The Eagles are amid their second week of OTAs this week, and they will practice throughout the next three weeks. After those practices, Chip Kelly will have a better idea of the Eagles roster. But there’s a lot that will happen between now and then.
To get you up to date, The Inquirer is spending two weeks assessing where the Eagles stand at each spot. So far, we’ve looked at offensive line, wide receiver, tight end, quarterback, running back, defensive line, outside linebackers, and inside linebackers.
Here are cornerbacks:
Projected first team:
Cary Williams (6-foot-1, 190 pounds), age 28, 5th season
Bradley Fletcher (6-0, 200), 26, 5th
Brandon Boykin (5-10, 185), 22, 2d
Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were disappointments and the majority of fans seem to be happy they’re gone, but it could get scary in the secondary this season. After bouncing around some and playing very little in his first three seasons, Williams started in every game for the Ravens from 2011-12. He was serviceable. No more. He has his strengths. He’s physical and can play man press. According to Pro Football Focus, Williams was the second-most efficient tackler among starting cornerbacks last season. DRC made Asante Samuel look like Ray Lewis and Asomugha would frustrate with his effort. But Williams doesn’t seem like the type of player that will dog it, and, well, that is an improvement after last season. But he struggles when the ball is in the air and was picked on unmercifully by quarterbacks. Baltimore did win a Super Bowl with Williams, but the Eagles don’t yet have a front seven that can offset deficiencies in the secondary.
Fletcher has some upside, but has battled knee injuries over his career. When the Eagles signed him in March, I got this scouting report from an executive that knew Fletcher well: “Big, long, tough press corner. Like most tall corners, he doesn’t transition as well in coverage. But he’s a much tougher and aggressive tackler than Nnamdi and DRC.” He sounds like a clone of Williams. Whoever the outside starters end up being, they should get more help from the safeties. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis isn’t requiring the safeties to help with the run as much as they did the last two seasons because of the wide-nine’s pass-rush-first mentality.
Boykin can be penned in as the nickel corner. He had his issues learning some of the Eagles’ zone schemes early last season (Who could forget his third down miscue against the Steelers during their game-winning drive?) and took a few on the chin facing some of the best slot receivers in the league. But he also landed a few jabs against the likes of Anquan Boldin and improved considerably playing zone as the season progressed. With his impressive physicality, Boykin could develop into one of the best slot corners in the league.
Curtis Marsh (6-1, 197), 25, 3d
Brandon Hughes (5-11, 185), 27, 5th
Marsh has been running with Fletcher on the first team with Williams absent after he got married. He hasn’t stood out, which can also be a good thing. It’s “go time” for Marsh. He’s in his third season after being selected in the third round of the draft and would greatly benefit his chances of making the team if he pushed either Williams or Fletcher. He has the physical attributes you would want out of a man-press corner. He’s long and strong. But he couldn’t supplant either Asomugha or DRC late last season when they seemed to begging for a youngster to take their spots.
Hughes has hung around for a few seasons and has been a useful gunner on punt return. But he was exposed, particularly as an inside corner, late in the Lions game last season (Who could forget Hughes trying to catch up to Detroit tight end Tony Scheffler after he bit a pump fake?). Both these guys may make the roster by default.
Jordan Poyer (6-0, 191), 22, rookie; Trevard Lindley (6-0, 183), 27, 2d; Eddie Whitley (6-0, 188), 23, 1st.
If Poyer has any skill he could seriously compete for a starting spot as a rookie. He dropped in the draft because he didn’t run very fast in the 40, but he seemed to have a nose for the ball in college, snatching seven interceptions last season. Poyer will be hindered by missing all of OTAs and mandatory minicamp next month because of the NFL’s graduation rule. Lindley is somehow still on the roster. A 2010 fourth round pick, he’s been cut and brought back by the Birds three (?) times now. Whitley was originally signed by the Cowboys as an undrafted rookie last season. He spent the final four games of last season on the Eagles practice squad. He could be a prospect to watch.