In 2013 the Philadelphia Eagles’ secondary was the weakest unit on their team. According to PFF (subscription) their pass coverage rating was -19.7 for the entire season. That made them the 11th worst coverage unit in the NFL. Going into 2014, they return three starters and have added veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins. However, Friday night in their second preseason game against the New England Patriots, starting cornerback Cary Williams had to leave the game with a hamstring injury.
If this injury keeps Williams out for any substantial amount of time or hinders him through part of the regular season, what does this mean for the Eagles’ secondary? Well, it would move Brandon Boykin into a starting role, who was their best player in coverage last season. The problem it presents for the Eagles is they will lose any depth they might’ve had at the cornerback position with Williams out.
With Williams out, their top three cornerbacks will be Bradley Fletcher (-0.1 PFF coverage grade), Boykin (15.7 PFF coverage grade), and new addition Nolan Carroll (-2.2 PFF coverage grade). After that are rookies and players with major questions, and in today’s NFL you need more than three serviceable cornerbacks to have success.
In their preseason game Friday night, outside of the Cary Williams interception, the Patriots were able to get what they wanted in the pass game. More and more teams are now using three and four wide receivers regularly and spreading defenses out. Even with Williams healthy, the Eagles will struggle to cover against teams that can put four receivers on the field, but if Williams misses games in the regular season, their secondary could be in even more trouble than people might’ve thought. They need Williams back for not only his play, but his veteran leadership in a young secondary.