De'Vante Bausby

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. 

More on the Eagles

5 more Eagles who were impressive during spring practices

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AP Images

5 more Eagles who were impressive during spring practices

As the Eagles wrapped up their spring practices last week, head coach Doug Pederson was asked for a list of young players who stood out over the last few weeks. 

It was a pretty good list (see story)

But with a limited amount of time, Pederson probably didn’t mention every young player who had a good spring. I’m gonna give him a hand and list five more players he failed to mention. 

De’Vante Bausby 
This guy was the revelation of the spring. He joined the Eagles’ practice squad last season but seemingly has a great shot to make the active roster this year. During many OTA practices and in minicamp, the 25-year-old took first-team reps at the nickel corner spot. I still have trouble believing that Bausby is going to be on the field ahead of Sidney Jones, but that doesn’t take away from how good he’s looked so far. Aside from just getting first-team reps, he made the most of them. It seemed like he was making a play every day. 

Nate Sudfeld
This was really our first extended look at Sudfeld, but it’s far from our last. In fact, prepare yourselves to see a ton of the third-stringer this summer. Because while Carson Wentz recovers, Sudfeld is Nick Foles’ backup. And the Eagles need to treat Foles like a starter, which means fewer reps. Sudfeld didn’t come to the Eagles until after last cuts a year ago. This spring, it was easy to see why the Eagles like Sudfeld so much. He’s pretty athletic, can move his legs, and spent the few weeks dropping dimes all over the field. Eventually, Foles is going to move on and Sudfeld should be able to take the backup role. 

Bryce Treggs
Remember when Treggs-mania took over Philadelphia in 2016? Fans were clamoring for more of Treggs after he made that one big catch. Since then, that mania has certainly died down, but Treggs is off to a good start in 2018. He’s a much better player than he was a few years ago. To me, he made the best play we saw all spring, when he stretched out to catch one of those dimes from Sudfeld. Treggs doesn't have a great shot of making the Eagles’ roster, but he can put together some more good tape and maybe find another team. 

Nate Gerry 
In his second season out of Nebraska, Gerry has a real chance to win the weakside linebacker job. He’s battling Kamu Grugier-Hill and Corey Nelson for the spot left by Mychal Kendricks’ release. And Gerry is off to a good start. Having a year in the defense under his belt should certainly help him gain an edge on Nelson, but he still needs to make plays. In the spring, he did. He had a couple interceptions and seemed to read everything well. His background as a safety is clearly something the Eagles like for this position; the other two guys have coverage skills too. 

Josh Sweat
It’s a little tough for defensive ends to stand out in non-padded practices, but the rookie from Florida State did. The first thing to notice about Sweat is just how big he is. He’s listed at 6-5, 251. For now, he’s really long and skinny, but is quick and athletic too. It helped him going against someone as raw as Jordan Mailata, but even when he was facing others, Sweat still looked explosive. We’ll know more once the pads go on, but it seems like the Eagles might have a steal and somehow added even more depth on the D-line. 

More on the Eagles

Sidney Jones missing practice with lower-body soreness

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NBC Sports Philadelphia

Sidney Jones missing practice with lower-body soreness

When the Eagles began their mandatory minicamp Tuesday, there was a notable absence. 

Well, not an absence, but Sidney Jones wasn’t participating. The Eagles’ second-year cornerback, who is facing high expectations, has been dealing with lower-body soreness, according to head coach Doug Pederson Wednesday. He missed the end of OTAs and is now missing minicamp time. 

The important part is that Pederson said this soreness is unrelated to Jones’ surgically-repaired Achilles tendon that dropped him out of the first round and into the Eagles’ lap at No. 43 in last year’s draft. 

“We’re taking precautions,” Pederson said. “Again, this is not the time we’re going to push anybody. Not going to put anybody out there that’s nicked up, banged up. Want to make sure everybody is ready to go for training camp.”

So what does this missed time mean for Jones? 

Well, it’s not good news. There are certainly high expectations for the very talented and young corner. Before this “soreness,” Jones was getting some reps as the team’s nickel corner. Plenty of other guys have worked with the first team there too, including De’Vante Bausby, Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby. It’s one of the position battles that’s going to be important to watch in the summer. That position wasn’t decided last year until the Birds traded for Darby and slid Patrick Robinson into the slot, where he thrived enough to get a contract in New Orleans. 

Jones, 22, would be an obvious choice to win that job this year. If nothing else, it would make sense for him to at least see the field in the nickel package in some capacity. If that is outside, it could mean sliding Mills inside on passing downs. 

Either way, Jones is supremely talented, a guy the Eagles originally targeted with their first-round pick a year ago. So it would be obvious that they’d want to get him on the field over a relatively unknown player like Bausby. But Bausby isn’t making this easy. 

Bausby, 25, was signed to the Eagles’ practice squad last September. At the time, the theory was that he was a spy. He had previously spent time with the Chiefs and the Eagles were about to play them. But it’s clear now that the Eagles actually like Bausby. This spring, Bausby has been great and is separating himself in the slot. 

Is that enough to eventually keep Jones off the field? Probably not. But it can’t help to have him on the sideline. 

More from Eagles minicamp

• Michael Bennett explains OTAs absence after 1st Eagles practice

• Despite being held back, Darren Sproles flashes vintage self

• Fletcher Cox wants to be Defensive Player of Year — can he?

• After ring ceremony, Eagles will be done celebrating Super Bowl

• Duce Staley confirms Eagles will have a lead running back