Ronald Darby and Sidney Jones will be the Eagles’ starting cornerbacks on opening day, head coach Doug Pederson revealed Monday.
Jones and Rasul Douglas spent most of the preseason running with the first team, but once Darby returned to practice following offseason knee ACL surgery he immediately took a starting spot, with Jones and Douglas rotating opposite him on the outside. Darby didn’t play in any of the preseason games.
Avonte Maddox, last year’s fourth-round pick, also got some work outside during the preseason but has been penciled in as the opening-day slot corner all along.
“The top two guys — we’ll see where Darby’s at at the end of the week — but Darby and Sidney obviously will be the top two,” Pederson said after practice. “Rasul’s going to play quite a bit and Avonte’s going to be in there too, so all four guys are going to play.”
Douglas and Jones both had very good training camps and seemed to be interchangeable as far as production during training camp.
Jones, the Eagles’ second-round pick out of Washington in 2017, has played in 10 games starting four last year. He doesn’t have an interception in 350 career defensive snaps.
Douglas, the Eagles’ third-round pick in 2017 out of West Virginia, has played in 30 games starting 12 over the past two years and has five interceptions on 966 defensive snaps. Only seven players under 25 had more INTs than Douglas over the last two years and all of them started more games.
Darby, who the Eagles acquired prior to the 2017 season from the Bills in exchange for Jordan Matthews, has been hurt much of the last two years and has been limited to 17 regular-season games and 16 starts in an Eagles uniform over the past two years with four interceptions, although he did start down the stretch and in the postseason during the 2017 championship season.
With Cre’Von LeBlanc out indefinitely with a foot injury, Darby, Douglas, Maddox and Jones are the only healthy corners on the roster. Darby is 25, Douglas 24 and Jones and Maddox are 23, making corner the youngest position on the roster.
“They’re all going to play, they’re all going to have to play I feel like that’s one of the areas we got better this offseason and in training camp with the addition of Darby coming back,” Pederson said. “He gives us a real shot in the arm on defense, so I think they’re all going to play.”
The Eagles’ other Super Bowl starter at corner, Jalen Mills, is on the regular-season PUP list and out for at least the first six weeks of the season with a lingering foot injury.
He hasn’t played since getting hurt in the Eagles’ win over the Jaguars in London more than 10 months ago.
“The thing is with that injury, it takes time,” Pederson said. “It just takes time. It’s a sensitive area and this extra time will really No. 1 give him confidence coming back and No. 2 we’re not risking further injury.”
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