Eagles corners quietly showing off special capability this summer

Eagles corners quietly showing off special capability this summer

While Sidney Jones has naturally been one of the focal points of Eagles training camp, it’s time to give Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby their due. 

Both have been great so far this summer. 

Andt then when you start thinking about Mills and Darby and Jones and Rasul Douglas and De’Vante Bausby, we’re looking at a group of cornerbacks that are already deep and could be special. 

“We don’t have a ceiling,” Mills said confidently last week. 

Think about this: With how good Jones has looked this early, he’d be starting for most teams. After all, he was a first-round talent just a year ago. But Mills and Darby haven’t faltered even a little bit. Both have been shutdown guys through the first 10 days of camp. 

Everyone has taken notice. 

“They're both having outstanding camps,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “They’re making plays on the ball, they're playing with confidence. Those are two important things for corners. I think that both of those guys really elevated their games.”

This is really our first time to see Darby in training camp. The Jordan Matthews trade didn’t happen until Aug. 11. So this time last year, Darby was still up in Buffalo and the Eagles were still concerned about the position. 

Darby had to hit the ground running, pardon the cliche, when he arrived to the NovaCare Complex last summer. And then in the first week of the regular season, he dislocated his ankle and missed the next eight games. 

Schwartz said — and Darby agreed — that between coming late and the injury, it just felt like Darby was playing catchup all of last season. 

He’s caught up. 

“He's had an outstanding offseason,” Schwartz said. “I'm not just talking about training camp, I’m talking about OTAs and phase one, phase two. He’s in a different place than he was last year.”

Darby, 24, is entering the final year of his rookie contract, so a big season and a nice payday could follow. With Jones waiting to take over as a starter and cornerstone of the team, it’s hard to envision the Eagles’ handing Darby a huge deal, which is why trade rumors have been hovering over him. Darby on Monday joked that as long as his password worked on the team-issued iPad, he was still on the team. 

Sure, the Eagles could trade him still. But I’m pretty excited to see what he can do with a full offseason in the system. 

And Mills, who has never lacked for confidence, is coming off a season in which he really came into his own. No one thinks about him as the former seventh-round pick. He’s now the "Green Goblin," the guy who made some huge plays during the run that brought the Lombardi Trophy to Philly. 

And now, Darby, Mills and Jones have the potential to be great in 2018. This is what the Eagles have been building toward. 

This will be Schwartz’s third season as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator and there’s not one cornerback on the roster from when he was hired. We’ve seen a complete transformation of the position in less than three years. Heck, we’ve seen an incredible transformation from the 2016 season.

Within two years, the Eagles have gone from Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll to having a stable full of young, talented and cheap corners. 

They’ve gone from cornerback being a worrisome weak spot to an absolute strength, with newfound depth. 

“You have to come ready to compete every day,” Darby said. “That one day you're feeling lazy, tired, nicked up, another player out there is busting his a--, going all out. It helps you to push.” 

Darby and Mills have been definitely pushing every day during this training camp. The Eagles haven’t had a group of corners like this in a decade and there’s plenty of reason to be excited. 

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Saints plan against Eagles was to ‘put the game on Wentz’

Saints plan against Eagles was to ‘put the game on Wentz’

The Saints had a plan coming into Sunday’s game: Make Carson Wentz beat them. 

He obviously couldn’t. 

We know the Saints’ plan because NBC Sports’ Peter King was embedded with Sean Payton the Saints for their preparations Saturday night and he learned some fascinating things. One of the most fascinating things was how the Saints wanted the game to go. 

Here’s an excerpt from King’s Football Morning in America:

And then, a bit of a surprise. “We want to put the game on [Eagles quarterback Carson] Wentz,” Payton said. Payton likes Wentz as a player, but his player-personnel analyst, Ryan Herman, gives him trends and numbers every week, and Payton tells the group two interesting ones about Wentz, from Herman: The Eagles are 1-11 when Wentz plays and they allow more than 26 points. And he’s 0-9 when he passes for between 308 and 364 yards, the point being if he does that, the Eagles likely won’t be running the ball well, and the Saints feel they can beat a one-dimensional offense.

