Eagles

What Ronald Darby's return means for rest of Eagles' secondary

What Ronald Darby's return means for rest of Eagles' secondary

There are going to be a lot of moving pieces in the Eagles' secondary very soon.

Most likely this weekend.

Ronald Darby will move from a long-term injury layoff back into the starting lineup at left cornerback. Jalen Mills will move from left corner — where he's played very well in Darby's eight-game absence — back over to right cornerback. And Rasul Douglas will move from right corner to a lesser role. This from defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who warned that he's still not positive Darby will be ready to return this weekend.

Darby, who the Eagles acquired from the Bills a month before opening day, hasn't played since suffering an ankle injury in the opener in Washington.

Although he's been practicing for a few weeks, Schwartz said his status for the Eagles-Cowboys game Sunday night in Arlington, Texas, won't be determined until the defensive coaches see him practice this week.

"There's really nothing set in stone right now because we don't 100 percent know if he's going to be back," Schwartz said.

"He's trending the right way, he was back on the practice field (Monday). He was back on the practice field last week doing some scout team stuff. So that will sort of develop as we go."

And when Darby does return, he'll go back to left corner, where he played in Buffalo and where he opened the season.

"Most likely, most likely," Schwartz said. "He's played the left a long time. Those guys can all play both positions. They can all play both sides. I think that's important.

"Again, this is further on down the line, but if we get in positions where we want to match a receiver, he has the ability to do that. Last week, on the practice field, he took turns at both sides, and I think that's just for overall development.

"The one thing is, if there's two wide receivers and the corners have to match, you're going over to the right side anyway, so both guys have to be able to play both positions. But that's the position we sort of settled on to start the season — the left corner, and I would anticipate when he's healthy and ready to go that he would go back into that spot."

Douglas, the third-round pick from West Virginia, is tied for second among NFL rookies with two interceptions after being inactive in the opener.

Schwartz said the 22-year-old Douglas will still have some sort of role even when Darby does return.

"We've gotten contributions from a lot of different guys this year," he said Tuesday. "I would expect that to stay the same.

"The way those DBs work, it's just a matter of time before they're out there. Everybody has a role somewhere along the line, and we'll try to keep that in place and keep a lot of people involved. We've done that by necessity and also by plan so far this year."

Patrick Robinson will remain in the slot, where he's been all year, other than the second half of the 49ers game, which he missed with a concussion.

His reps were taken that day by Dexter McDougle, who was released last week, coinciding with Darby's anticipated return.

With Hall of Fame induction nearing, Brian Dawkins realizes he's just like you

With Hall of Fame induction nearing, Brian Dawkins realizes he's just like you

Brian Dawkins always had a symbiotic relationship with Eagles fans.

He loved them, they loved him, and there isn’t a single Eagle in the last 50 years who was as universally adored as Dawkins.

Try to find an Eagles fan that didn’t like him. You can’t do it.

In 18 days, Dawkins will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and on Tuesday he talked about the Eagles fans who cheered for him about every autumn Sunday from 1996 through 2008.

"I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, but I believe if a Philadelphia Eagles fan had a chance to play, if all of a sudden they woke up and they woke up in the team hotel and they knew the game plan and they had knowledge of the system, athletic ability to run and to jump and they played the position that I played, the safety position, I believe the majority of them, if not all of them, would play the game the way that I played it,” Dawkins said.

“They would dance, they would be having a good time … and they would go out and enjoy the opportunity to be on the football field and show it and not be afraid to show their emotions, to play with passion and give everything that they have because that would be the only chance that they would ever get to play the game of football, and that’s how I played.

“I played with a chip on my shoulder, I wanted to have a good time, I danced, I celebrated after plays, I celebrated with my teammates, and they saw that.”

Everybody loves Dawkins. Not just because of his boundless ability, production in big games and peerless leadership, but because he connected on such a deep level with Eagles fans.

He wore his emotions on his sleeve, and you could tell he felt every loss just as profoundly as even the most rabid Eagles fan.

“It was genuine,” he said. “I was a genuine player when it came to, I’m going to give everything that I have, I’m not going to make excuses for anything. As a matter of fact, I’m going to take the burden upon myself. Even if it’s not my fault, it’s going to be my fault. I’m going to take it away from my teammates and put it on myself.

“I’m never going to make excuses. I’m going to try my best and never make those mistakes [again] that I made in the game. And I believe that they saw that, they recognized that, and the feeling is mutual.

“I love Eagles fans. Yeah, they’re crazy. They’re twisted in some ways. But I love them, because I am. There are a lot of parts of me that are twisted in a lot of different ways. That’s why I did some of the crazy stuff on the field that I did. So like, we fit. Like hand in glove, we fit.”

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Eagles 2018 training camp battles: Nickel cornerback

Eagles 2018 training camp battles: Nickel cornerback

As we get near the start of the Eagles’ 2018 training camp, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the key position battles to watch this summer. 

Today we’ll look at slot cornerback. 

Names to know

Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, De'Vante Bausby, Malcolm Jenkins

What to watch

This should be interesting during training camp. The Eagles need to find a solid replacement after losing Patrick Robinson in free agency this offseason. Robinson, the veteran journeyman, was having a terrible training camp last summer before he was moved into the slot following the Ronald Darby trade. But once he got into that nickel corner spot, he thrived and went on to have a tremendous year. Losing him is big, but the Eagles actually have depth at the CB position, a departure from training camps in previous years. 

The Eagles have a few options in the slot. The only corner who hasn’t had time inside is Rasul Douglas; the team isn’t going to put him there. Even Darby took some reps inside during the spring. But Darby is likely going to stay outside too. 

That leaves Mills, Jones and Bausby battling for the spot. It appears that Mills is probably going to be a starter, but there’s a decent chance that he could line up at outside corner in the Eagles’ base package and move inside in nickel. That’s a lot to ask, but he has been in the defense for two years now and would be able to handle that extended responsibility. 

Jones is really talented and it would make sense to find a way to get last year’s second-round pick (who would have been a first-rounder without an Achilles tear) on the field. That will either come outside in the nickel package or inside. Jones took some reps there this spring and looked good. Ultimately, the team will want to make him a starter, but for now, it can bring him along slowly with a lot of depth at corner. 

Bausby is a name you might not be as familiar with. But after spending last year on the practice squad, he turned some heads this spring. He and D.J. Killings are long shots to win this spot, but Bausby isn’t a long shot to make the roster. I just can’t see Bausby keeping a talented player like Jones off the field, no matter how much the coaching staff likes him. 

The last possibility is to move Jenkins into the slot, which the team will do with certain bigger receivers and tight ends. But it seems very unlikely he’ll take over that role full-time, especially with more depth at corner than safety. 

Prediction

I think the three guys who will be on the field are Mills, Darby and Jones. The real question is how this manifests itself. If I were Jim Schwartz, I would start Mills and Darby and then slide Mills inside in the nickel package, leaving the second-year player to play at his strength position outside. I think Schwartz isn’t going to take my advice on this, though. I think it’s slightly more likely that Mills and Darby stay outside and Jones plays inside when the Eagles use their nickel package. 

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