De'Vante Bausby and Sidney Jones battling for nickel corner spot

De'Vante Bausby and Sidney Jones battling for nickel corner spot

De'Vante Bausby and Sidney Jones have been battling since the spring for the Eagles’ nickel cornerback spot, and Rodney McLeod has been watching like an avid football fan.

“It’s been great competition, whoever’s out there,” the Eagles’ starting safety said. “It’s fun to watch. Those guys are all really pushing themselves, and that’s making everybody better.”

Bausby is the wild-card in this young Eagles secondary. He’s 25, which makes him the oldest cornerback on the roster, and he’s bounced around the league for three years, including last year on the Eagles’ practice squad.

Jones is the second-year pro that the Eagles stole in the second round of the 2017 draft who spent most of last year red-shirting after suffering an Achilles injury.

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has said virtually every DB on the roster will get at least some reps as the Eagles work to replace standout nickel Patrick Robinson, who the signed with the Saints this offseason.

(Here’s a fun story I wrote about Robinson last December.)

But so far in training camp, it’s been exclusively Bausby and Jones, who have taken turns in the slot and working outside.

“Switching day in and day out is hard for those guys,” McLeod said. “You’re working inside one day, outside the next day, you never get too comfortable. 

“But it only helps you being able to do both and having these guys be able to play both inside or outside, whatever’s asked of them, it only helps the team. I’m just excited to see this competition unfold.”

We’ll likely see more combinations as camp goes on, but it’s likely that by the time the dust settles Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby and Jones will be the Eagles’ top three corners.

It’s just a matter of who lines up where.

Mills and Darby were so good playing outside on a Super Bowl team you would think Schwartz would prefer to keep them where they were.

There’s always a chance Schwartz could move a starting corner — Mills, most likely — inside in clear passing situations and have Jones play outside.

Malcolm Jenkins will get some work in the slot in specific situations, and Rasul Douglas, a third-round pick last year, and Avonte Maddox, a fourth-round pick this year, are also in the mix.

But the bottom line is that Doug Pederson and Schwartz love competition, and McLeod said the competition at nickel is raising all the corners’ level of play so far this summer.

“I think that was one thing that helped us last year was the competition we had early in OTAs and training camp with the corners,” he said.

“And then when we lost guys that depth really helped us out. That’s what we’re creating right now. That was our biggest asset and our biggest friend for the season. Whoever ends up wherever, they’re all getting better every day.”

The slot corner isn’t technically a starter, but Robinson played the fifth-most snaps on the entire defense last year (44 per game, 69 percent of the defensive snaps), and as the NFL continues to grow more and more into a passing league and 11 personnel (three wides, one running back, one tight end) grows more and more prevalent, the slot becomes more and more critical every year.

“I think you’ve got to be savvy, man, to play the slot,” McLeod said.

“You have to have some dog mentality in there. 

“You have to be able to do a little bit of everything. You have to be well-rounded. You have to be able to cover, you have to understand zone concepts, understand pattern matching, understand routes, you also have to be good at communication. 

“A lot of times you’re running the show, whatever coverage we’re playing, so you have to be able to take control. You’re also like a mini-linebacker, so you have to be ready to get in there and play the run as well. 

“That position kind of goes unnoticed, but you’ve got to be able to do a lot of different things.”

When will Schwartz settle on a set lineup?

Who knows?

“Hey, I’ve seen us make a trade right before Game 1 and go with Carson Wentz at quarterback so there’s no telling,” McLeod said.

“One thing I see is that we’re pretty familiar with each other. We have great chemistry regardless of who’s in there and they all communicate real well. 

“Whenever that decision comes we’re going to be ready to go that Thursday night (Sept. 6 against the Falcons). 

“I don’t know what they’re going to end up doing, but it’s going to be fun sitting back and watching it unfold.”

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Donnel Pumphrey, Freddie Martino and more: Every former Eagles player on XFL rosters

Donnel Pumphrey, Freddie Martino and more: Every former Eagles player on XFL rosters

The XFL season kicks off on Saturday, Feb. 8 when the DC Defenders host the Seattle Dragons at 2 p.m. on ABC. 

You can watch that game and root on Donnel Pumphrey! 

But he’s just one of many former Eagles in the eight-team startup league. 

After scouring all eight rosters, I counted 25 former Eagles. That means the league is 6 percent former Eagles. 

Here’s a look at every former Eagles player on each team: 

Dallas Renegades 

WR Freddie Martino
CB Josh Hawkins
LB Asantay Brown
DE Winston Craig 

The most notable name on this list is Hawkins, who played late in the season for the Eagles in 2018. He was thrown into a really tough spot against the Saints in the divisional round playoff game and didn’t hold up very well. He came back for training camp in 2019 but was released at final cuts. Martino, Brown and Craig were camp bodies and never played for the Eagles. But Martino was a fan favorite in camp in 2015 and ended up playing for the Bucs for a few years. From 2016-18 in Tampa Bay, Martino had 13 catches for 238 yards and a touchdown. 

