Eagles

Looking at the wild, injury-plagued year for Eagles' secondary

Looking at the wild, injury-plagued year for Eagles' secondary

The Eagles overcame a ton of injuries during the 2017 season on their way to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, but the 2018 season was a lot different. 

For a while, all their injuries happened to the same position group. 

By the time the season ended in New Orleans on Sunday, the Eagles had incredibly used 15 defensive backs on defense during the season. No team in the NFL used more and the NFL average was 11.8. 

Of the five starting defensive backs this season, only Malcolm Jenkins remained by season’s end. Three of the five were on IR. 

So here’s a look at all 15 defensive backs the Eagles used this season with their snaps in the regular season and in the playoffs:

Malcolm Jenkins: 1039/141
Jenkins was clearly the glue this season. It’s scary to think about where this team would have been without his play and leadership. He played every single defensive snap in the regular season and playoffs. He was very deservingly named to his third-career Pro Bowl for his efforts this season. He’s under contract for two more seasons. 

Corey Graham: 656/141
Graham was close to retiring before this season, but ended up playing the second most snaps of everyone in this secondary. That was not ideal and Jim Schwartz admitted as much. But after Graham’s fatal error on 4th-and-15 in Nashville, he actually played better. Safe money is on the 33-year-old retiring this offseason. 

Rasul Douglas: 543/118
By the end of the season, Douglas had done enough to warrant serious consideration to be a starting cornerback next season. Sure, he had a shaky start to his season, but ended up leading the team with three interceptions and was a really good tackler. He dealt with some minor injuries too, but played in every game. The defense struggled when he was forced to leave in the divisional round. 

Ronald Darby: 542/0
One of the initial starters, Darby tore his ACL in Week 10 against the Cowboys. The Eagles have an interesting decision to make on Darby. He’s still just 25 and is a free agent, but is also coming off a serious injury. 

Avonte Maddox: 540/135
Maybe Maddox started to get picked on some late in the season, but he had a tremendous rookie season, especially for a fourth-round pick. He played in 13 games as a nickel corner, safety and outside corner. The Eagles missed him when Maddox was out for three games with a knee injury. It’s likely Maddox will be a big part of the secondary in Year 2; we just don’t know where yet. 

Jalen Mills: 457/0
Another starter when the 2018 season began, Mills hurt his foot in London against the Jaguars and was never able to return. In fact, it seemed like his foot kept getting worse and worse. Mills is entering Year 4 in 2019 and is still a Jim Schwartz favorite, so don’t count on him going to the bench. 

Cre’Von LeBlanc: 351/108
Strap was one of the greatest surprises of the 2018 season and the Eagles might have found a hidden gem. They claimed him off waivers on Nov. 5 and he eventually become the Eagles’ nickel corner. He played so well that he ought to be the frontrunner to win that job next season. His INT in the Saints playoff game was incredible. 

Sidney Jones: 322/0 
A really disappointing season for the former second-round pick. After missing most of his rookie season as he recovered from an Achilles tear, he played in just nine games this season because of hamstring injuries. The lasting image of his 2018 season will be from the first Saints game, when Drew Brees kept picking on the injured corner. But it’s too early to call him a bust. Jones is still just 22 and will be in the mix for a job next spring and summer. 

Tre Sullivan: 219/87
Sullivan ended up being another pleasant surprise. He was on the initial roster, but then spent a month on the practice squad before rejoining the 53. By the end of the season, the Eagles felt comfortable enough to use him frequently at safety while Jenkins slid into the box. Big strides from Sullivan this season. 

Rodney McLeod: 162/0
The Eagles lost McLeod to an ACL injury in the third game of the season and he was missed the rest of the year, but stayed as involved as he could. The Eagles might ask him to restructure his contract, but they could definitely use him back next season. 

De’Vante Bausby: 147/0
There was a time in the spring where Bausby was getting first-team nickel reps, but he didn’t make the Eagles’ initial roster and didn’t last long on the practice squad the first time. Eventually in November, the Eagles added him to the practice squad and called him up on Nov. 17. But he was waived on Dec. 24 after a few subpar performances. He started against the Giants along with Chandon Sullivan. That really happened. 

Dexter McDougle: 106/0
Remember this guy? He was actually on the team this season and was briefly the Eagles’ starting nickel corner. He was on the roster for just a month, though, and was released to make room for LeBlanc. McDougle’s performance in London was awful and he was released before the next game. 

Chandon Sullivan: 87/0
Thanks to other injuries, Sullivan was promoted from the practice squad on Oct. 25 and was on the roster until he was waived on Dec. 24. In those two months, he played in five games and had one start. Even Sullivan suffered an injury this season. 