Wentz had what was probably the worst game of his professional career Sunday in New Orleans, passing for 156 yards and three interceptions (see story)

If nothing else, this is proof to Doug Pederson to avoid being one-dimensional. His lack of commitment to the run game, at times, can play right into what the opposition wants. As far as Wentz, I’m sure this is true to some extent with most quarterbacks. Most teams would rather face a one-dimensional offense. But it’s still worth noting the Saints were comfortable seeing if Wentz could beat them. 

The other telling part of King’s column was that the Saints wanted to attack Sidney Jones as he returned from a hamstring injury. 

“Our emphasis in this game is to run at 22 [cornerback Sidney Jones],” Payton said. “He’s coming off a hamstring, and we don’t think he can hold up.”

They were right. On the Saints’ first play from scrimmage, they ran right at Jones. Mark Ingram ran through an arm-tackle attempt from Jones and scurried for a gain of 38 yards. The Saints also wanted to throw at Jones and they did. 

Eventually, Jones might be a good player (I still think he will be), but Sunday, he was an inexperienced corner coming off a soft tissue injury. The Saints had a good plan to exploit him and, sure enough, Jones didn’t finish the game. He left with a hamstring injury again.

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Against Saints, Eagles see a Carson Wentz we've never seen before

Against Saints, Eagles see a Carson Wentz we've never seen before

NEW ORLEANS — This was a Carson Wentz we’ve never seen before.

Throwing balls up for grabs. Making poor decisions. Unable to get into a rhythm. Making mistake after mistake.

And never being able to fix it.

Wentz stumbled through the worst game of his three-year NFL career Sunday against the NFL’s 31st-ranked pass defense.

The 48 part of 48-7 wasn’t that surprising. The Saints have been doing this to everybody.

The 7 part was shocking, considering the Saints had been allowing nearly 30 points a game.

“I’ve played a lot of football games in my career and this is one of the worst losses I’ve ever been a part of, and yes, it’s frustrating,” Wentz said. “It’s frustrating all the way around. Offensively, defensively, special teams. We just got beat. We have to be better, and it starts with me.”

Until Sunday, Wentz had been able to overcome his slow starts with big finishes.

Against a Saints defense that had given up 19 touchdowns and had just six interceptions while allowing a monstrous 108.8 passer rating through nine games, Wentz was 19 for 33 for 156 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions.

“The last couple weeks, it’s (been) frustrating,” Wentz said. “I definitely take a lot of it on my plate, on my shoulders. I have to come out better.”

How bad was Wentz?

• He became the first Eagle to throw three interceptions and no touchdowns in a game since Matt Barkley against the Cowboys in 2013, the first starting QB to do it since Donovan McNabb against the Panthers in the 2003 playoffs and the first in a regular-season game since Ty Detmer against the Colts in 1996.

• Wentz’s 31.9 passer rating is lowest by an Eagles starting quarterback in 11 years, since A.J. Feeley had a 30.0 rating against the Seahawks in a 28-24 loss at the Linc.

• It’s also worst against the Saints since Mark Sanchez had a 27.0 rating in a 24-10 win over the Jets in 2009.

• Wentz saw his NFL-record streak of games with at least one TD pass and one or fewer interceptions end at 22.

• Wentz also saw his streak of consecutive games with a passer rating of at least 83 end at 21, three short of Peyton Manning’s record streak of 24.

The Eagles have now lost five of their last seven games after a 2-1 start, and Wentz, like everybody else, has no answers.

“We know what we’re capable of,” he said. “I know. The product that we’re putting out there is not up to our standards. I’m not playing up to my standards. I think you go down the list and everybody is saying that.

“But we know the guys we have. We know the talent we have. We know the chemistry we have. It just hasn’t clicked out there all together. At the end of the day, all that really matters is the guys in that building. The guys in that locker room. We all believe. That belief is never going to go anywhere. You’ll never see us quit.”

Wentz’s numbers until Sunday were exceptional, but the Eagles are a 4-6 team that’s won two games since Week 3.

Wentz needs to be better. He needs to start better. He needs to finish better. He needs to be more consistent. He needs to raise the level of the people around him.

Without Wentz playing at an elite level, this team has no chance.

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