Eagles

Eagles 2019 training camp battles: How cornerback shakes out

Eagles 2019 training camp battles: How cornerback shakes out

As we near the start of the Eagles’ 2019 training camp, we’re taking a closer look at some key position battles to watch this summer. 

Up first: Cornerback

Names to know 

Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox, Sidney Jones, Cre’Von LeBlanc, Josh Hawkins 

What to watch 

The Eagles have a pretty deep stable of young and talented cornerbacks and after last year’s disaster at the position, that should let DBs coach Cory Undlin sleep a little easier at night. In 2018, the cornerback position was completely decimated by injuries, but it allowed younger players to gain valuable experience. Now, we’re not sure who the starters are anymore. 

On the injury front, Ronald Darby (ACL) and Jalen Mills (foot) both didn’t participate in OTAs as they recover from injuries that ended their 2018 seasons early. But both were the starters at the beginning of the 2018 season. During the spring, we saw Darby working on side fields, but didn’t see that from Mills. Will these two be ready for the start of training camp? If not, are their positions guaranteed when they return? In Darby’s case, that answer is probably a yes. The Eagles re-signed him to a one-year deal and they didn’t bring him back to sit on the bench. But after that, the other two cornerback spots seem up for grabs. 

In the absence of starters last year, Douglas, Maddox and LeBlanc all got significant playing time and all three performed fairly well. Douglas has gotten chances to start after injuries in his first two NFL seasons and might be ready to simply have a starting role. Maddox was a rookie last season but didn’t play like it; he played three positions and although he looked like a rookie at times in the Saints playoff game, he had a fantastic first season for a fourth-round pick. And LeBlanc might have saved the season after he was claimed on waivers from Detroit. Jones had an up-and-down second NFL season thanks to a lingering hamstring injury, but he’s supremely talented and was about to be a first-round pick just a couple years ago. And Jones started last season as the nickel cornerback and played better than you probably remember. Despite his success last season, it seems like LeBlanc is firmly behind those other five; but having him as a sixth corner shows their depth. 

During OTAs — without Darby and Mills — the starters were Douglas, Maddox and Jones. The key here will be to see who gets first-team reps when the entire group is healthy. I’d expect we see a few combinations during training camp as the Eagles figure out their best combination. That also means moving some players (namely Maddox and Jones) inside and outside to find the right fits. 

Prediction 

Darby is going to start. Like I said earlier, they didn’t sign him to sit him. So that leaves the other two jobs open. I’m not going to give Mills his job back before I even seen him on the field; his foot injury has been a long one, so until he’s really back, I won’t predict him to be a starter (although this is where I should mention how much Jim Schwartz has seemed to like Mills over the last three years). 

So for now, I’ll guess Darby, Douglas and Maddox are the starters barring a trade. I’m still bullish on Jones; I’m just not sure how the Eagles can start him over Douglas or Maddox based on what we’ve seen. But this should be an open competition in training camp, which is where these jobs should be won. 

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Hall of Famers, Braxton Miller, and more in Roob's random observations!

Hall of Famers, Braxton Miller, and more in Roob's random observations!

Some random thoughts on Eagles cornerbacks, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Braxton Miller, Mackey Sasser and much more as we continue to count down the days until these football games actually mean something.

  • I like what Carson Wentz said the other day about spending more time in the pocket this year (read more). It’s really part of the natural progression most athletic quarterbacks go through as they truly develop a thorough understanding of their offense. They still CAN run but they just don’t NEED to run. Randall Cunningham ran 500 times his first seven years, but by his MVP season with the Vikings in 1998 he ran only 32 times (including 11 kneel-downs). Donovan McNabb ran 349 times his first five years, but in the Super Bowl season, when he had by far his best passing numbers, he ran only 41 times all year  (including 11 kneel-downs). Russell Wilson ran over 6.0 times per game his first six seasons but last year, when he had his best passing numbers, he ran only 50 times all year not counting 15 kneel-downs. The key is that when it does make sense to take off and make a play with your legs, you don’t hesitate, and Carson promises he will. I honestly think we could see him take his game to another level this year. With these weapons? I’d be surprised if he doesn’t.
     
  • Cody Parkey went into last year as the 8th-most accurate kicker in NFL history. His 77.8 career percentage from 50 yards and out (on 7-for-9) is 5th-best in NFL history among kickers who’ve attempted at least five of them. He was 21-for-23 with the Dolphins in 2017. Pretty darn good resume. And he can’t get a job. Incredible what hitting a few posts and double-doinking a postseason game-winning attempt will do for you. Tough line of work.
     