Deiondre’ Hall: 6/0
The Eagles traded a seventh-round pick for Hall, who was primarily a special teams player for the Eagles. It was probably a little telling that the Eagles refused to play Hall at safety even when they had a need for healthy defensive backs. He seemed to be a pretty important teams player though. 

Josh Hawkins: 0/21  
Hawkins was signed to the practice squad on Dec. 11 and was promoted to the active roster on Dec. 24. His only playing time came in the divisional round game, when he was thrust into action against the Saints and Brees immediately threw to his side for a touchdown. Tough spot for the young defensive back. But that’s how things went all season. 

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The Giants are in disarray (so are the Redskins and Cowboys)

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The Giants are in disarray (so are the Redskins and Cowboys)

While we await confirmation Nick Foles will become an unrestricted free agent (more on that here and here), let’s check in with the rest of the NFC East. Good news, Eagles fans — the club may not get anything in return for their Super Bowl-winning quarterback, but their offseason is still off to a better start than their division rivals’.

The Giants are a mess

The headlines have not been kind to the organization over the past week. Odell Beckham Jr.? Possibly on the move. Landon Collins? As good as gone. And the Giants still don’t know what they’re doing about a quarterback for 2019.

The mere possibility the Giants could trade their best player and one of the top receivers in the NFL should be concerning to any QB who might take the job. Beckham was reportedly on the block last season too, and the organization ultimately decided not to pull the trigger, yet league insider Jay Glazer boldly predicted a swap is coming this offseason. The key word there is predicts, not reports, but Glazer is connected and wouldn’t throw that out there on a whim.

While Beckham’s fate is unclear, Collins seems certain his time in New York is over. The three-time Pro Bowl selection cleaned out his locker on Wednesday, then took to social media so there was no mistaking how the action relates to his impending free agency.

The Giants appear poised to get weaker on defense, perhaps on both sides of the ball, yet ideally would find a signal caller to replace Eli Manning. Sounds like their front office has a great sales pitch!

But Colin Cowherd says Ciara wants to live in New York, so I’m sure the Seahawks plan on shipping Russell Wilson — a top-10 franchise quarterback — over to the Giants any day now.

Washington, also a mess

Similar to the Giants, Washington needs a quarterback and may lose a key cog on defense.

It was no secret Alex Smith would miss 2019 with an injury, and general manager Doug Williams more or less confirmed the club is searching for a solution. I believe Washington has a better team, more aggressive management and thus is a more likely landing spot for Foles than New York, so this a situation to monitor in free agency. For now, the offense is in a bind.

Washington is not expected to use the franchise tag on Preston Smith, either. The 26-year-old outside linebacker is headed toward free agency with 24.5 sacks in four NFL seasons.

The Cowboys are a mess, too

Jason Garrett is officially a lame-duck head coach in the final year of his contract. Nobody knows who will be calling the plays for the Cowboys offense in 2019 — Garrett or new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, who was the team’s backup quarterback less than two years ago — but the staff in place led the best players in the conference to seven points in the Pro Bowl in January. What could possibly go wrong?

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Would Giants really let Landon Collins become a free agent?

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Would Giants really let Landon Collins become a free agent?

Landon Collins is arguably the Giants’ best defensive player and he’s just 25 years old. 

So would the Giants really let him walk? 

It would be hard to believe, but apparently, this happened today: 

After that tweet, Paul Schwartz from the New York Post reported Collins had, in fact, not cleaned out his locker. 

Well, who would know if Collins cleaned out his locker today? Collins might have an idea. 

It certainly seems like the situation between player and team has reached a boiling point of sorts. 

A few days ago, I wrote the Giants simply couldn’t afford to let Collins walk, so if they couldn’t reach a long-term deal, they would need to slap a franchise tag on him. And it seems very possible the source of this contention could be over the chance the Giants slap a franchise tag on Collins. 

Here’s what NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo had to say about the situation: 

That all seems to make sense. According to other recent reports before today, there wasn’t much movement between Collins and the Giants on contract talks. Collins has made it clear he doesn’t want to be franchise tagged, which could set up a situation where the Giants tag him (the safety tag will be about $12 million in 2019) and there’s a standoff. 

Collins has been named to the Pro Bowl in each of the last three seasons and was an All-Pro in 2016. 

I still think the Giants really can’t afford to let Collins leave. He’s too good and too young and they’d miss him too much. In my list of the top pending free agents from the division, I ranked Collins behind just DeMarcus Lawrence and Nick Foles (see story)

If Collins does end up as a free agent, that’s great news for the Eagles because while they probably wouldn’t be in the market for his services, at least he’d likely be leaving the division. 

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