Making sense of the Eagles' Ronald Darby contract

Making sense of the Eagles' Ronald Darby contract

Why bring back a rehabbing Ronald Darby on a fairly sizable contract — one year at somewhere north of $8 million — when you already have a large stable of promising young corners who carried the Eagles down the stretch last year and through the playoffs and are all making minimum wage or close to it?

It’s a fair question. It’s a good question.

When last year ended, the Eagles were getting very good outside corner play from Rasul Douglas and Avonte Maddox, although Maddox did come back to earth a bit in the playoffs. Not surprising for a rookie fourth-round pick.

But we all saw tons of potential from Douglas, who made tremendous progress as a cover corner and proved to be as capable a tackling corner as we’ve seen around here since Sheldon Brown.

The question with Maddox is does he end up at safety or corner, and the Eagles answered that — at least temporarily — when they restructured Rodney McLeod, which means Malcolm Jenkins and McLeod are your starting safeties in 2019 if McLeod is healthy.

Then there’s Jalen Mills, who fans love to hate and struggled last year before he got hurt. But Mills was a starter on a Super Bowl team and is very good in the red zone. And there’s Sidney Jones, who the Eagles liked enough to draft in the second round in 2017 even though they knew he couldn’t play for a year.

And Cre’Von LeBlanc, who really took ownership of the slot late in the season.

A lot of intriguing talent. A lot of intriguing young talent.

You would think the Eagles could go into training camp with Douglas, Maddox, Mills, Jones and LeBlanc at corner and let everybody compete for the two outside spots and the slot.

And that would have given the Eagles a pretty good secondary.

I saw enough from Douglas and Maddox the second half of last year to feel like they would wind up outside, with LeBlanc inside. That would allow Jones to back up outside as he continues to grow as a player and allow Mills to take his time getting healthy.

But most of these guys are versatile and can play inside or outside and in some cases safety as well, so there were a lot of interesting possibilities.

I would go into the 2019 season with that group.

So why Darby?

Because one absolute law of the NFL is that you can never have enough cornerbacks.

If last year didn’t teach us that, I don’t know what ever will.

The Eagles lost Mills with a foot injury in the Jacksonville game, and they lost Darby a week later against Dallas. Between injuries and guys just not playing well, they went through 10 cornerbacks during the season. And still made the playoffs.

It’s easy to sit back and say, Douglas, Maddox and LeBlanc can hold down corner, but the reality is that those three have started a combined 35 games in their careers.

They’ve shown promise, but none of them are a proven commodity over the long term. 

And relying on promise and potential isn’t always the best way to build an NFL team.

Darby — when healthy — is very good. He’s fast and aggressive, has good size and is fearless.

As much as I like the promise that Douglas and Maddox have shown and the potential Jones has and the spirit that LeBlanc played with last year and Mills’ swagger from the Super Bowl run, a healthy Darby is the Eagles’ most talented cornerback.

Now, the healthy part is key. If Darby can’t get through 2019 without getting hurt, the Eagles are off the hook with no cap hit in 2020. They'll move on, much like they did with Jordan Hicks.

There are still a lot of unknowns in the secondary. Mills, Darby and McLeod are all coming off injuries and could presumably start the season on the PUP list.

The group the Eagles start with will likely not be the one they finish with.

So the more talent you can stockpile, the better your chances of having a capable crew once January rolls around.

The cap space was there. Darby wanted to be here. He knows the system. The deal is team-friendly.

So there’s no downside to this. It’s simple. The Eagles are a better team with Darby than without him.

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Some thoughts on the latest anonymously sourced report about Eagles’ offense

Some thoughts on the latest anonymously sourced report about Eagles’ offense

A day after ESPN’s Josina Anderson quoted an anonymous Eagles player upset the team didn’t land cornerback Jalen Ramsey, Anderson is now reporting on some frustration brewing about the offense. 

