APPLETON, Wis. — No more rotation. No more excuses.
When the Eagles line up against the Packers on Thursday night at Lambeau, they will be starting the same young trio of cornerbacks we watched all summer at training camp.
Ronald Darby (hamstring) is expected to be out “for a little while” and Jalen Mills is still a few weeks from a possible return off the PUP. That means Rasul Douglas, Sidney Jones and Avonte Maddox are up … full-time.
“We’re all on the same page,” Douglas said, “we all see things the same way.”
Because Mills has been on the PUP and because Darby was slow getting back from his torn ACL from last year, Douglas, Jones and Maddox were the three starters for the entire spring and most of the summer. And, for the most part, they performed really well. In fact, they performed well enough this summer to prompt me to wonder if they wouldn’t be the best combo possible. Seeing Darby play the first three games didn’t change that thought.
During the first three games of the season, Jim Schwartz has been using a rotation at his cornerback spots. While Maddox has held down the nickel job, the other three have rotated outside. While Darby is still just 25, he’s the most experienced of the group.
Now, the younger three will have to take the reins and they’ll have to start against a Hall of Fame quarterback in Aaron Rodgers tonight.
“Those guys have built up a lot of good snaps and have been there for us and have played consistent ball for us and have made some plays,” Schwartz said. “But what they've done in the past isn't going to make any difference now.”
Now in his third year, this expanded role is nothing new for Douglas. In each of his first two seasons, he has been thrust into a starting job after Darby suffered an injury. In 2017, Darby dislocated his ankle, so Douglas started five games until Darby could return. And last year, he took over the starting job for good (nine starts including playoffs) after Darby tore his ACL.
Douglas is just 24.
Jones and Maddox are both just 23.
While there are plenty of valid questions about this secondary, over the next few weeks we might get a chance to see how these guys might fit into the long-term plan at the position.
The Eagles might actually be able to find some stability from knowing who their three starters are going into a game. The rotation seemed disjointed and Darby had been struggling.
I asked Malcolm Jenkins if they could use their recall of this starting group from training camp and he said they didn’t need to.
“Our defense is not about to change,” Jenkins said. “I don’t care if you went out there and played corner.”
That probably wouldn’t end well. Luckily for the Eagles, I’ll be in the press box tonight at Lambeau.
We’ll see how those young corners do.
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