Eagles

Eagles 2018 training camp battles: Nickel cornerback

Eagles 2018 training camp battles: Nickel cornerback

As we get near the start of the Eagles’ 2018 training camp, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the key position battles to watch this summer. 

Today we’ll look at slot cornerback. 

Names to know

Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, De'Vante Bausby, Malcolm Jenkins

What to watch

This should be interesting during training camp. The Eagles need to find a solid replacement after losing Patrick Robinson in free agency this offseason. Robinson, the veteran journeyman, was having a terrible training camp last summer before he was moved into the slot following the Ronald Darby trade. But once he got into that nickel corner spot, he thrived and went on to have a tremendous year. Losing him is big, but the Eagles actually have depth at the CB position, a departure from training camps in previous years. 

The Eagles have a few options in the slot. The only corner who hasn’t had time inside is Rasul Douglas; the team isn’t going to put him there. Even Darby took some reps inside during the spring. But Darby is likely going to stay outside too. 

That leaves Mills, Jones and Bausby battling for the spot. It appears that Mills is probably going to be a starter, but there’s a decent chance that he could line up at outside corner in the Eagles’ base package and move inside in nickel. That’s a lot to ask, but he has been in the defense for two years now and would be able to handle that extended responsibility. 

Jones is really talented and it would make sense to find a way to get last year’s second-round pick (who would have been a first-rounder without an Achilles tear) on the field. That will either come outside in the nickel package or inside. Jones took some reps there this spring and looked good. Ultimately, the team will want to make him a starter, but for now, it can bring him along slowly with a lot of depth at corner. 

Bausby is a name you might not be as familiar with. But after spending last year on the practice squad, he turned some heads this spring. He and D.J. Killings are long shots to win this spot, but Bausby isn’t a long shot to make the roster. I just can’t see Bausby keeping a talented player like Jones off the field, no matter how much the coaching staff likes him. 

The last possibility is to move Jenkins into the slot, which the team will do with certain bigger receivers and tight ends. But it seems very unlikely he’ll take over that role full-time, especially with more depth at corner than safety. 

Prediction

I think the three guys who will be on the field are Mills, Darby and Jones. The real question is how this manifests itself. If I were Jim Schwartz, I would start Mills and Darby and then slide Mills inside in the nickel package, leaving the second-year player to play at his strength position outside. I think Schwartz isn’t going to take my advice on this, though. I think it’s slightly more likely that Mills and Darby stay outside and Jones plays inside when the Eagles use their nickel package. 

More on the Eagles

Just a reminder that Eagles don’t have their Super Bowl without Andy Reid

Just a reminder that Eagles don’t have their Super Bowl without Andy Reid

I’m not here to tell you to root for Andy Reid in Super Bowl LIV. That’s your decision.

I’m just here to remind you that even though Reid had been gone five years before the Eagles won their Super Bowl, his fingerprints were still all over that team. And they wouldn’t have become Super Bowl LII champions without him.

That doesn’t mean Reid is forgiven for all the times he failed to deliver a championship of his own. It doesn’t excuse his flaws; and there were flaws. But it would be disingenuous to not give him credit because a lot of the groundwork for the Eagles’ Super Bowl run in 2017 was laid by him.

Now, the Eagles also wouldn’t have won the Super Bowl (at least not the way they did) if they never fired Reid in 2012 either. That started a chain reaction that led to Chip and and then Chip’s downfall and there’s this whole Butterfly Effect that happened.

But just finding Reid’s influence on the Eagles’ championship team a couple years ago is much, much easier than all that. It was at every level.

On the roster

Six of the Eagles’ 22 starters in Super Bowl LII came from Reid’s time in Philadelphia. Think about that for a second. With how much turnover there is in the NFL and with the fact that the Eagles went through two coaching changes after firing Reid, to have 27.3 percent of your starters come from him is pretty impressive.

And think about those individual players: Nick Foles, Jason Kelce, Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry, Mychal Kendricks. (And that doesn't even include Jason Peters, who missed the game because of injury.)

