The Eagles’ biggest loss on defense this offseason was slot corner Patrick Robinson, who overcame a shaky preseason to deliver exceptional play in the secondary for the Super Bowl champs.
Robinson, now 30, signed a four-year, $20 million contract with the Saints this offseason, and one of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's most important tasks this summer is finding his replacement.
Schwartz, meeting the media for the first time since the Wednesday before the Super Bowl, added some clarity Wednesday to the muddled slot picture.
“You’re going to see a lot of different guys in there,” Schwartz said. “You’ll see Jalen Mills at times, you’ll see some other players like D.J. Killings, who was here last year, (De’Vante) Bausby’s been in there, Sidney (Jones) was in there. … It’s sort of cross-training a lot of different guys.”
The slot might not always start, but he'll play 65 to 70 percent of the snaps. Let's look at the main candidates.
Mills: Has started outside the last two years but has the skill set to move inside with Jones and Ronald Darby starting outside.
Bausby: Schwartz was effusive Tuesday in his praise of Bausby, a 6-foot-1, 190-pounder who has spent time with the Chiefs, Bears and Eagles over the last three years but has played in only four NFL games. Bausby, who spent last year on the practice squad, worked with the first group at practice Tuesday.
Killings: Spent training camp last year as a rookie with the Patriots and the last four months of the season on the Eagles' practice squad.
Jones: Last year’s second-round pick out of Washington is getting looks both inside and outside.
Schwartz said Rasul Douglas, last year’s third-round pick, will stay primarily outside.
Darby, who came to the Eagles in the preseason trade for Jordan Matthews, is a lock to remain outside.
The most likely scenario is Darby and Jones outside with Mills in the slot, but it appears Jones will get plenty of looks inside during the summer. The Eagles know Mills can play outside if needed, and they believe Jones can play either.
The only lock is that we will see just about every corner on the roster working inside at some point.
Even the corners who play strictly outside will get reps in the slot in case teams line up a receiver in the slot while the Eagles are in base defense, with just two corners on the field.
“That’s part of their learning process, learning those techniques,” Schwartz said. “Some guys we’ll keep strictly outside, but we have a significant portion that we will cross train. We even have some guys that will cross train safety position and corner.
“That was a big part of our success (last year) was having Malcolm (Jenkins) be able to play a lot of those and fill in a lot of different positions.
“We value versatility and that’s a big part of the training this time of year.”
In addition to Mills, Darby, Jones, Douglas, Bausby, Killings, the Eagles have rookie fourth-round pick Avonte Maddox from Pitt and undrafted Chandon Sullivan from Georgia State on the roster, as well as second-year pro Randall Goforth.
That’s a lot of cornerbacks. And all nine are 25 or younger. And only Darby (36 starts) and Mills (17) have more than five career starts.
“Nobody’s earning any starting jobs now,” Schwartz said. “Now’s the time for individual improvement, now’s the time to start talking about some scheme stuff and anticipate some changes and really just to set the table for training camp.
“Training camp is when the competition will get fierce and the pads will come on and things like that. The only people that anyone’s competing against right now is themselves.”