It’s been a long time since the Philadelphia Eagles have had a reliable secondary.
Going back to the Brian Dawkins era is when the Birds had a legitimate pass defense that also could help out in run support. Last offseason, the Eagles traded Asante Samuel to the Atlanta Falcons for a seventh round draft pick which turned out to be Bryce Brown. Not a bad trade in my opinion. However, this would make the Eagles rely heavily on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha, which turned out to be a disaster. A few months back, the Eagles were able to get rid of them both and eventually sign cornerbacks Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher, along with safeties Kenny Phillips and Patrick Chung. They also drafted cornerback Jordan Poyer and safety Earl Wolff in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Now, a majority of the free agents they signed for their secondary have something in common, inconsistency. Cary Williams was inconsistent in his coverage skills during the Baltimore Ravens’ Super Bowl run. There were times where he shined and showed off his big play ability, but then there were times where he got torched play after play. However, the one thing he does bring to the table is his aggressiveness and attitude. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and goes after the ball carrier relentlessly. This is something the Eagles’ secondary has lacked for quite some time.
Bradley Fletcher is very similar to Williams, as far as inconsistency goes. On film he is a better coverage corner, however, he gets overly aggressive and will draw a lot more penalties than Williams will. What I like the most about these corners is that they are not afraid to tackle. They will help out in run support and can make a difference on the team just by setting an example for being tough and aggressive.
One guy that I think will contribute heavily in the pass defense is last year’s rookie Brandon Boykin. The kid has some serious talent and will eventually become one the best slot corners the NFL. There are rumors saying that the Eagles may try him on the outside instead of the slot. He probably is best suited in the slot, but if he can turn some heads when playing on the outside, it could definitely improve the secondary.
Kenny Phillips and Patrick Chung will fight for a starting spot on the defense. Chung falls into the inconsistency category as well, since he was criticized a lot during his time with the New England Patriots. It seems like he already has the advantage over Kurt Coleman, since he has been running with the starters at organized team activities. However, Coleman, Wolff and especially Phillips, will be fighting for that spot as well. When healthy, Phillips has been an outstanding safety for the New York Giants. His run support has been outstanding as well as his coverage skills. This could mean that Nate Allen might lose his spot if Phillips comes back healthy. If his knee holds up this season, be prepared for Phillips to be a stud in the back end of the defense.
For Jordan Poyer and Earl Wolff, they need to worry about getting as much reps as possible when training camp comes. These two players have talent and could contribute this year, but I think their rookie season will consist of special teams more than the defense. I am not saying these two players can’t play in the NFL, but it’ll probably take a year or two for them to find a role on this team.
So, when looking at the Eagles’ depth chart, it looks like there isn’t much talent at the corner or safety position. We’re going to have to wait until training camp and preseason gets under way to determine if the secondary will be a problem for the Eagles. Until then, it doesn’t look promising that the new additions will make a serious impact. Hopefully, they prove me wrong.