Sure, Foles left and came back but Reid drafted him, the other six starters and Brent Celek, who was also still on that team. So Reid, who was fired by the Eagles five years earlier, drafted the Super Bowl LII MVP and the guy who made one of the biggest defensive plays in franchise history.

And let’s not forget that it was Reid who helped Foles fall back in love with the game in 2016 after Foles had strongly considered retirement. Without Reid, Foles wouldn’t have even been in the league for the 2017 season.

“I just sort of made the decision to go back and play for Coach Reid,” Foles said to NBC Sports’ Reuben Frank during the 2017 season. “It was the best decision I made, going there in that situation. Because it wasn’t an easy call for me but I was back with someone that was familiar. I think Coach Reid is one of the greatest coaches in the world. I love them and I really had a special year last year with him.”

The coaching staff

When the Eagles were looking for a head coach in 2016, they listened closely to Reid, who vouched for his offensive coordinator, Doug Pederson. After all, who knows Pederson better than Reid? Reid coached Pederson in Green Bay, brought him to Philly to play before Donovan McNabb in 1999 and gave Pederson his first coaching job 10 years later.

So not only would Pederson not have gotten the head coaching job in Philly … without Reid, we wouldn’t even know who this guy was. And without Reid, Pederson would be a completely different coach. He learned his style as an offensive mind and as a leader from Reid and it shows. A lot of what Pederson did his first season as head coach was to try to get the cold feeling out of the building from Chip Kelly and restore the family atmosphere Reid worked so hard to foster for over a decade.

And let’s not forget Duce Staley either. Sure, Duce was drafted before Andy got to Philly but he played five seasons under Big Red and then Reid gave Duce his first coaching job in 2011.

The front office

While some of his moves since the Super Bowl season have been questionable, the 2017 season was Howie Roseman’s master-stroke. Don’t forget that Roseman worked under Reid for years and still worked under him when Roseman was promoted to general manager in 2010.

"I love Howie's energy, and I've loved it since I've been here with Howie," Reid said after Roseman was promoted to GM. "His eagerness to learn and then his ability to evaluate are second to none."

Roseman learned a lot of lessons from Reid, including the importance of solidifying offensive and defensive lines, something the Eagles did very well in 2017. It was under Reid and Joe Banner that Roseman was able to grow up in the NFL and become the youngest GM in the league at 34 back in 2010. He doesn’t become the Super Bowl GM without learning from Reid along the way.

---

Remember, I’m not telling you that you should be rooting for Reid to win this Super Bowl. To each his own. But the fact that the Eagles wouldn’t have won their championship without him, might be reason enough.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

Snubbed Eagle Lane Johnson added to Pro Bowl team as alternate

Snubbed Eagle Lane Johnson added to Pro Bowl team as alternate

Lane Johnson is a Pro Bowler after all.

Johnson, snubbed in the original Pro Bowl announcement, has been added to the NFC Pro Bowl team as an alternate, according to Adam Caplan of Sirius XM Radio.

This is Johnson’s third consecutive Pro Bowl appearance. There was no word on which offensive lineman dropped out of the game.

It was a little surprising that Johnson didn't make the team initially. He's considered one of the NFL's most dominating right tackles and was a first-team all-pro in 2017.

He didn't seem thrilled when the original team was announced a month ago:

Johnson missed the last three games of the regular season and the playoff loss to the Seahawks with a high ankle sprain, and it’s unknown whether he’ll be able to play in the Pro Bowl on Sunday in Orlando.

But for the purposes of bonuses and status, he’s now officially a three-time Pro Bowler.

Johnson becomes the seventh offensive lineman in Eagles history selected to three or more Pro Bowls.

Jason Peters was picked to seven between the 2009 and 2016 seasons. Tra Thomas, Bob Brown, Bucko Kilroy, Jason Kelce, Jim Ringo and Brandon Brooks have all been picked to three.

The 29-year-old Johnson becomes the Eagles’ sixth Pro Bowler, joining Brooks, Kelce, Fletcher Cox, Zach Ertz and Rick Lovato.

Johnson, the fourth pick in the 2013 draft, recently signed a contract extension that runs through 2025.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles