"Bring it on!"
That's the message from Jalen Mills and Rasul Douglas, the two young Eagles cornerbacks who potentially stand to lose the most playing time with the acquisition of Ronald Darby.
Mills is a 2016 seventh-round pick out of LSU, Douglas is a rookie third-round pick from West Virginia.
"Let’s compete, you know?" Mills said. "Regardless of whatever they brought him in for, it’s a great addition to the room. I know him, I know his game from when he was at Florida State. I actually thought he’d be a first-round pick. He’s a great player, I love the move."
Mills and veteran Patrick Robinson have been the de facto starters throughout camp, but Robinson has been inconsistent and isn't even guaranteed a roster spot.
Rookie second-round pick Sidney Jones won't play for most or all of the season because of an Achilles injury.
Darby, a two-year starter with the Bills, was brought here to start, although everything beyond that is unknown.
“Man, it’s just focus on the task at hand," said Mills, whose 662 snaps were second-most among Eagles corners last year. "When I’m out there, make my plays and let those guys decide.
"As far as my approach, it’s not going to change. You can only control what you can control. When I’m out there, when my number is called, make my plays.
“As far as upstairs goes? I’m still trying to learn how that process works, but I know Darby is a great player, a great corner, had a great first two years in Buffalo, so it was a great pickup for us.”
The Eagles have been unsettled at cornerback for nearly a decade. Since the franchise last won a playoff game in 2008, with Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown at corner, they've used an astonishing 20 different starting cornerbacks in eight seasons.
Including Roc Carmichael, E.J. Biggers, Brandon Hughes, Trevard Lindley and, yes, Eric Rowe.
That number will rise this year.
The plan is for Douglas and Jones to eventually be the long-term starters. Darby is only signed through next year.
But the Eagles clearly want to win now, and Darby gives them a dimension of experience none of the other young corners on the roster has.
Douglas, like Mills, said he sees the addition of Darby as nothing but a positive.
“That’s not up to me, whether we need a corner or we don’t," he said. "I’m a player. Everyone’s here to compete and try to play.
"Doesn’t matter if there’s another corner here or 10 more corners come in, football’s all about competition anyway, so you like that. The room gets better. When we’re all competing at a high level, it brings everybody up. It brings out the best out of everybody. Competition is good."
There are now 11 corners on the roster. Darby, Mills, Douglas, Robinson, Jones, former CFL Grey Cup winners Aaron Grymes and Mitchell White, incumbents Ron Brooks and C.J. Smith and camp long-shots Tay Glover-Wright and Jomal Wiltz.
Jones and Douglas are 21, Mills and Darby are 23 and Smith is 24. This is what Howie Roseman has been looking for at corner. Young talent instead of the same old tired retreads.
"We're all young, we're all learning, we're all competing," Douglas said. "We’re going to get better. … You have no choice but to get better. That’s what I like. I see it in myself that I’m getting better. Things I didn’t catch on in OTAs, I’m seeing it now. We’re going to get better, definitely.
“I don’t worry about playing time. I just try to get better every day. When my number is called, I’ll be ready.”
Pro Bowl safety Malcolm Jenkins has been here three years and has already played alongside nine starting cornerbacks, not including guys who’ve gotten first-team reps this year.
He said he likes the current philosophy of going young at corner and finally trying to build a secondary that can grow together.
"The biggest thing is just finding guys who can get as much experience as they can and get evaluated that we feel comfortable with that can go compete and don’t have to worry about somebody taking their jobs," Jenkins said.
"That’s the point of training camp. Get that evaluations, get those reps, and you just added that much more competition with this acquisition.
“Just from a feel standpoint, it’ll be good for us to kind of know who that starting four or five is and we can kind of work together making sure we see the game the same way, getting used to who you’re tandem with a lot.
"I think it’s important from a secondary jelling standpoint. That part is down the road. We’ll get there."