While the Philadelphia Eagles didn’t grab some of the blue chip secondary prospects in the first few rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft, they still made some vastly underrated additions that improve both the depth of the ball club and the overall talent in the back end.
Let’s start off with free agency. The Eagles made a shrewd move in going out and targeting safety Malcolm Jenkins early on in the free agency process. Chip Kelly thinks he is the perfect fit in his 3-4 defensive scheme. Jenkins has solid cover skills as a safety thanks to his former days as a cornerback and acts as the quarterback of the defense. He gets everyone lined up properly and is as mentally sharp as they come for a safety. Jenkins’ underrated ball skills and solid tackling will be a more than welcomed addition, and is a huge upgrade over free-agent bust Patrick Chung.
The Eagles also added solid depth at cornerback with Nolan Carroll. He is a a big press corner who has shown real solid ability outside at cornerback the past few seasons. The Eagles had almost no depth at the cornerback position last year relying on the likes of guys like Roc Carmichael and Curtis Marsh. Hopefully those days are no longer. Carroll has the talent to possibly even push for a starting job.
Finally, in the draft the Eagles got two steals in the form of cornerback Jaylen Watkins and Ed Reynolds. Watkins is a burner. He ran a low 4.4 at the combine despite running on a bum ankle. Make no mistake about it, Watkins is a 4.3 guy who can mirror receivers down field with his speed, and also has the ability to play press-man coverage. It is possible Watkins could push for starting playing time on the outside as soon as this season, and in 2015, I would bet on him being a starter in the secondary.
The Eagle also nabbed Reynolds. He is a smart, rangy safety with size. He had a phenomenal campaign a few seasons ago, and had he stayed one more year in college likely would have been a second or third round selection. The Eagles got him in the fifth. Reynolds will battle for playing time this season but his role this year will most likely be on special teams and providing solid depth for the club. Reynolds could push for a starting role in the next few seasons though. He certainly has the talent too.
The Eagles boosted their depth and overall talent in the back end. Boy, did it sorely need it. Expect this Eagles secondary to be a much improved unit both now and going forward.