Through the first seven practices of training camp, the Eagles’ starting cornerbacks haven’t changed.
If they keep playing like this, maybe they shouldn’t.
The young trio of Rasul Douglas, Sidney Jones and Avonte Maddox have had their roles shuffled at times in these first seven practices, but have been the three starters every day so far. Collectively, they have put together a very impressive first week of training camp.
And I’m not convinced this trio isn’t the Eagles’ best bet.
That’s saying something, especially considering that Jalen Mills (foot) and Ronald Darby (ACL) — the two starters in Super Bowl LII! — will return at some point from their respective injuries.
“I love the way they’re playing, I love the way they’re competing,” Eagles receiver Nelson Agholor said. “I also love that they’re making plays on the ball. I think they’ve had a good amount of interceptions and have been sure-handed. That’s pretty cool.”
It just seems like every day these guys are making plays.
I’ll start with Jones, who, through the first week of training camp, has been a star. He has picked off multiple passes and is showing off that first-round talent the Eagles thought they were getting when they took him with the 43rd pick after his Achilles injury in 2017. That first season was basically a redshirt year. In 2018, he began the season playing fairly well but was then hampered by a lingering hamstring injury. Now he looks healthy, he looks confident, he looks like a completely different player.
Keeping up with Jones is Douglas, who seems to make plays every day too. While the other two have rotated roles inside and outside, Douglas hasn’t moved. With this current group, he’s been pretty much cemented into his starting role outside. In his first two years in the NFL, Douglas has actually started 12 games, but all as a replacement. Maybe it’s time for him to get one of those roles for good.
And then there’s Maddox, who hasn’t had as splashy of a first week of training camp as the other two, but has been just as solid. As a rookie last season, he played three different positions and played all three well. Ultimately, his best spot might be as a nickel corner, but the Eagles never turn down versatility.
The coolest part about this first week is that all three seem to be feeding off the collective group’s success.
“It’s a great thing,” Jones said. “It’s always a great thing to see your brothers succeed. These are young guys. Obviously, Sul came in with me and Avonte came in last year. We just grow closer together, we grow a bond. We’re happy for each other when we make a play. It’s a team effort. It’s good to see everybody succeeding out here.”
It’s also worth mentioning that Douglas, Jones and Maddox are all still just 23 years old and were all drafted by the Eagles. We’re probably getting a little ahead of ourselves, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that these guys — or at least a couple of them — could be the Eagles’ starting cornerbacks for years to come.
OK, back to this year. What happens when Darby and Mills are ready to return? That’s a fair question. Darby is much closer than Mills and still has a Week 1 return as his goal. The Eagles signed Darby to a one-year contract worth $6.5 million this offseason, so they probably didn’t pay him to sit him. Mills is still on the PUP list, but we know how much Jim Schwartz likes him. And we haven’t even mentioned Cre’Von LeBlanc, who was injured early in camp but played really well last season.
“We can’t wait until those guys come back because there will be more competition in the room, more fun,” Maddox said. “And we want to see them on the field as much as we want to be on the field.”
After all the injuries at corner last season, the Eagles are happy to have depth heading into 2019. But we still have over a month to go before the season opener and we’re not sure which three guys will be on the field against Washington.
The trio I’ve watched for the last week might not be a bad option.
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