Eagles

Eagles CBs Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson pass first test in preseason loss to Rodgers-less Packers

usa-ap-patrick-robinson-jalen-mills.jpg
USA Today Images/AP Images

Eagles CBs Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson pass first test in preseason loss to Rodgers-less Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Near the end of the first quarter in Thursday night's preseason opener, the Eagles' starting defense came out of the game. 

Except for two players. 

Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson, the current frontrunners to win the starting cornerback jobs (well, maybe not anymore), remained in the game and played an extra series. Cornerback has been the hottest topic of conversation surrounding the Eagles for months. 

On Thursday night, though, the top corners held up. Although Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was a spectator for his team's 24-9 win. 

"We played maybe two series, three series," Mills said. "And that offense is way different without No. 12 in the backfield. We just have to work onto next week and just get better."

With Rodgers and his favorite target Jordy Nelson on the bench, backup Brett Hundley had trouble getting anything going against the Eagles' first-team defense. The Packers went three-and-out on the first drive and Fletcher Cox forced a fumble that Robinson recovered on the next. 

The biggest play either of the starters gave up was an 18-yard pass from Hundley to Davante Adams on the third series. Robinson was beaten on that play but he looked pretty good on Thursday and picked up a pass defensed. The veteran has had a rough training camp, but played much better in the game. 

Mills started strong, tackling Randall Cobb for a 1-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage. 

"Going into a preseason game you really don't know how much you're going to play, especially me coming off being a rookie last year and trying to compete for the starting job," Mills said. "I felt pretty good though."

One third of the Eagles' current group of starting cornerbacks was injured on Thursday night. Ron Brooks, who appears to be the lead candidate to be the team's slot corner, left the game with a hamstring injury. He was the first man down the field near Trevor Davis before Davis broke off a 68-yard punt return for a touchdown. It's unclear how significant the injury is, but Brooks seemed to be walking fine late Thursday night. 

It's no secret that the Eagles' cornerbacks are a weak spot on the team. It's a major reason that on Friday they traded Jordan Matthews and a third-round pick to the Bills for third-year corner Ronald Darby. Last week during his press conference, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz — for the second time during training camp — noted that most of the questions were about the position. 

He knows why. 

"All those guys have shown something," Schwartz said about his group of CBs. "I don't know that anybody is consistent enough where we don't look at anybody else. I said the same thing coming into camp, or maybe back in OTAs, that it would be nice to have solid guys or solid starters at those positions, but we're still in the middle of a competition. Everybody is striving to be consistent."

Second-year player C.J. Smith wasn't consistent on Thursday night, but he did bounce back. In the second quarter, Smith gave up a 10-yard pass to Geronimo Allison and then two plays later was beaten by Jeff Janis on a little double-move for a 20-yard touchdown. It was ugly. 

But Smith had a short memory and made a couple nice plays later. 

Rasul Douglas, the third-round pick from West Virginia, had a pretty quiet night but could still make a charge for playing time. And Aaron Grymes is still in the mix. 

With three preseason games remaining, the competition at cornerback is far from over. 

"We played good but I always look for improvement," Mills said. "Always those little bitty things whether it's keying down-and-distance or formation. Just have to learn from those little bitty errors that we made and get better next week."

Eagles Stay or Go — Young CBs and a new return man?

us-part4.png
USA Today Images

Eagles Stay or Go — Young CBs and a new return man?

As we continue our offseason series examining the future of the world champion Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro try to figure out who will be on the roster in 2018. 

We go alphabetically — Part 1 was Nelson Agholor to Derek Barnett, Part 2 was De'Vante Bausby to Brandon Brooks, Part 3 was Billy Brown to Vinny Curry. Today is Darby to Ertz. 

Ronald Darby
Roob: I’m still not completely sold on Darby. He made some big plays but also needs to be more consistent. That’s probably true of every young cornerback, and Darby certainly has all the tools to be a very good corner in the NFL. He just turned 24, he’s got world-class speed and when he gets his hands on the ball he’s always a threat to go the distance. The Eagles have a whole stable of young corners, and he’s in a similar position to Jay Ajayi in that he has one year left on his rookie four-year deal with another team, an AFC East team — in this case the Bills — and 2018 will give the Eagles a long look at him with a full training camp and season in an Eagles uniform. Darby will definitely be here in 2018. Beyond that, we’ll see.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: When you think about Darby's road to becoming a Super Bowl champion last season, it's pretty crazy. He gets traded to the Eagles during training camp, has to catch up and learn the defense and then dislocates his ankle in Week 1. He eventually came back as the Eagles' starter and never looked back. He's still just 24 and is really talented. Darby is about to enter the final year of his rookie contract, so the Eagles are going to have a decision to make about him soon enough. But for now, this is a no-brainer. 

Verdict: STAYS

Rashard Davis
Roob: Davis came and went on the practice squad throughout the year, but he was along for the Super Bowl ride in Minneapolis as a practice squad receiver, so the Eagles must like him. Davis had a decorated career at James Madison, where he was a record-setting punt returner, and that’s something the Eagles could be looking for depending what happens with Darren Sproles. Davis remains a long-shot, but he is an interesting guy. Stranger things have happened. Especially around here lately. 

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Davis didn't even spend all year on the Eagles' practice squad in 2017, but the team did bring him back and he'll be with them this spring. An undrafted receiver out of James Madison University, there's not a ton of people who even know about him. His best chance to make the Eagles' roster is as a returner, especially if Kenjon Barner isn't back. Not completely out of the question, but he has a steep uphill climb. 

