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Eagles Armchair: Cornerback Remains A Concern

By Tucker Bagley, Sports Talk Philly staff writer 

The Eagles have finished their first week of training camp and after a day off yesterday, practice will resume today. We start this week's column with a look at how the Eagles cornerbacks may be primed for a rough start in 2017.

Going Deep

The Eagles haven't had much success with their cornerbacks lately. Too many high-priced "saviors" have come into this city and failed to deliver solid play, rendering the back end of the Eagles' defense ineffective.

So, this year the Birds decided to scrap the dead weight and build for the future, adding Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas to a core that already included the surprisingly adequate Jalen Mills. For the first time in a very long time, the future looks relatively bright. However, 2017 may still be an issue for the Birds secondary. 

The first problem remains Jones's health. The rookie fell into the second round after tearing his Achilles tendon during a pre-draft workout, but he has remained steadfast in his hope that he could step on the field and play meaningful snaps this season. However routine Achilles recovery is these days, it is still damn near impossible to get back to full health in less than eight months. Add in the rigors of learning the ins and outs of the NFL and the Eagles' defensive scheme, and it seems like Jones won't really be able to make a true impact on the field until next season.

As for the people who will actually be on the field, they're headlined by Mills, a skilled, yet flawed second year player who struggled to get consistent playing time over Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin, despite their uninspired play last year. Sure, it's reasonable to expect a jump in production from year one to year two, but it's hard to expect him to shut down guys like Odell Beckham and Dez Bryant with his limited skill set.

One positive working in the corners' favor is their increased competition during camp this year. After covering guys like Dorial Green-Beckham and Nelson Agholor, they have to cover Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. However, it seems like they aren't faring too well against their new teammates:

Mills has been the best of the CBs, but even that is good and bad news. Mills is more of a #2 CB. You don’t want him going up against the best receivers in the league, week after week. Patrick Robinson has been erratic in his career and unfortunately the good version of him hasn’t shown up yet. He is a veteran player so the light could go on for him at any moment, but there are no guarantees that happens.

Rasul Douglas has struggled in Training Camp. He showed promise in the spring, but the complexity of the NFL game has caught up with him. Douglas can still turn things around, but he’s struggling right now.

On a rather positive note, a couple of camp standouts from a season ago are back and performing well once again. CJ Smith and Aaron Grymes aren't exactly inspiring names, but they could step up if the rest of the bunch continues to struggle.

It's only been one week and it isn't time to sound the alarm, yet. No moves need to be made until we at least see the team play in a couple preseason games, but you can expect the Eagles to be scouring the waiver wire on cut day in hopes of finding help.

Injury Report

Elijah Qualls: The Eagles' sixth-round pick suffered a groin injury during practice last week and has yet to return. With Beau Allen still nursing his pectoral injury and out indefinitely, it seemed like Qualls was in a great spot to step up and take a roster spot as a rotational defensive tackle. The severity of the rookie's injury is still undisclosed, so he may return to practice this week and resume his quest for a spot on the 53-man roster, but if Qualls is out for an extended period of time, it will be hard for the Eagles to put an unproven rookie on their active roster.

Nick Foles: The 2013 Pro Bowl MVP struggled during practice last week before he admitted to having issues with his elbow. However, Pederson told the media that Foles's issues are minor and he should be back to practicing soon.

Randall Goforth: Goforth was an undrafted free agent, but he suffered a torn ACL last week and was subsequently released from the Eagles. The Birds signed cornerback Tay Glover-Wright to take his spot on the 90-man roster.

Alex McCalister: McCalister suffered an apparent "quad injury" at the end of training camp last year and was able to spend all of 2016 on the injured reserve. After bulking up, it seemed like the former seventh-round was ready to challenge for a roster spot. However, McCalister went down with a hamstring injury last week and could be in danger of missing a few weeks and his shot at the roster.


The Ringer's Robert Mays on the Eagles' pass rush:

The system Schwartz brought to Philadelphia last season — his first as the Eagles defensive coordinator — makes for a pass rusher’s paradise. His front four are always attacking, hell-bent on penetrating and disrupting rather than reading and reacting. “Naturally, defensive linemen are aggressive with their mentality,” says defensive end Chris Long, who signed with the Eagles in March after spending one season in New England. “[Schwartz’s defense] matches up with that aggressive mentality. You’re playing run and pass, but you’re not slowing down for much.”

For linemen looking to get after the quarterback, there may be no better scheme and no better coordinator. And this year, Schwartz couldn’t ask for a better stable of players to make his defense go. Jernigan, Long, and 2017 first-round pick Derek Barnett join established stars Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox to constitute what could be the league’s deepest, most talented, and most terrifying stable of pass rushers. Philadelphia took the strength of its roster in 2016 and amplified it. In the process, it created a unit that has a chance to take over the NFL.

ESPN's Dan Graziano on the acquistion of Carson Wentz's newest weapon:

One thing missing from QB Carson Wentz's promising rookie year was a true No. 1 wide receiver. Jeffrey -- when he has been able to stay healthy -- has shown the ability to be one of those. The Bears had enough, and he ended up in Philly on a one-year, prove-it deal. If he can stay on the field and produce the way he did in Chicago, Jeffery will help the Eagles evaluate Wentz and how much further he still needs to go.

Three-Step Drop

1. Lane Johnson has a lot to prove this season. Not only to himself, but to the team and the city as well. Despite his missteps, Johnson has never shied away from taking responsibility for his actions and should be super focused after two strikes. I think he's primed for a monster year and could be in line for an All Pro nod by the end of the season.

2. Mychal Kendricks's trade request announcement was far from surprising, but the Eagles not accommodating it did raise a few eyebrows. The Birds could certainly use a linebacker of Kendricks' caliber, but after 2016, it seemed like Schwartz no longer wanted Kendricks around. Maybe this is a sign that the Eagles will be trying to increase his role in 2017 in order to justify his pay check.

3. Open practices are certainly a nice opportunity for fans, and Sunday's attendance shows that the fans are appreciative, but I still miss those days in Lehigh where players could mingle with fans and everything seemed a lot simpler.

Who's Next

The Birds still have one more full week of camp before they begin their preseason schedule with a date in Green Bay against the Packers.


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