cory undlin

Several options for Eagles to replace vacant DBs coach position

Several options for Eagles to replace vacant DBs coach position

Some surprising news on Monday morning, as the Eagles are reportedly losing another key assistant coach.

This time, the Detroit Lions are poaching defensive backs coach Cory Undlin to become their defensive coordinator. The Eagles’ secondary has been decimated by injuries in the last two years and has been mostly disappointing, but filling this position will be very important. 

Here are a few of the Eagles’ options to replace Undlin: 

Dino Vasso: Of the internal candidates, Vasso seems to be the most likely guy to get the job. He has been a defensive quality control coach/assistant secondary coach for all four years under Doug Pederson and Jim Schwartz. Before that, he was with Pederson in Kansas City as a coaching assistant for three years. A graduate of Ridley High School, Vasso played at the University of New Hampshire but then began his coaching career as an offensive intern at Temple in 2011. Vasso coached the DBs at the East-West Shrine Game a few years ago and has been thought of as a rising coach. 

Last season, the Eagles filled their two position coach opening with the assistant position coach. One worked (Phillip Daniels at DL) and one didn’t (Carson Walch at WRs). After the Eagles fired Mike Groh and Walch, who were both internal promotions, there’s been a clamor to hire outside coaches. I understand that but it doesn’t mean all internal hires are bad. Vasso should at least get consideration. 

Tim Hauck: Another obvious internal candidate is Hauck, who has been the Eagles’ safeties coach since 2016. Hauck, 53, is certainly more experienced than Vasso. He had a long playing career in the NFL and has been coaching since 2004. Before he came to Philly in 2016, Hauck was UNLV’s DC/CBs coach and held the DBs coach title in Cleveland in 2012.  

Matt Burke: The last internal candidate is Burke, who joined Schwartz’s staff as a defensive special assistant in 2019. While he’s been sort of in an advisory role, this is a move that could get him onto the core coaching staff. A longtime Schwartz assistant, Burke was the Dolphins’ DC in 2017-18. His history as a position coach has come as a linebackers coach but he played safety at Dartmouth and would likely be able to make the transition.  

Kris Richard: The Cowboys are reportedly going to let the 40-year-old walk. He’s a hot name in the NFL. Richard was the secondary coach in Seattle during the Legion of Boom years and then became the Seahawks’ DC in 2015-17. He had been with the Cowboys since 2018 as their DBs coach and passing game coordinator. The problem with someone like Richard is he’s likely going to keep rising. So he could theoretically be a great DBs coach for one year in Philly and then move on to a DC or HC job.  

Ray Horton: The 59-year-old coach spent the 2019 season with Washington but Ron Rivera isn’t keeping him on the staff. Unless the Browns want to bring Horton back for a third stint as their defensive coordinator, he’s available. He has significant experience as a secondary coach and a defensive coordinator.  

Donnie Henderson: Henderson is 62 now but he was once the DC for the Jets and Lions back in the early 2000s. In Schwartz’s one season as DC in Buffalo in 2014, Henderson was his defensive backs coach, so there’s familiarity here. Henderson most recently was the defensive coordinator for the Salt Lake Stallions of the AAF.  

Perry Fewell: The veteran coach finished the 2019 season as the Panthers interim head coach and even interviewed for the real job before Carolina hired Matt Rhule. Another coach with an impressive resume as a DBs coach and a defensive coordinator. 

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Eagles lose defensive backs coach Cory Undlin to Detroit Lions

Eagles lose defensive backs coach Cory Undlin to Detroit Lions

Matt Patricia has hired Eagles defensive backs coach Cory Undlin as the Lions’ new defensive coordinator, according to Field Yates of ESPN.

Patricia and Undlin were entry-level assistant coaches on Bill Belichick’s staff in 2004 and have remained close.

Undlin replaces Paul Pasqualoni, who informed the Lions earlier this month that he was leaving coaching. Pasqualoni was head coach when Donovan McNabb was at Syracuse. McNabb, of course, quarterbacked the Eagles when they faced Undlin, Patricia and the 2004 Patriots in the Super Bowl.

Chip Kelly hired Undlin as the Eagles’ defensive backs coach after the 2014 season to replace John Lovett, who had been with the team for two years, and Doug Pederson kept him in the same role when he replaced Kelly after the 2015 season.

The Eagles have allowed the 10th-most passing yards in the NFL during Undlin’s four years under Jim Schwartz, but opponents have thrown the third-most passes. Opposing quarterbacks had an 87.4 passer rating against the Eagles during that span, 12th-lowest in the league, and completed 62.1 percent of their passes, 8th-worst in the league.

During that four-year period, the Eagles allowed 44 pass plays of 40 yards or more, 5th-most in the league, and 18 TD passes of 40 yards or more, 4th-most in the league.

But the collection of cornerbacks Undlin has had to work with hasn’t exactly been inspiring, and he deserves a ton of credit for holding things together over the last three years with a constantly rotating and changing lineup.

Some 15 different cornerbacks started at least one game for the Eagles over the last four years, and 19 played meaningful snaps in the regular season.

In 2017, the Eagles won the Super Bowl with Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby starting at cornerback and Patrick Robinson in the slot. 

What is Undlin’s role in the slow or non-existent development of 2nd-round draft pick Sidney Jones and 3rd-round pick Rasul Douglas? It’s impossible to say now, but generally speaking, it appears Undlin has gotten the most out of a collection of late-round picks, street free agents, undrafted players and other teams’ castoffs at cornerback.

Malcolm Jenkins, who hadn’t made a Pro Bowl in his first six seasons in the NFL, made three in five years playing under Undlin.

Dino Vasso is currently the Eagles’ assistant secondary coach and could be a candidate for the opening.

Vasso, who began his coaching career as an intern at Temple in 2011, spent three years as an entry-level assistant under Andy Reid with the Chiefs and followed Pederson to the Eagles after the 2015 season.

Also on Pederson's staff is former Eagle Tim Hauck, who has been safeties coach since 2016. Hauck played 13 seasons in the NFL and was with the Eagles from 1999 through 2001 before finishing his career with the 49ers in 2002.

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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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