Assessing the Secondary

Posted: March 22nd, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

 

We are a week into the NFL offseason and that has already brought a lot of change to the Eagles secondary. They are now younger, faster and have better cover skills, at least on paper. We need to see them in action before we know anything definitively, but I like what they’ve done so far.

I spent some time in the last couple of days re-watching Eagles games from late in the 2019 season. I wanted to take another look at what happened now that we’re not in the moment. I also wanted to watch players and imagine them in different roles.

Think about the Seattle game. The outside corners were Jalen Mills and Avonte Maddox. Neither of them was a good size/speed matchup for D.K. Metcalf. With the current group, you would have Darius Slay on him for most of the game. Maddox would play the other side. You would tell the deep safety to be especially careful when Maddox was on Metcalf. I think you would have a much better shot at handling that passing game.

Let’s start with Maddox. Right now he would seem to be the #2 CB. I wasn’t too keen on this idea before I started watching, but I became more comfortable with the idea as I watched more tape. Maddox is very good in the short passing game. His weakness is on downfield throws. That is something he has to work on, but he can also look for help from the deep safety.

Rodney McLeod was the deep safety the vast majority of 2019. He no longer excels in that role. McLeod can still be effective, but you don’t want him back there 40 to 50 snaps a game. Mills will be the other starting safety and he has a chance to be good in that role. The problem he had at CB was looking into the backfield while trying to stay with a receiver going deep.

If Mills is 15 yards deep at the snap and can work back while watching the QB, that gives him a much better chance of being in the right spot. He can use his instincts and ball skills to hopefully make some plays.

Will Parks is a major upgrade at the #3 safety. Last year that role was split between Andrew Sendejo and Marcus Epps. Neither had the speed to do much in that role. Epps is worth bringing back to see if he has improved. Sendejo was just signed by the Browns. Parks has the skills and athleticism to play in the box, in the slot or back deep. He gives Jim Schwartz the chance to be creative with his DBs.

Last year Malcolm Jenkins was in the box the vast majority of the time. That limited what McLeod and the #3 safety could do.

Schwartz has a legitimate #1 corner in Slay. He has three safeties that can all run and can switch positions. I don’t think we’ll need to come up with a nickname for this secondary anytime soon, but they have the potential to be a solid group.

I feel better about Maddox playing outside, but there are concerns. Deep speed is one, but durability might be the biggest issue. He’s gotten hurt in each of his first two seasons. Nothing structural, but he has missed time. Maddox throws his body around and that leads to some tough hits and landings.

One thing really jumped out when I re-watched the games…Cre’Von LeBlanc. He just makes things happen. I want him on the field. LeBlanc plays with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. I think that has an effect on his teammates.

Sidney Jones would be the top backup CB right now. He can play inside or outside. Maybe having a corner like Slay around him will help bring out the best in Sidney. I know Jenkins tried, but maybe Slay can connect better with him.

What about Rasul Douglas?

This makes sense. Douglas was benched for the playoff game last year. He just doesn’t have the long speed to go against explosive receivers.

Douglas does have his moments. There are times when he looks good. They just don’t happen consistently enough.

Because of his size and ball skills, there should be a market for Douglas. Some teams covet big CBs. The Eagles aren’t getting great compensation for him so keep your expectations realistic. Maybe you trade Douglas to move up in a round. Or maybe you get an underachiever from someone.

The Eagles still need to add more pieces as well. I expect them to draft a CB and a safety. I don’t think they’ll look for more free agency answers, but never say never. You never know who might get cut.

I think the secondary is headed in the right direction. Then again, I’ve said that before and been wrong. We won’t know for sure until we see this group in action in September (fingers crossed).

*****

The Colts cut Pierre Desir yesterday. He’s already off the market.

So much for that idea.

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