  • Very curious what the Eagles will do with Clayton Thorson. He followed his encouraging game in Jacksonville last Thursday with a very good week of practice. Really looks like he’s turned the proverbial corner. So do they still try to clear him through waivers to get him onto the practice squad and risk losing him? Or do they keep a guy who won’t play this year on the 53-man roster and cut somebody else they want to keep? Right now, I’d say there’s about a 35 percent chance Thorson would get claimed if they cut him. But two more productive preseason games and that number is going to go up significantly. Tricky decision for Howie.
     
  • I don’t know why the Pro Football Hall of Fame continually snubs deserving former Eagles like Eric Allen, Harold Carmichael, Al Wistert, Harold Jackson and Seth Joyner. But I do know that it’s absurd that a franchise that’s been around for 88 years is represented by only SIX players who spent more than half their career here: Dawk, Reggie, Chuck Bednarik, Pete Pihos, Tommy McDonald and Steve Van Buren. That’s it.
     
  • It’s great that Ronald Darby is back, and it’s not that I don’t like Darby, but I can’t help thinking Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones are the Eagles’ two best options right now at outside corner.
     
  • I hope things work out for Braxton Miller with the Browns. He’s a good kid and things haven’t worked out for him since he got hurt in 2014 and lost his job quarterback Ohio State. He’s changed positions, becoming a wide receiver, and bounced from the Texans to the Eagles to the Browns. It’s been a rough few years. But I’ve got to be honest. I never saw him make one play at training camp. The Eagles were pretty high on him going into camp, but he just never ever flashed.
     
  • The Eagles and Packers are the only NFL teams that haven’t had a 50-catch running back in either of the last two seasons. As much as the Eagles work with all their backs in the receiving game, I’m not sure they’ll have one this year either. I do think Miles Sanders will eventually become a dangerous NFL receiver, but that’s probably a year or two away.
     
  • What the heck happened to Stefen Wisniewski? I’ve never seen a guy just lose the ability to snap the football accurately like he has. It’s like Macky Sasser. Or Chuck Knoblauch. The inability to execute the most routine play. Wisniewski is still a solid guard, but he’s here to back up the three inside positions, and if you can’t trust him to play center, does it make sense to keep him? Wisniewski has started a ton of games in the league at center and was a Super Bowl starter at guard two years ago, but I’m not sure the Eagles can afford to keep him around.

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Eagles vs. Ravens 2019 preseason: Start time, TV schedule, live stream and storylines

Eagles vs. Ravens 2019 preseason: Start time, TV schedule, live stream and storylines

After facing the Ravens for two joint practices this week, the Eagles will host them in a preseason game tonight at the Linc.

Here’s everything you need to know:

6 p.m.: Quick Slants on NBCSP
6:30 p.m.: Eagles Pregame Live on NBCSP
7:30 p.m.: Eagles vs. Ravens on NBC10
10:30 p.m.: Eagles Postgame Live on NBCSP

The television broadcasters will be Scott Graham (play-by-play), Ross Tucker (analyst) and Dave Spadaro (sideline).

Merrill Reese, Mike Quick and Howard Eskin will have the call on 94 WIP.

Dress rehearsal no more

This third preseason game used to be the one that most resembled real football. The starters used to play into the second half. But even Doug Pederson noted this week that the league is sort of trending away from that. Even if starters play in this game, don’t expect them to play a ton. I suspect we won’t see Carson Wentz at all this preseason.

But there are plenty of other reasons to watch this game. Check out this list of 10 players.

I remember you!

The Eagles and Ravens had two joint practices against each other this week and Tuesday began to get a little chippy at the end. That should set up a fun matchup in this game. I know the Eagles game-planned a little bit for this week, so that means they game-planned for the preseason game too. From that perspective, we might be able to get a little more out of this game than others.

Quarterback shuffle

Josh McCown hasn’t been with the Eagles for long, but there’s a chance he plays against the Ravens. He looked pretty good for the two days we saw him this week and he’s been around long enough that throwing him into a preseason game early won’t be too much to handle. But after that, we’ll see Cody Kessler and Clayton Thorson. The Eagles should probably play Thorson ahead of Kessler this week because Kessler isn’t long for this roster and Thorson deserves reps with higher-string players.

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