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.