The Eagles cornerbacks have been a problem. What’s the cause and where are the solutions? (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
I think Eagle fans are getting a little lost in last week’s victory over the Packers. So in true lazy blogger fashion, I’m going to list five reasons the Eagles secondary… okay, really, their corners… are in real trouble.
- And this is perhaps the most important reason; the pass rush stinks. I expected Derek Barnett to take a huge leap this season. He’s been fine, but that leap hasn’t happened, unless you’re referencing jumping offsides. Brandon Graham was brought back at a reasonable yet high cost and his production has not met his pay. Not even close. Sure the injuries to Malik Jackson and Tim Jernigan can be explanations, but Fletcher Cox is too good not to get to the quarterback, regardless of who is next to him. The youth the Eagles were counting on just hasn’t lived up to the hype. Josh Sweat has done little in his limited playing time and I check every Monday morning to confirm Daeshon Hall is still on the team. To top it off, rookie Shareef Miller hasn’t even dressed for a game and likely won’t barring injuries to other defensive ends.
- The blitz stinks. Jim Johnson was a master of the blitz. Blitzing is more than just sending extra numbers at the quarterback. It’s an art form. Johnson used to design blitzes that left quarterbacks confused about who was coming, where the open spot was, and how much time he had to get rid of the ball. Jim Schwartz does none of that. I don’t think we’ve ever seen him use a delayed blitz. He generally shows his blitzes pre-snap, which is especially a problem against elite quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers. He doesn’t use his personnel well in blitzes either. On one of his blitzes last Thursday, Schwartz had Hassan Ridgeway dropping back in coverage. I mean, come on. Do better. Finally, the Eagles blitz just doesn’t work. The stats are out there proving the Eagles pass defense is MUCH better in its base defense than when blitzing. Schwartz has never been a big blitz guy anyway, so I don’t understand why he’s in such a panic to do it now. A disaster all around.
- Howie Roseman is a legend around these parts. When you win a Super Bowl that’s kind of part of the deal. The truth isn’t as pristine. Roseman knew the pass rush was a position of need this offseason and he bet on internal growth as opposed to bringing in help. He even traded away Michael Bennett, who was arguably the team’s best rusher at the end of the season. If you don’t think there were inexpensive options out there, I encourage you to look at Shaq Barrett of the Buccaneers who signed for one year, $4 million. He currently leads the NFL in sacks. If Barrett wasn’t an option, how about Robert Quinn? Quinn was acquired by the Cowboys for a measly sixth round pick. Sure, he costs twice as much as Barrett but in his first game of the season Quinn was a frequent visitor of New Orleans’ backfield. Swing and a miss, Howie.
- Sorry, Howie, but it’s your job to build the team and when the team fails, you fail. Other than bringing back Ronald Darby, the Eagles made no additions to their secondary in the offseason. In fairness to Howie, I also thought the unit would be a strength after finishing the 2018 season and playoffs with a strong showing. There was talent and youth there. It was reasonable to believe the unit would grow and improve even more than they did last season. Whoops. Sydney Jones can’t stay on the field for more than a quarter. Avonte Maddox is drowning in a sophomore slump of sorts, mostly because he’s just not fast enough to cover the speed of most NFL receivers. Ronald Darby is injured (again) and wasn’t very effective before the injury anyway. Jalen Mills has been out the whole season and is expected back soon, but he’s a double move addict and the secondary wasn’t very good with him in 2018. I do, however, like Rasul Douglas and believe he’s our best cover corner. Perhaps the injured Cre’von Leblanc is the lynchpin to the whole thing. When the Eagles were at their best last year he was on the field. Who knows.
- Where do we go from here? The conference is too tough to think the secondary as is will be good enough to contend in the NFC. Amari Cooper destroyed the Eagles last season. Drew Brees picked them apart in a blowout last year and ended their season in the playoffs on top of that. Aaron Rodgers had the Eagles on the ropes before Davante Adams’ toe went pear shaped. Russell Wilson is playing like an MVP and the Rams have the deepest receiving trio in the league. Add in the explosive Buccaneers and the still dangerous despite Kirk Cousins duo of Thielen and Diggs in Minnesota and the Eagles face a tough road ahead. Should Howie make a desperate trade for Chris Harris or Jalen Ramsey? Will adding a veteran presence like Orlando Scandrick improve a unit that often seems panicked? Or does Roseman let it play out and hope as the seasons change the young talent will develop into an effective unit worthy of title contention? If I’m a betting man, I bet Howie lets it play it out and avoids paying a ransom for Ramsey or Harris. Hopefully he’s right, because if he’s wrong, not even an MVP level Carson Wentz can save the Eagles.