Roster Outlook: Projected Eagles CB depth chart in 2022
Of all the position groups battling it out during Eagles training camp, cornerback may be the deepest.
With a whopping 12 players populating the Eagles’ cornerback room, several of them will either be cut or placed on the practice squad once Week 1 rolls around. The starting trio is essentially set in stone, but who rounds out the rest of the depth chart is still very much up in the air.
Ideally, the Eagles will look to keep six corners on the active roster, with at least two on the practice squad as injury insurance. With Week 1 rapidly approaching, here’s how I see the cornerback depth chart shaping up.
Last year’s CB1 will remain the head honcho for the Eagles secondary once again in 2022.
Darius Slay was one the best cornerbacks in football last season, finishing the year with a Pro Football Focus defensive grade of 81.0, good for fourth-best among 116 qualifying corners. He racked up three interceptions, 52 total tackles, two fumble recoveries, and a league-leading three defensive touchdowns, living up to his ‘Big Play Slay’ monicker.
While Slay’s splash plays garner the most attention, his ability to lock-up No. 1 receivers was on full display in 2021. When targeted, Slay allowed a completion percentage of 58.8 percent and a passer rating of 74.4, while only surrendering three touchdowns.
Although Slay will enter the season on the wrong side of 30, he proved last season that he can still play at a high level at this stage of his career. A second consecutive Pro Bowl nod is certainly a possibility for Slay as he enters his third season in Philly.
For the first time in a long time, the Eagles have a legitimate one-two punch at corner. James Bradberry was acquired late in the offseason after getting unexpectedly released by the New York Giants and should serve as the CB2 in Philly.
By most metrics, Bradberry had a bit of a down year in 2021. PFF graded him as the 58th-best corner in football with a 62.8 mark and he gave up eight touchdowns in coverage, the most he’s allowed in a single season during his career. Nevertheless, Bradberry is only two years removed from a Pro Bowl season and now that he won’t face the top opposing pass catcher every play, his game should be elevated.
Despite his down year, Bradberry still showed a knack for making plays in 2021. He managed to snag four interceptions on the year, a career-high for the six-year vet. Playing in Jonathan Gannon’s cornerback friendly scheme, Bradberry’s playmaking ability should be on full display once again.
If all goes according to plan, Bradberry and Slay could form one of the best cornerback duos in the league this season.
Much like Slay, Avonte Maddox also had a resurgent year in 2021. Sliding into the nickel corner role, Maddox’s skill set was finally put to good use under Gannon.
After posting a PFF grade of 37.8 in 2020, Maddox shot up to a 71.0 last season, which ranked him as the 23rd-best corner in football. In coverage, Maddox allowed a completion percentage of 75.7 percent and a passer rating of 87.2. Allowing 56 completions on 74 targets isn’t great, but Maddox didn’t allow much damage after the catch, holding his man to just 7.4 yards per completion.
Standing at just 5-foot-9, with the short area quickness and underrated tackling ability that Maddox possesses, he’s a prototypical slot corner in today’s NFL. His move into the nickel was long overdue and now that he’s under contract for the next three years, Maddox will continue to be a mainstay in the Eagles secondary.
After the starting trio, things get a little tricky. Of all the young corners filling out the Eagles’ secondary, second-year man Zech McPhearson feels like the most likely to secure a roster spot.
Last year’s fourth-round pick played sparingly as a rookie, logging just 179 defensive snaps. Before the team signed Steven Nelson, there was some speculation that McPhearson would be the starting corner opposite of Slay. It would have been a daunting task for the rookie, but in his limited playing time, he did hold his own. Which is more than we say about any backup corner the Eagles have had over the past five years or so.
I still think about this Michael Jacquet graphic on a daily basis.
Jokes aside, the Eagles should be in good hands in the event that McPhearson is forced into action.
On the 17 targets that McPhearson faced throughout the year, he only allowed nine of them to get completed (52.9 completion percentage), while allowing a passer rating of just 69.7. Of course, this sample size is too small to draw any grand conclusions from, but it’s a good start.
Allowing McPhearson to learn from veterans like Slay and Bradberry while he serves as the primary backup should benefit the young corner’s development in the long run.
Unlike most of the corners vying for a roster spot in Philly, Jimmy Moreland actually has some real NFL experience.
During his three-year career, Moreland has appeared in 37 games while making 10 starts. All 10 of those starts came in his first two years with Washington, where he accumulated 65 solo tackles, one interception, and one forced fumble. Funny enough, that lone interception came against the Eagles in Week 1 of the abysmal 2020 season.
The majority of Moreland’s playing time has come from the slot, logging a total of 872 snaps from that alignment over his career. He has some experience playing on the outside, but his primary role here will likely be as Maddox’s backup at the nickel.
He and Josiah Scott will presumably battle it out for the backup nickel role during camp. Given Moreland’s experience, he’ll likely get the nod over Scott when it’s all said and done.
Nearly all of the remaining corners on the Eagles training camp roster could make a case for this sixth and final spot. My vote goes to undrafted rookie Mario Goodrich, who received $217,000 in guaranteed money and a $10,000 signing bonus upon signing with the Eagles. Getting that much money as an undrafted player is typically a good indication that they have a legitimate chance to make the final roster.
Goodrich was a late bloomer during his collegiate career at Clemson, which is probably part of the reason he went undrafted. Regardless, Goodrich was just as consistent as his running mate at Clemson last season, Andrew Booth Jr., who ended up getting selected in the second-round by the Minnesota Vikings. Both Goodrich and Booth made first-team All-ACC in 2021, but Goodrich actually led all ACC corners in balloting with 110 total points.
On the season, Goodrich totaled nine pass breakups, two interceptions, 42 combined tackles, and one touchdown. When quarterbacks targeted Goodrich in coverage, they posted a pedestrian 49.0 passer rating.
Despite the solid numbers, Goodrich is still far from a perfect prospect. His 4.52-second 40-yard dash time at the NFL scouting combine placed in the 36th percentile among corners, per MockDraftable. He was also one of the lightest corner in attendance, weighing in at just 176 pounds.
Goodrich is still a ways away from being a starting level corner in the NFL. But at just 22 years old with clear upside, keeping him around on the active roster (and away from other teams trying to poach him off the practice squad) just makes too much sense.
Practice Squad: Tay Gowan, Kary Vincent Jr.
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