GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Eagles’ starting cornerbacks, the guys everyone likes to obsess over, looked pretty good in a quarter’s worth of work in Thursday night’s preseason opener, though Ron Brooks, the leading contender for the nickel role, later left the game with a hamstring injury.
Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson didn’t have to face Aaron Rodgers or Jordy Nelson, but they fared OK vs. Brett Hundley, Davante Adams and Co.
Asked if he would rather have measured himself against Rodgers, even in a preseason game, Robinson said: “I definitely would have.”
The first three Packers snaps were passes to the outside, two against Mills and one targeting Robinson. They netted 9 total yards.
The Pack’s second series, wideout-turned-running back Ty Montgomery fumbled when hit by Fletcher Cox and Jordan Hicks, and Robinson recovered. It was the first of a combined 10 fumbles for the teams, which probably will be noted by observers who don’t feel teams hit enough in training camp these days.
“We played all right. I definitely think we still have some things to work on,” Robinson said. “They pretty much did a lot of things that we expected them to do for the first preseason game, nothing too special.”
The biggest gain the starting corners allowed came on Green Bay’s third series, when the pass rush swarmed Hundley but somehow he fluttered an underthrown ball that Adams came back for, gaining 16 yards against Robinson.
Mills had a nice breakup and Robinson benefited from a Jeff Janis third-down drop that ended that series.
“Me being a rookie last year, I’m not used to getting out (of the game) that fast,” Mills said. “We could’ve played a lot better, though.”
When a questioner noted the Packers didn’t get many yards on the starters, Mills said: “They didn’t really throw it like that, neither … Going into the second preseason game (next Thursday at Lincoln Financial Field against Buffalo) I’ll play a lot more, and expect a lot more from the (opposing) offense.”
In Jim Schwartz’s defensive scheme, the pass rush is supposed to make things easier on the corners, and it looked pretty good, as well, the Eagles notching five sacks.
Brooks, whose 2016 season ended in October with a quadriceps tear, was injured covering a punt. He was in on Trevor Davis, and it looked like he should have been able to at least slow Davis down, but Brooks overshot the returner, waving an arm as he missed, helping set up Davis’ 68-yard second-quarter touchdown return. Obviously, the hamstring pull would seem to have played a factor.
The next group of corners didn’t fare as well. Second-year man C.J. Smith, in particular, got off to a rough start. Geronimo Allison got inside Smith for a 10-yard gain, then Janis blew past Smith for a 20-yard touchdown. Janis seemed to sell Smith on the idea that he was cutting inside, leaving Smith flat-footed when Janis instead broke upfield. It didn’t help that Jaylen Watkins was very late to back up.
“We’d been running a lot of slants and we had talked on the sideline about just hitting the ‘sluggo’ once there, and it worked out perfectly,” Hundley said. “The corner bit like we thought he would and it was just a layup to Jeff, great route by Jeff.”
Smith got into 10 games as a rookie last year from North Dakota State, but only played on special teams.
“I didn’t play on defense, but I got to watch a lot of football. I think that helped me,” Smith said this week. “I was lucky enough to have sort of a redshirt year, and be able to grasp some things that I’m supposed to be able to do.”
Overall, Hundley’s first-half numbers – 8 for 15 for 90 yards, a touchdown and a Mychal Kendricks interception – didn’t look bad for the corners or the secondary as a whole. The TD pass to Janis was the longest first-half gain the Eagles allowed.
The Packers converted two of six first-half third down opportunities.
The Eagles allowed just 16 passing yards in the third quarter, with Joe Callahan replacing Hundley. Green Bay ultimately threw for 262 yards and two touchdowns, Callahan going 10 for 16 for 103 and then Taysom Hill completing four of five for 69 yards and a touchdown against deep Eagles subs.