Trying to make sense of Eagles' cornerback free-for-all

Trying to make sense of Eagles' cornerback free-for-all

It’s impossible to look at all the Eagles’ young cornerbacks without playing that chess game: Who starts inside, who starts outside, who are the backups, who gets cut?

Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills started for a Super Bowl champion before getting hurt last year. Rasul Douglas keeps improving by leaps and bounds. Sidney Jones was a second-round pick who’s finally healthy. Avonte Maddox showed tremendous production at several positions as a rookie. Cre’Von LeBlanc came out of nowhere to lock down the slot.

They’re all young, they’re all athletic, they’re all versatile.

 And with opening day three months away, not one of them has a starting spot locked up.

We’re all fighting and we’ll see how it goes down,” Eagles defensive backs coach Cory Undlin said Monday. “I wouldn’t make any statement on who’s going to be starting until we’re in training camp and we know who’s going to be out there. I’m not going to forecast that. I have no idea.

You can even throw Josh Hawkins and Jeremiah McKinnon into the mix because both have gotten reps this summer.

Do Mills and Darby get their starting spots back when they’re healthy? Can Douglas and Jones displace them if they continue trending upward? Does Maddox stay in the slot or will Mills or Jones wind up there? 

I would say we’ll determine that when we get to the end of training camp and we get ready to play the first game and we’ll base it on who’s ready and who’s healthy and who’s out there and go from there,” Undlin said. “We’ll keep rolling everybody and then when we get to the end we’ll put everybody in the best spot where they can help us.

All the corners will get reps in the slot during training camp except probably Douglas and possibly Darby. Maddox can swing to safety and Douglas and Mills can as well.

There are countless ways this whole thing can line up when the Eagles open the regular season on Sept. 8 against the Redskins.

And depending on the opponent and what it’s offensive strengths are, the Eagles will have the flexibility to approach each game with different guys in different roles.

Obviously when you have a bunch of guys that we feel good about it gives you more options,” Undlin said. “We’re going to put everybody in as many different spots as we can. After last season? Hopefully, we’re not in that situation again, but you never know. So the more guys go down and the more the guys behind them can play different spots it just gives you different options, so we’ll keep letting those guys play different spots and if you get to that situation you don’t have to worry about who goes where. It’s a nice luxury. … Obviously the more spots you know the more valuable you are for the team. I think it helps all those guys just being more prepared and getting a better feel for the defense and they understand how it works.

Undlin on some of his key guys going into the 2019 season:

Rasul Douglas: “He looks good. Very pleased with the spring so far. I would say I’m probably more impressed this spring with his demeanor and his presence in the meeting room. I’m impressed with both, but he’s grown up a lot in the three years he’s been here, so I’m very impressed with that.”

Sidney Jones: “Obviously, he’s been kind of dinged the last two years he’s been here, so the fact that he’s gotten through the 10 practices and he’s still out there -- without saying anything else -- has been the biggest positive. He’s grinding, he’s working hard, he’s got a lot of ball production here in the spring, so he’s doing a good job both inside and outside. Impressed with where he is right now as far as maturity.”

Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby: “Those two guys are in every single meeting, they haven’t missed anything all spring, and I call on them just like they are if they were playing and they’ve done that and it’s been great. Barring the fact that they’re not on the grass, they’ve been outstanding.”

Avonte Maddox: “His best spot will be wherever he can help us the most win games. You knew I was going to say that. He’s been awesome. Going inside and outside and both on the right and left.”

You figure Darby will start once he’s healthy. Why else would they bring him back? I personally think Douglas is going to wind up being the best of the entire bunch and needs to start. Jones was a second-round pick and they want him to start. Maddox is such a playmaker. Mills was a Super Bowl starter and is terrific in the red zone. We saw what Le’Blanc can do.

The Eagles have a ton of fast, smart, young, versatile corners. It’s going to be fun watching this all sort itself out.

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Good injury news! Eagles to get Kamu Grugier-Hill back

Good injury news! Eagles to get Kamu Grugier-Hill back

Eagles linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill has been cleared through concussion protocol and is expected to return to practice on Thursday and will be able to play against the Redskins Sunday.

The circumstances around Grugier-Hill’s injury are a little mysterious, since he played the entire Dolphins game and didn’t appear on the Eagles’ injury report Thursday, four days after the game.

The Eagles didn’t practice Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday after the Dolphins game because they had a long week leading up to the Monday Night Football game against the Giants this past Monday.

Grugier-Hill missed the Giants game, the fourth game he’s missed this year. He missed the first three games of the season with a knee injury that he suffered the first week of training camp. Thursday’s practice will be the Eagles’ first since the Giants game.

Head coach Doug Pederson said Grugier-Hill first reported concussion symptoms last Thursday morning when he reported to the Nova-Care Complex.

Grugier-Hill has averaged 33 snaps per game in the nine games he’s played, third-most among Eagles linebackers, behind Nigel Bradham (60) and Zach Brown (46), who’s no longer with the team.

The Eagles were required to issue an injury report on Wednesday even though they didn’t practice because of the Monday night game.

That report lists players’ status as projections based on whether they would have participated if the Eagles did have a practice Wednesday.

According to that report, Nelson Agholor (knee), Derek Barnett (ankle) and Lane Johnson (ankle) would have missed practice.

Alshon Jeffery (ankle) is also listed on the injury report as “did not practice” since he is technically still on the 53-man roster, although his season is over and he’s expected to be placed on Injured Reserve later this week.

Agholor said on Wednesday that his knee injury has been an issue much longer than he had let on.

The Eagles also listed Jalen Mills (elbow) and Jordan Howard as limited, which means they would have participated in parts of practice if there were one.

Howard has missed four games but has been listed as limited throughout his shoulder injury since he’s cleared for non-contact drills but not contact.

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Doug Pederson highlights 6 young players in postgame speech

Doug Pederson highlights 6 young players in postgame speech

The Eagles snapped their three-game losing streak on Monday night with a gutty 23-17 overtime win over the Giants. 

They were down 14 nothing and lost a few key players during the game, which was a big part of Doug Pederson’s postgame message. 

“I’ve been around a long time in this league as a player and a coach and I can’t tell you that I’ve seen a team hang together like we did all night long,” Pederson said in the video above. “The way you guys battled. Offensively through adversity. We lost a couple more guys tonight. Through adversity, you hang tough. Our young guys stepped up!”

Then Pederson mentioned six younger Eagles by name. Here they are in the order he said them:  

Greg Ward: A practice squad call-up earlier in the year, Ward caught four passes for 34 yards. 

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside: The second-round pick caught two passes for 29 yards, including what might have been the best catch of the season. 

Josh Perkins: Playing tight end and receiver, lining up all over the field, Perkins caught five passes for 37 yards. 

Boston Scott: The 5-6 running back had 128 yards from scrimmage and was the star of the night. 

Sidney Jones: He played just one snap but he made it count on a crucial third-down PBU. 

Halapoulivaati Vaitai: After Lane Johnson went down, Big V stepped in at right tackle. 

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