Right up there with left tackle, the competition at the second cornerback spot will be one of the most intriguing battles this summer in Eagles training camp.
At least at left tackle, we know there are a couple qualified candidates.
First-year secondary coach Dennard Wilson doesn’t have that luxury.
The candidates are inexperienced and unproven, and Wilson’s job is to find a cornerback to start opposite Darius Slay.
On Wednesday, he spoke about what it’ll take to win the job.
“This offseason, we worked on technique and fundamentals,” Wilson said. “We worked on just the nuances of the game. Understanding where you’re supposed to be, leverage, understanding break points, understanding stems, whoever comes in and puts it all together, that’s who you’re going to see on Sundays.
“I can’t tell you I’m looking for a specific thing. I think we have talent on the roster. We need to get the talent out of them (so they can) go out and produce. I’ve played with all types of corners. It’s not a specific skill set, body, it’s just whatever they do well, they’ve got to do well all the time. If their body allows them to play the deep ball, that’s what they gotta do. If they’re a quicker, faster guy, they gotta win on quick and fast breaking routes. It’s not one specific (type of) player, not one specific attribute. It’s who can put it all together and play smart, intelligent football and be productive. … The guy that wins the job is going to be the best guy for us to go out and compete and win.”
Fourth-year pro Avonte Maddox has to be considered the favorite just because of his experience, even though he didn’t play well at outside corner last year. The other candidates are guys like veteran special teamer Craig James, rookie 4th-round pick Zech McPhearson and youngsters Michael Jacquet, Keyvon Seymour, Josiah Scott and Lavert Hill.
What do these guys have to do to win the job?
“It always comes down to technique and fundamentals,” Wilson said. “Just like anything you do as a person or in anything in life, you’re not going to be great at everything. So the deficiencies you have, you’ve got to work on them. So guys who are diligent and working on those deficiencies, they can mask them, they can hide them. From a coaching standpoint, you can put those guys in position to mask those things as well.
"But it always comes down to eyes, technique and fundamentals, and two things I’m not going to compromise on are effort and toughness. So if they can do that, they can put it together -- they look at the right things, they communicate, they’re where they’re supposed to be when the ball’s in the air and they attack the ball with balance -- that gives them a chance to play.”
There’s still a chance the Eagles will acquire a veteran corner before or during camp. If not, there’s just not much experience here.
Maddox has played in 35 games, starting 23, but he's best suited to the slot or safety. James is going into his fourth year but has played only 83 defensive snaps in his career. The undrafted Jacquet played 159 snaps late last year out of desperation as an undrafted rookie. Seymour has bounced around the league since 2016 but has played only 82 defensive snaps over the last three years. McPhearson is a rookie. Hill has never played. Scott got 80 snaps last year as a rookie with the Jaguars.
There's your candidates.
“Being young in this league is about developing,” Wilson said. “And as a coach, it’s your job to do three things: You've got to teach, motivate and inspire, and that’s what I have to do with them. Whatever talent they have I have to do everything in my power, through time, through attention, to try and get the best out of them. It’s wide-open competition, and whether it’s Michael, whether it’s Craig, whether it’s Josiah, whether it’s Zech, whoever’s here, the best guys who put it together will go out there and play.
“But those young men, they’re all working, they’re all smart, they’re doing their best, and when we come back (for training camp) it’s time to go. There’s no hesitation, they’ve just got to be ready for the moment.”
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