Executive vice president and general manager Howie Roseman says the Eagles are a better football team after free agency and the draft. We're putting his claim to the test, breaking down the depth chart position by position to examine whether the roster really improved or actually took a step back this offseason.
Up next: Cornerback, where Ronald Darby is out, Jalen Mills is moving to safety, and the Eagles made a huge splash by trading for Darius Slay.
Before Slay, when was the last time the Eagles had a truly dominant cornerback? You have to go back almost a decade to 2011, when Asante Samuel was still jumping routes in midnight green.
Slay isn't the same type of player as Samuel, but he's in that elite company, coming off his third consecutive Pro Bowl. And while 2019 was considered a down year for Slay, he was still pretty good while battling injuries, stuck in a terrible defense. When healthy, he's a shutdown corner who can follow the opponent's best receiver, and at only 29 years old, there's no reason to suspect Slay is in decline.
Signing the consistent Nickell Robey-Coleman to man the slot is an upgrade, too.
Darby and Mills weren't exactly pictures of stability. Yet the current candidates to take their place are inexperienced and haven't even played as well as their predecessors.
Avonte Maddox might be the front-runner, and while he made 15 starts in two seasons, they've come all over the secondary. Maddox is undersized at 5-foot-9 and has struggled in some of his opportunities.
Previously considered one of the top talents in his draft class, Sidney Jones hasn't been able to stay healthy, appearing in 22 games over three seasons. When he does get on the field, opponents pick on him. Jones appeared to turn a corner late last season, but the sample size wasn't large enough to forget his previous work.
Rasul Douglas is still on the roster as well, but is likely to be traded for a conditional seventh-round pick or something equally as valuable.
Gripes about Darby and Mills were fair to an extent. The options to replace them are not more appealing.
However things shake out, there will be three new starters at cornerback. The depth hasn't changed much though. Either Maddox or Jones will be joined on the bench by Cre'Von LeBlanc and possibly Craig James. The only other name of real intrigue — since the Eagles chose not to address the position in the draft — is Trevor Williams, who started 27 games for the Chargers between 2016-18 before a knee injury.
After hiding him on the bench for much of last season, the Eagles should be quietly hoping Jones can develop into a serviceable player. The idea he might live up to hype about being a potential top-10 pick is long gone, but if Jones becomes a capable starter, consider him salvaged. Perhaps that is too much to ask. Somebody needs to be on the field opposite Slay though. Jones is only 24, so it's not implausible he comes into his own this year.
Better or worse?
While questions about the No. 2 corner dog this group right now, it's easy to forget just how poorly Darby was playing last season. (Then again, maybe it isn't easy.) Injuries seemed to take their toll, and his performance wasn't even competent before his eventual disappearance from the lineup.
Be it Maddox, Jones or whomever, any drop-off at that spot will be small compared to what Slay and Robey-Coleman bring to the table. And it's not a given Maddox, Jones or whomever will do any worse. They're young players who may benefit from a chance to start — possibly even thrive.
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