DC Defenders 

WR DeAndre Thompkins 
RB Donnel Pumphrey 
C Jon Toth 
OL Malcolm Bunche 
DT Elijah Qualls

The Defenders actually boast two former Eagles draft picks from the 2017. Pumphrey was a fourth-round pick and Qualls was a sixth-round pick. Neither ever played a game for the Eagles. Pumprhey was the most prolific running back in NCAA history but at 5-9, 176 pounds, the Eagles tried to change his entire game and he never worked out. As recently as last offseason, Pump was in camp with the Eagles. Thompkins, a receiver from Penn State, was in camp before last season. Bunche, who is from Newark, Delaware, went undrafted out of UCLA in 2015. He was cut by the Eagles but spent the entire 2015 season on the practice squad. 

Houston Roughnecks

S Trae Elston 
CB Ajene Harris 
RB De’Angelo Henderson
OL Toby Weathersby
DL Gabe Wright 

Henderson was with the Eagles on their practice squad for most of the 2019 season but the Birds brought in Elijah Holyfield at the end of the season instead of promoting him. After the season ended, Henderson didn’t sign a futures deal with the Eagles and instead is heading to the XFL. Harris, a corner from USC, was also with the Eagles on their practice squad for some of this past season. You probably don’t even remember him, but Elston played in one game for the Eagles in 2017; he got seven special teams snaps in the Week 3 win over the Giants. 

Los Angeles Wildcats

S Jerome Couplin III 
LB Quentin Gause 

In 2014-15, Couplin played in nine games with the Eagles and had a total of five combined tackles. The William & Mary product went undrafted in 2014 and was with the Lions and Bills before coming to Philly. Gause was with the Eagles in the summer of 2016 and ended up playing in three games that season for the Broncos. 

New York Guardians

QB Luis Perez
QB Matt McGloin
LB Ryan Mueller 

Perez came from the AAF and spent just a month with the Eagles. McGloin, the former Penn State quarterback, lasted the 2017 offseason with the Eagles. But he did play in 13 games (7 starts) for the Raiders from 2013-16. Mueller was a big-time defensive end at Kansas State but when he got to Philly in 2016, he was a fullback that offseason. That was the last time the Eagles toyed with the idea of a full-time fullback. 

St. Louis BattleHawks 

WR Carlton Agudosi 
DB Harold Jones-Quartey 
RB Matt Jones

Agudosi (6-6, 220) made some spectacular catches with the Eagles in the summer before the 2019 season but didn’t stick. And you’ll remember Matt Jones. He was with the Eagles briefly in 2018 but didn’t make the team. With the Redskins, the former third-round pick rushed for 950 yards in 2015-16. 

Seattle Dragons

S Godwin Igwebuike 

A year after Igwebuike played six games for the Niners and Bucs as an undrafted rookie out of Northwestern in 2018, he was with the Eagles in the summer of 2019. 

Tampa Bay Vipers 

QB Aaron Murray
WR Seantavius Jones 

Murray was with the Eagles in the 2016 season on the practice squad after he had been with the Chiefs under Doug Pederson in 2014-15. But the former fifth-round pick from Georgia went to the Rams in 2017. Jones was with the Eagles for a little over a month in the offseason of 2016 and never practiced in Philly. Still, he remains the best Seantavius in Eagles history. 

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Similarity Travis Kelce sees between Eagles' Super Bowl LII team and Chiefs' Super Bowl LIV team

Similarity Travis Kelce sees between Eagles' Super Bowl LII team and Chiefs' Super Bowl LIV team

Travis Kelce is about to play in his first Super Bowl but it’s not the first time he’s been around the biggest game in the sport. 

The Chiefs' tight end, and brother of Jason, was around the Eagles’ run to Super Bowl at the tail end of the 2017 season so he has an idea about what the week is like and what it takes to win it all. 

And Kelce, speaking to reporters in Miami, said he sees one big similarity between the Eagles in Super Bowl LII and his Chiefs that will play in Super Bowl LIV: 

I was out there in Minnesota. It was a very unique situation because I got to see it almost second hand and really kind of in the background of the Eagles, asking my brother everything that was going on that week. 

“It was unique how tight of a team they were, how their chemistry ... they just felt like a brotherhood, even from the outside. You could just tell how tight-knit that group was. With that being said, I think this team has the exact same feeling going into it. How much we appreciate each other and have fun on the field with each other and make sure we’re doing the right things so we’re accountable for each other.

There was definitely something special about that Eagles team that played in Super Bowl LII. It’s probably a bit much to call it a team of destiny, but that team had a special feel to it. And a big part of it is because of how close they were. 

In some sense, it shouldn’t be too surprising to see an Andy Reid-led team have a similar feel. The atmosphere around the 2017 Eagles was created in part by Doug Pederson and his coaching staff. Pederson wanted his guys to have fun, he wanted them to be themselves. And, of course, Pederson is a protégé of Reid. Both men are known as players coaches. 

As of early this week, Travis Kelce said he hadn’t yet asked his older brother about tips for Super Bowl week or playing in the big game. Jason was at the Pro Bowl with his family and baby daughter, so Travis wanted to give him a chance to enjoy himself. 

But Travis said he does plan on chatting with Jason soon. He wants to ask for tips about some things he might not know about playing in the big game, anything that will give him an advantage on Sunday evening. 

For now, how tight-knit the Chiefs are certainly won’t hurt. 

“Everyone is just enjoying their time, being themselves,” Kelce said. “I love this team more than any other team I’ve ever been on, man, because it’s that much more fun.”

Sound familiar? 

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