Here’s what Anderson said on NFL Live on Thursday afternoon: 

“With the team being 3-3, obviously, an Eagles source also talked to me about how they feel like that offense is functioning. One of the things that they said is, ‘We need to make bleep simpler. Sometimes we just need to handle what is manageable.’ They said, ‘Even Peyton Manning knew when to check it down.’ Carson Wentz right now is 38 percent on passes that travel 15 air yards, has three interceptions on passes like that, which is tied for most in the league. He also has 148 passes on those that are 10 yards or fewer. Right now, he has nine touchdowns and zero interceptions on passes like that. So I do think it is an apt point.” 

While the specific criticism doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, I suppose it is newsworthy that there’s criticism of Carson Wentz and maybe (?) Doug Pederson at all. 

But the whole thing seems a little strange. Here are some thoughts on the report, its contents and what it means:

1. The actual criticism doesn’t make much sense to me. Who has watched this team over the past month and thought, ‘Hey, they really ought to check down more!’? The biggest problem with this offense since DeSean Jackson has been missing is the lack of a downfield passing game. And this source wants Wentz to check down more? It doesn’t add up. The stats are also kind of weird. Of course more interceptions happen on passes with lower probability rates. 

2. And … “Even Peyton Manning knew when to check down.” Even the most cerebral quarterback in NFL history knew what to do? Is that what we’re saying here? I guess maybe this means that even the best quarterbacks don’t take deep shots all the time, but Wentz really hasn’t done that this year. In fact, he’s 10th in the league in air yards per attempt. 

3. While the exact criticism seems strange, it is still probably noteworthy that there’s any criticism or frustration at all, and that someone felt strongly enough to leak those thoughts to a reporter. It’s not the first time we’ve seen anonymous source(s) speak critically of Wentz and/or the offense. 

4. And this isn’t the first time Anderson has reported on frustration within the Eagles locker room. Last year, there was a report that one player thought Wentz was “over-targeting Zach Ertz.” 

It would be speculation to assume this is the same player, but it seems like Anderson has become a sounding board of sorts for frustrations about the offense. 

5. Source-guessing isn’t worth it. I’m sure everyone has their hunches on who said what and I’m sure the Eagles and Wentz would like to know, but it’s a pointless exercise. 

6. The only thing more pointless than source-guessing is going back to the Wentz vs. Foles debate. Nick Foles is gone. The Eagles are Wentz’s team. 

7. If this is supposed to be a criticism of Wentz, I don’t really understand it. Could he play better? Sure. But he’s so far down on the list of Eagles’ problems this season. He hasn’t been the one dropping passes or fumbling the ball or getting burnt by deep passes. In fact, he’s played pretty well, considering all that. I also give him credit for how well he’s handled these anonymous criticisms in the past. He’ll probably handle this one the same way.

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Eagles Injury Update: Nigel Bradham misses practice again ahead of Cowboys game

Eagles Injury Update: Nigel Bradham misses practice again ahead of Cowboys game

Nigel Bradham on Thursday missed his second straight practice because of an ankle injury, which is not a good sign for his possible availability Sunday night in Dallas. 

Bradham injured his ankle in the loss to Minnesota. On Wednesday, he limped through the locker room with his left ankle wrapped. 

If Bradham doesn’t play this weekend and without Zach Brown, who was cut on Monday, the Eagles’ top linebackers are likely to be Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nathan Gerry and undrafted rookie T.J. Edwards. The Eagles also have Duke Riley and recently called up Alex Singleton. 

DeSean Jackson (abdomen) wasn’t practicing either. It’s looking like a long shot that he’ll be able to play against Dallas. 

Here's the official injury report: 

Cox (illness) returned after missing Wednesday. He’ll be good to go this weekend. 

Darby (hamstring) was a limited participant to start the week, but he was able to practice again on Thursday, again as a limited participant. 

Mills (foot) is not active yet, but there’s an open roster spot waiting for him if he’s able to return this week. Since he’s not on the 53-man roster, he’s not required to be on the injury report. It’s a good sign that he was practicing again today. 

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