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By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor
Leading up to the Eagles matchup with the Chicago Bears on Sunday, Sports Talk Philly and Eagledelphia will compare the personnel of the two teams each day until gameday is here.
In this edition of our week-long comparison we will look at the secondaries that the Bears and Eagles will field on Sunday.
Chicago DBs | Eddie Jackson, Adrian Amos Jr., Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, Sherrick McManis
The Bears secondary is lead by safety Eddie Jackson. Jackson was selected to the Pro Bowl as well as to the AP and PFF All Pro teams. He lead the lead in pass breakups (8) and forced the second lowest quarterback rating in the league when targeted (54.9) in 2018. In addition to having 51 tackles and a sack, Jackson managed six interceptions, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He managed to score three touchdowns himself on those turnovers. If the Eagles get lucky, Jackson might not take the field. That is unlikely, however, and the Birds may want to avoid Jackson as much as possible.
Kyle Fuller, who was also elected to the Pro Bowl and an AP (first team) and PFF (second team) All Pro, is the next most impressive player in the secondary. The corner is a league leader in both passes defensed (21) and interceptions (seven). As such, he will likely be on Alshon Jeffery much of the day, meaning that the Eagles need Agholor, Tate, Matthews, Ertz and Goedert to make some of those big plays.
Amos is the second safety and has been pretty good this season. He has fed off of Jackson and Fuller’s success to put up his best season to date. In addition to his 73 tackles, Amos has also earned two interceptions and a sack to go with a fumble recovery. Amos will likely see the field all game as Jackson and the Bears’ primary back-up safety are questionable, leaving Amos as the healthiest option.
In the slot, the Bears play Serrick McManis. McManis took over in the slot mid-season after what the Bears media treated as a massive injury hit forced Bryce Callahan to become the third player on IR – so many! The injury may have helped the Bears as McManis has played better than Callahan had been and has registered four defensed passes to go along with a sack and 26 tackles.
The weak link is Prince Amikamara. He is not a weak link because of his playing ability, however. His three interceptions, two forced fumbles and 12 defensed passes are pretty impressive. Instead, he is a weak link because of a lack of discipline. He has had nine penalties called against him this season, eight of which were in coverage (five pass interference, two illegal contact and a defensive holding). If physical guys like Jeffery or Ertz or a speedy guy like Agholor can play the snap properly, they can force
Philadelphia DBs | Malcolm Jenkins, Corey Graham, Tre Sullivan, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox, Cre’Von LeBlanc
The Eagles are led by a safety of their own. He is the only one of the five starters that is still active in this game with three of the five now on IR. The two-time Pro Bowler has found himself in the NFL top 100 in both of the previous offseasons. He is inarguably one of the best free agent signings the Eagles have ever made and has provided a rare level of stability as one of only three defensive players around the league to play every snap this season. He has also played 5,579 of 5,669 (98.4%) defensive snaps since 2014. Despite rarely being thrown at due to the injuries everywhere else in the secondary, Jenkins leads the team with 97 tackles, proving he is there to clean up messes and support the run game.
The second biggest player for the Birds is fourth-round pick Avonte Maddox. Maddox is a corner, but spent half the season as a safety after injuries forced him to play out of position. He is still ranked as the fifth best rookie safety, according to PFF, and has not played there for weeks as he was moved back to corner. He has allowed the fourth lowest quarterback rating when targeted (minimum 300 snaps) with a 59.9 rating. His development from a rookie picked mid-draft into one of the most versatile players in the league has been amazing. He needs to work on his hands, however. While his two interceptions are nothing to sneeze at considering his situation, he could easily be at five already with the amount of passes he has gotten his hands on and simply dropped.
Corey Graham will start as the safety opposite Jenkins and has been a fairly reliable veteran when he is rotated out every once and a while to take a break and allowing Tre Sullivan to see the field. Neither is a huge player, but Graham does have a bit of a nose for the ball while Sullivan has quietly developed since his return to the active roster.
Rasul Douglas came in due to injuries at corner and was simply awful. There is nothing else to say about how he played when he started against the Cowboys and Saints. He was burnt play after play. A good corner has a short memory, however and Douglas has steadily improved. He seems more fit for a safety/slot corner/linebacker role (much like Malcolm Jenkins provides) in the future with his ball skills and tackling ability, but for now, he is needed at corner and his coverage has been steadily improving. While he did give up the touchdown to lose the second Cowboys game, that should not be held against him as he made a fantastic play. He jumped the route and knocked the ball off course, it just took a bad bounce up off his hand and Amari Cooper was able to make a play. It is unfortunate that such a well-played ball ended up like that.
The Eagles slot corner is Cre’Von LeBlanc, who spent the previous two seasons with the Bears and was let go by the Lions just when the Eagles needed corners. It turned out to be good timing as LeBlanc has taken to the team and performed well since learning the system. Despite playing with a broken finger and a cast on his hand, LeBlanc was able to register 24 tackles despite starting only four games for the Birds.
The Eagles secondary is putting it together at the right time and has forced five turnovers (six if you include Malcolm Jenkins forcing a fumble on the opening kickoff that was “not clearly recovered”) in the past four weeks and has been playing with swagger.
That said, the Bears are in competition for the best secondary in the league and the Eagles are running with Malcolm Jenkins and back-ups. The Bears have the edge here, no contest.