Eagles

Are 2019 Eagles better or worse at cornerback?

Are 2019 Eagles better or worse at cornerback?

The Eagles didn’t add anybody of note in free agency, through trades or the draft, yet have some big names returning at cornerback in 2019. Is the unit better or worse as a result?

Key additions: None
Key departures: None

Why they could be better: Health

The Eagles started 2018 with three cornerbacks. They ended the year with three entirely different cornerbacks. Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills both suffered season-ending injuries fairly early, while Sidney Jones was in and out of the lineup from about midseason on. Avonte Maddox missed time, too. How bad did it get? De’Vante Bausby, Dexter McDougle, Chandon Sullivan and Josh Hawkins all saw action.

Nobody left, but Darby and Mills are back. Jones and Maddox are 100 percent. Rasul Douglas and Cre’Von LeBlanc are still in the mix. Plus, young guys like Maddox, Douglas and LeBlanc came away from ‘18 with great experience. The Eagles are now so deep at cornerback, it’s almost hard to believe somebody won’t get traded between now and September. That’s a far cry from seven months ago, when the injuries in the secondary were crippling the entire defense.

Why they could be worse: Health

On the other hand, the Eagles aren’t out of the woods quite yet. Darby is running but has yet to practice with the team. Mills has done even less in front of reporters. And Jones is good right now, but fair or not, the past two years leave many wondering how long until the injury bug bites again.

The idea the Eagles’ corners will be better is based on their being 100 percent. Yet, two starters are still hurt, and a third hasn’t been totally right through a full season since 2016. Not only that, Darby is coming off a torn ACL, which could impact his play this season, while Mills’ injury is shrouded in mystery. So are the cornerbacks actually healthier? As of right now, the secondary is one bad break away from Jeremiah McKinnon being a name to watch in training camp.

X-factor: Jones

Everybody on the corner is a known quantity to some extent save for Jones. Case in point: even Maddox played more in his rookie season than Jones has in two. And while the Eagles may not know precisely what they have in Maddox, in Douglas, even in LeBlanc, none of those players were a top-five talent turned second-round draft pick, either.

Jones has the potential to alter the complexion of this group on his own. Even if he’s only the nickel corner — a big job in today’s NFL — he brings game-changing ability to a position in which teams sometimes hide limited athletes. The 23-year-old could presumably win a spot on the outside, especially with the starters still battling back from injuries. Either way, who knows where Jones goes from there? As long as he’s healthy, the sky is the limit.

Are the Eagles better or worse at cornerback?

Darby, Mills, Jones, Maddox. All were on the shelf at one point in ’18. As long as that scenario doesn’t happen again, it’s really a no-brainer. Same group of corners, only the younger players like Jones, Maddox, Douglas and LeBlanc are now far more experienced. One caveat — a preseason trade, which appears to border on likely, would certainly change the big picture here. BETTER

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Doug Pederson hoping to mix new face Jay Ajayi into Eagles' running attack

Doug Pederson hoping to mix new face Jay Ajayi into Eagles' running attack

Doug Pederson said he hopes to get recently re-acquired running back Jay Ajayi more involved in the offense as the Eagles head into the stretch run.

Ajayi has eight carries for 25 yards and a 3.1 average in two games since returning to the Eagles following a year layoff. 

A Pro Bowler in 2016 with the Dolphins and a stud down the stretch during the Super Bowl season, Ajayi suffered a torn ACL in Week 5 last year and didn’t play from Oct. 7, 2018, until Nov. 24, 2019, when he made his 2019 debut against the Seahawks.

Ajayi didn't have OTAs or a training camp and didn't even practice until the Wednesday before the Seattle game. 

It's a process with him, but we understand who he is and the injury that he's coming off of, so we're careful with that,” Pederson said. “But at the same time, he's a bigger, powerful guy that we can use in spots.

With Jordan Howard missing the last three games with nerve damage in his shoulder, rookie Miles Sanders has essentially been the entire running attack. But the Eagles are so hesitant to increase his workload significantly that it’s created a situation in which the Eagles just haven’t run the ball very much during their three-game losing streak because they haven’t had a viable second option.

During these last three games, Sanders has 40 carries, Ajayi eight and Boston Scott seven.

This is the first time the Eagles have leaned this heavily on one back in a three-game stretch since 2012. 

During a late-season three-game stretch in which LeSean McCoy was hurt, Bryce Brown got 52 carries and Dion Lewis had four.

The Eagles ran 45 percent of the time in the nine games Howard played and 31 percent since he got hurt. They’re 0-3 without him.

Miles has done a great job,” Pederson said Saturday. “I’d love to get Jay a few more touches and get Boston in the mix so we're not obviously wearing Miles down here this last month of the season.

The current stretch is the first in franchise history that the Eagles have thrown at least 40 times and run the ball 23 or fewer times in three straight games.

Howard hasn’t played since before the bye week and is out for the Eagles’ game Monday night against the Giants. 

Pederson said earlier in the week he doesn’t expect this to be a season-ending injury, but will Howard be able to pick up where he left off after such a long layoff even if he does return?

The Eagles began the season with Howard, Sanders, Corey Clement and Darren Sproles in what looked to be a deep running back rotation. 

Sanders is the only one of that group left. Can Ajayi make a difference after such a long layoff? Sounds like Pederson wants to find out.

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Eagles Injury Update: Latest on Derek Barnett, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Howard

Eagles Injury Update: Latest on Derek Barnett, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Howard

Updated: 3:39 p.m.

Derek Barnett and Nelson Agholor will likely be game-time decisions for Monday Night Football, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said on Saturday morning. 

Barnett (ankle) and Agholor (knee) both missed all three days of practice this week and are listed as questionable.

Meanwhile, linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill is still in the NFL’s concussion protocol. He was just placed in protocol on Thursday and won't play Monday night. 

And Jordan Howard (shoulder) has still not been cleared for contact; he can’t play until he is and that’s not happening before Monday. He's officially questionable. 

Lane Johnson also missed practice on Friday and Saturday for a non-injury reason but is expected to play on Monday. 

If Agholor is unable to play, the Eagles would be left with just three healthy receivers on the roster: Alshon Jeffery, JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Greg Ward. 

“We’re very comfortable, obviously, with the guys we have,” Pederson said. “So if it’s three, it’s three. We brought up [Josh Perkins] a week ago to help us there, so it’s an addition there. We go and we go play. We’ll discuss those over the next couple of days leading up to the game. If we have to make a decision we will. We feel good with the guys we have in that receiver role.” 

If the Eagles do decide to make a roster move, they have three wide receivers on their practice squad: Robert Davis, Marcus Green and Marken Michel. 

While Agholor had his knee injury before last week’s game, Barnett got hurt during the loss in Miami, but was still able to play through the injury and play 50 snaps. Barnett has played the third-most defensive snaps on the team this year, so losing him for this game wouldn’t be insignificant. 

If Barnett can’t play, expect Josh Sweat and Vinny Curry to get more reps. After that, Genard Avery, Daeshon Hall and even Shareef Miller could see a few snaps. 

For the Giants: 

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