By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor
Leading up to the Eagles match-up with the Seattle Seahawks 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 defensive backs that the Eagles and Seahawks will field on Sunday.
Philadelphia DBs | Jalen Mills, Cre’Von LeBlanc, Avonte Maddox, Rasul Douglas, Sidney Jones, Craig James, Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Marcus Epps
Jalen Mills will enter this game as the Eagles top corner. He began the season on the PUP list, but returned for the final nine games of the season. Since his return, he has registered seven pass break ups, an interception and 41 tackles. No one will argue that Mills is an elite corner, but he has extreme short term memory and, most importantly, confidence. His swagger is contagious and when this defense plays with swagger and has fun, they play on a whole different level.
It’s anybody’s guess who will start beside Mills, but after his performance last week, Cre’Von LeBlamc should be the starting slot corner. LeBlanc was a key last season, but began 2019 on injured reserve. He returned and played a few snaps on defense here and there, but in his lone start last week, he registered two pass break ups to go with eight tackles. One of those tackles was an impressive open-field tackle on Saquon Barkley to force a stop on fourth and inches.
Avonte Maddox is likely to draw the start outside as he has been one of the Eagles top corners this season. He missed time following Andrew Sendejo trying to cripple him, but in 12 games has a sack, a forces fumble, 10 defensed passes and 47 tackles. Among the Eagles defensive backs these three have the top ball skills to make a big play.
The bench will likely be made up of Douglas, Jones and James. Douglas has been the first man off the bench consistently and has done well in limited snaps, but is routinely beat down whenever he starts and gets significant playing time. Jones has not become the shutdown corner nearly everyone expected him to be, but coming off of the bench he has made key plays down the stretch to win games for this team. James made a game-winning play in Green Bay, but has been largely a special teams player since he was picked up mid season.
Malcolm Jenkins is the leader of the secondary and while he has 80 tackles and four defensed passes, he adds bid play potential with 2.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Jenkins can also be a heavy hitter and has missed almost no snaps since 2016 aside from a meaningless week 17 game before the Eagles made their Super Bowl run.
Rodney McLeod has had a good bounce back season following his injury with 74 tackles, a sack, two forced fumbles and six pass break ups. McLeod can be an elevating force on the defense, but has also been a detriment at times with failed safety help in double coverage and a particularly egregious violation when he gave up on a long touchdown pass.
Marcus Epps was acquired mid-season in what was essentially a safety swap with the Vikings. He may have gone largely unnoticed, but has played fairly significant snaps in five of the seven games since he came over. He’s only made five tackles in those snaps, including two hard hits against the Giants in garbage time that saw a few players laid out. Epps often comes on the field when the Eagles deploy Malcolm Jenkins in a linebacker role and he is usually tasked with being the safety net to prevent or stop a huge gain.
Seattle DBs | Shaquill Griffin, Tre Flowers, Akeem King, Ryan Neal, Quandre Diggs, Bradley McDougald, Marquise Blair, Lano Hill, Ugo Amadi
Shaquill Griffin is perhaps the best corner on Seattle’s roster. He doesn’t have great ball skills, but is able to get in the way, registering 13 defensed passes. He has also added 65 tackles. While he is good to play in this game, it should be noted that he missed two of the Seahawks last three games.
Tre Flowers is not as strong in coverage, but brings more big play ability with two sacks, three interceptions and a forced fumble to go with 82 tackles. Flowers missed just one game mid-season and has been the most consistent presence in the Seahawks locker room.
Akeem King fits much of the same profile as Rasul Douglas does for the Eagles while Ryan Neal has yet to play a single defensive snap.
Quandre Diggs is in line to start his first game for the Seahawks in nearly a month. Acquired via a mid-season trade, the safety has 21 tackles, three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), three defensed passes and a forced fumble in just five games since joining the team. He has been an excellent pick-up for Seattle and it would not be a surprise to see him be the most successful defensive back on the field against the Eagles.
Starting at the other safety position is Bradley McDougald. He has 70 tackles, six PBUs, a forced fumble and two interceptions. He is a solid safety, but he isn’t someone to write home about.
Delano Hill has become a more frequently used player in recent weeks with Diggs out, but there’s not much to say about him other than he can be adequate. He has been getting the snaps over Marquise Blair, who was the preferred option earlier in the season, but played at a level similar to what Hill has played recently.
Amadi is used as a deep reserve in case of injuries.
Neither of these units is especially strong, but both have or are getting back great weapons.
Diggs is a huge boost for a struggling Seahawks secondary and the re-emergence of LeBlanc allow the Eagles to play Maddox outside and utilize their best players.
At safety, Diggs has been the most electric of any option, but both Jenkins and McLeod would come in second and third.
At corner, the Eagles would likely get the slight advantage for recent play out of LeBlanc and Maddox.
Ultimately, I believe that this match-up is swung by depth and while the Seahawks have more players available, the Eagles have the options that can make game-changing plays when they are brought into a game, at least initially.