams had him press and play off. Fletcher didn’t look as good when playing off, but he is smart. Fletcher is a former Safety and does a good job of reading patterns and knowing who to cover when the offense floods his area with multiple receivers. Fletcher keeps things in front of him and then quickly comes up to make the tackle. He is a good hitter and tackler.
Davis needs CBs who can blitz and play the run. Fletcher had a sack last year. He can get after the QB when asked to. He is a solid run defender. He will take on blocks and hold his ground. Fletcher understands leverage. He’s not going to let a WR seal him and give the RB an open lane to the outside.
I really think Fletcher could be one of those guys that surprises people when they see him play. “How’d we get this guy?” The real key is him staying healthy. I wish I could tell you he’d be the next Troy Vincent, but that would be stretching things way too far. I do think he’s going to be better than Ellis Hobbs and Dmitri Patterson, but that’s setting the bar too low. I’m not sure what Eagles free agent CB would be a happy medium.
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Let’s take a look at some video.
Going back to pre-draft days. Football guys did a piece on Fletcher from the E-W Shrine Game. You can see his natural cover skills.
Here are some good NFL hightlights. Notice that he goes against CJ, Fitz and Nicks. Fletcher can handle big WRs. Speedy guys are more of a problem for him.
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No matter what happens with Fletcher, I sure think I am going to like him a heck of a lot more than the Charmin Brigade that we had on the field last year. Give me a tough guy that will compete rather than soft underachievers.