Verdict: GOES

Rasul Douglas
Roob: I really like Douglas. What he lacks in pure speed he makes up for with intelligence and preparation. He’s a physical corner, likes to support the run, a sure tackler. He started five games while Ronald Darby was out and played surprisingly well for a rookie third-round pick, even picking up two interceptions in the first month of his pro career, both in key situations in close games. Whether or not he eventually moves into the slot or even safety remains to be seen, but I expect Douglas to be around here for quite a while. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Douglas had a pretty weird year. He was a third-round pick and would have had the opportunity to win a starting job but struggled some early during training camp. If he didn't, the team might not have made the move to trade for Darby. But when Darby went down, Douglas became a starter and played really well, finishing with two interceptions. He's not the fastest guy, but his length and ballhawk skills make up for it. With Darby and Jalen Mills and Sidney Jones all in the mix, how does Douglas fit in? That's not clear yet, but he'll be back for his second year. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dannell Ellerbe
Roob: Ellerbe gave the Eagles functional linebacker play after joining the Eagles late in the season to provide defensive depth in place of Jordan Hicks. He was solid against the run and provided veteran leadership during the postseason run. He essentially did exactly what the Eagles brought him in to do. But Ellerbe is 32 and has nine years under his belt, and the Eagles will no doubt go younger at linebacker moving forward. Whatever happens, Ellerbe now has two Super Bowl rings — one with the Ravens and one with the Eagles. Not a bad career!

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Eagles were looking for a veteran to play on base downs, so they went out and got Ellerbe from the street in November. The 32-year-old eventually became a starter, but never played much. He then missed the NFC Championship Game with an injury and played just a few snaps in the Super Bowl. The Eagles need to upgrade and get younger at linebacker. Ellerbe shouldn't be back. 

Verdict: GOES

Jake Elliott
Roob: Yeah, he missed too many PATs, but the positives sure outweigh the negatives with Elliott. If Elliott didn’t prove his worth with the 61-yard game-winner against the Giants, he sure did with fourth-quarter field goals of 42 and 46 yards in the Super Bowl. Those are incredibly tough pressure kicks with the whole world watching, and Elliott crushed them. Caleb Sturgis is a very good kicker. Elliott is a potentially great one.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: This time last year, Elliott was still at Memphis getting ready for the draft. A lot has happened since then. He went in the fifth round to the Bengals, but he lost the competition in Cincinnati, was placed on their practice squad, and stayed there until Sturgis got hurt in the first week of the season. Elliott came to the Eagles and in his second game, he became a hero when he made a 61-yard, game-winner against the Giants. The crazy thing about it is, if Elliott missed the 46-yarder just before the game-winner, he would have been 2-for-5 and in jeopardy of getting cut. But that didn't happen and now it's his job for good. 

Verdict: STAYS

Zach Ertz
Roob: Ertz has established himself as a top-three tight end in this league, behind Gronk and probably a little behind Travis Kelce, although it’s close. As good as Ertz was during the regular season, earning his first Pro Bowl honor, he was massive in the postseason, with 8-for-93 against the Vikings and 7-for-67 with two huge catches in the Super Bowl — the two-yard gain on a fourth-quarter 4th-and-1 with the Eagles trailing by one at their own 45 and his go-ahead touchdown a few moments later. Ertz has the sixth-most catches by any tight end in NFL history after five seasons and the 10th-most yards. He’s already the greatest tight end in Eagles history, and he just turned 27. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: There's no question about it. Ertz has grown into one of the best and most complete tight ends in the NFL. He's one of the best weapons on the team and he's going to have a chance to continue to grow his already-impressive chemistry with Carson Wentz. 

Verdict: STAYS

Turns out, Alshon Jeffery was injured all season

ap-alshon-jeffery_0.jpg
AP Images

Turns out, Alshon Jeffery was injured all season

We all know about the myriad injuries the Eagles suffered on their way to the Super Bowl.

Nobody knew about this one.

Alshon Jeffery had surgery Wednesday morning to repair a torn rotator cuff that he played through all season, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Per Rapoport, Jeffery suffered the injury in training camp this past summer. We did know Jeffery suffered some sort of shoulder injury during the summer. Even after he returned, Doug Pederson remained very cautious with Jeffery. At the time, that seemed strange. Pederson just kept saying he held him out at his own discretion, even though it seemed like Jeffery and Carson Wentz needed time to build chemistry. All that seems to make more sense now.

Rotator cuff injuries can be especially difficult for wide receivers (over-the-head catches) and any skill player who gets tackled to the ground. In recent years, rotator cuff tears have either ended the season or caused multiweek absences for Eric Decker, Martellus Bennett and Plaxico Burress, among others. 

Jeffery's ability to play the whole season with a shoulder injury makes what he was able to do all the more impressive. He made a quick impact, catching two touchdowns and a two-point conversion in Weeks 1-4, then scored seven TDs from Weeks 8-14 before turning in a strong postseason.

Along the way, Jeffery earned a new contract that pays him $26.75 million guaranteed with a full value of $52 million. 

Safe to say that playing through pain worked out. How crazy is it to consider now that on Wentz's crucial Week 14 touchdown pass to Jeffery in L.A., the QB had a torn ACL and the receiver had a torn rotator cuff.

Jeffery confirmed the surgery via Instagram story on Wednesday afternoon.