The Eagles new secondary is a breath of fresh air
Last season you could argue that the biggest liability for the Philadelphia Eagles was their secondary. With injuries and players not taking the steps needed to progress it was an all-around mess. Jim Schwartz constantly encountered lose-lose scenarios scheming on what to do with the cornerbacks and safeties and what ended up happening was just an overall disaster. Going into the 2020 offseason this was a major need of improvement for the Eagles, and Howie Roseman checked all the boxes. Bringing in a completely new look to the group and hoping to fix the culture, we finally might see a dominant Eagles secondary. This is something we haven’t seen since the days of Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard.
Before we go into what was changed with this group, let’s take a look at what went wrong. I think the simplest way to say it is THE ENTIRE CORNERBACK ROOM SUCKED. Ronald Darby was a turnstile, Jalen Mills was hurt all season so he didn’t contribute much until playoffs, Rasul Douglas is incredibly slow. Also, Sidney Jones did not take the step expected from him. This is a guy who went from being possibly the 1st corner off the board in the draft, tearing his ACL, and finally unable to live up to the hype. You want to give young players time to grow but the truth is most 1st round talent cornerbacks are ready right away. Marshon Lattimore, Denzel Ward, and Jalen Ramsey all made immediate impacts. Granted, they didn’t tear their ACL but it has been over 2 years since that injury and he hasn’t shown much to improve.
Give me your reaction as you watched this happen. pic.twitter.com/PwYkhbXgi4
— Victor Williams (@ThePhillyPod) May 4, 2020
While I did just say all the corners sucked, there was one who when healthy was a bright spot for me and that was Cre’Von LeBlanc. I think Cre’Von has progressed nicely and can still help contribute but again injuries limited him in 2019. Rodney McLeod doesn’t get enough credit as the glue who holds this defense together. The safety is so good and is not talked about enough by fans and analysts and helps oil the machine and keep it running. Malcolm Jenkins was also incredibly great too but he didn’t come without his issues. Jenkins was rumored to be a problem off the field this season and his contract controversy created a lot of unnecessary chatter by the media and made it a major issue. Jenkins has now moved on to New Orleans so he is out of the picture likely slotting either Jalen Mills or Avonte Maddox into the new starting safety.
One year contract extension for Cre’Von LeBlanc! STRAPS! pic.twitter.com/h6lNQLdLM0
— Made For Philly (@MadeForPhilly) September 2, 2019
Although I gave you the issues as to who was wrong within the secondary, I didn’t tell you why they were so horrible. Darby and Douglas have constantly been torn apart. Douglas, while tall, is too slow to be a corner. I can’t count how many times he was burnt by receivers for major gains because of his speed and positioning. While in theory, the height should make up for a lost step, he still isn’t quick enough. If you ease on the wideout and they cut inside for a post, you’re screwed.
First thing that comes to mind when you watch this. pic.twitter.com/k9hxJknUCd
— Victor Williams (@ThePhillyPod) March 27, 2020
There is too much that can go wrong and the Eagles have seen all of it. Rasul isn’t the only problem, there is also Ronald Darby. Darby started off decent for the Eagles but has turned into a human turnstile in the last couple of years. With no Mills, Maddox, or LeBlanc the Eagles were stuck with these guys for most of the season and had to be forced into some shitty schemes.
Eagles reportedly will open 2020 against the Redskins and former teammate Ronald Darby.
Desean Jackson not only has some great games against the Redskins, he is also Darby's dad.
Wentz throwing for 200 and 2 TDs to DJax this time 🤷♂️#Eagles pic.twitter.com/gEltrJnHa3
— Thomas R. Petersen 🦅 (@thomasrp93) May 7, 2020
Since Darby and Douglas were prone at almost any time to get burned deep, they had to play an incredibly soft zone. Usually when you mention that, the corner steps off by a few yards but often it was as far back as 10 yards. This allowed QB’s to hot route to short plays underneath the zone consistently. This led to often 7-8 yard receptions constantly and wore down the defense. They had to do this because if they decided to press or play tight the receiver would break free or get the best positioning they needed to make a play.
For example, look at this play.
This is against the laughing stock of the time in the Miami Dolphins. Every single corner is playing the sticks because they know if Ryan Fitzpatrick threw over their press it would likely lead to a major gain. Ironically enough, the result of this 3rd and 13 was a 40-yard reception by Devante Parker over Ronald Darby.
DeVante Parker did it again… #Dolphins #Eagles #NFL
— Christopher Reiss (@ReissReport) December 1, 2019
This soft coverage hurt all aspects of their defense. The D Line was forced into schemes that weren’t suited for them that you can read more about here. Also, the Linebackers were left to cover the middle zone all by themselves and were picked apart by several quarterbacks. With the ability to do nothing or strengthen the group it tore apart the defense and made the Eagles a laughing stock on that side of the ball. A former shell of themselves you could say.
Howie Roseman was determined to fix this issue and started almost right away. Bringing in Lions cornerback Darius Slay and extending him for several years was the first and the biggest piece. Slay has been a dominant cornerback for years and can be someone who you can match up against a team’s top wideout and stay with them the whole game. Slay is someone with a great work ethic and can help change the culture of the secondary for the best, but he wasn’t alone.
Darius Slay out here putting on a clinic.. patient at the line.. couldn’t get hands on.. good eye discipline.. gets in phase.. look and lean.. pulls left hand away.. good job slay pic.twitter.com/IXW9xKqCuT
— CrockTIME (@eric_crocker) September 30, 2018
Also brought in is Will Parks from Denver, a local kid who has been constantly putting in the work this offseason. Lastly, Nickell Robey-Coleman from the Rams who is likely to compete with LeBlanc for the nickel corner slot. Departing is Ronald Darby headed to Washington and Rasul could be a possible training camp cut.
Will Parks can play safety, move up in the nickel, is incredibly versatile.
He’s already been involved in the Philly community in regards to gun violence. Should help fill the void left by Malcolm, in all facets. pic.twitter.com/hTEACy0Uj0
— Victor Williams (@ThePhillyPod) March 21, 2020
Looking at the new secondary room is a breath of fresh air and looks to be something that can help change the defense entirely and let the defensive line dominate up-front without letting up major plays. Having Slay, Parks, Coleman, LeBlanc, and even possibly Mills being able to rotate at the corner spot is key. Alongside that, you have Avonte Maddox, Mills again, McLeod, and K’Von Wallace working in at the safety positions. There looks to be a lot of promise and depth in the secondary going into next season and hopefully, they can live up to the hype.