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.
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.