This offseason the Philadelphia Eagles have made many moves in the secondary in order to no longer have the position be a weakness for the football team. There have been noteworthy departures but the additions have attempted to more than make up for them. In this article I’m going to go through each move and provide analysis of each.
Ronald Darby: Darby’s Eagles tenure can be summed up in one word: inconsistent. There were times when Darby looked like the player that was worthy of trading Jordan Matthews and a 3rd round pick for, and other times he’s looked like he didn’t belong as a team’s number one corner. In 2019, Darby gave up 705 yards, 6 TDs and allowed a 116.8 passer rating when in coverage (according to Pro Football Reference) as the Eagles number one corner. In my opinion, the impact of his departure will not hold much weight with the acquisition of another player who was acquired this offseason.
Malcolm Jenkins: This is without a doubt, the biggest loss the team suffered this offseason. Jenkins was the leader, the voice and the heart of this team. He was the team’s iron-man. He played almost every position on defense outside of defensive line. Jenkins’ impact will be felt and it will definitely take a group effort to replace what Jenkins has given the team, not only on the field but off the field and in the locker-room, the practice field, meeting rooms and holding the defense together through injuries and bad play. Jenkins impact will be felt but as a whole the Eagles have made the moves that can somewhat stunt the void that Jenkins’ departure left.
Jalen Mills: Mills presence on the team isn’t new but his move to safety is an addition and a positive one at that. Mills M.O. as a corner has always been his physicality has been the positive but his deep speed is what has gotten him into trouble. Mills’ skillset is better suited for the safety position. With moving him to safety, Mills ability as a tackler and I.Q. for the game will shine. He can play in the slot and as a deep safety or in the box. His versatility can help to replace some of what Malcolm Jenkins brought to the defense.
Will Parks: As stated in my free agency recap, Parks brings versatility, as he’s played both safety positions, linebacker and nickel corner during his time with the Denver Broncos. He is a candidate to replace some of the productivity that Malcolm Jenkins provided the Eagles with during his 6 year tenure with the team. Parks brings brash confidence and a smashmouth attitude to the Eagles secondary. I am of the opinion that Parks will flourish under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz due to the defensive line and the versatility he brings.
Nickell Robey-Coleman: The Robey-Coleman addition furthers the Eagles offseason mantra of adding players that have connections to the organization, as he played under Jim Schwartz during his second year in the league with the Buffalo Bills. Robey-Coleman will be the starting nickel corner this year. He allowed the eighth fewest yards per coverage snap of any corner in 2019. Robey-Coleman is a top nickel corner in the league and will be familiar with the defensive scheme Jim Schwartz implores.
K’Von Wallace: The rookie out of Clemson, drafted in the 4th round maybe ultimately prove to be the Malcolm Jenkins replacement. Wallace may be the steal of the draft with the versatility he brings whether in the box, in the slot or as a single high safety, he can do it all. Wallace has the ability to immediately contribute because of his skill-set and with the other pieces in the secondary at safety, he may be able to. Wallace has an interesting connection to the Eagles organization as he was roommates with the son of former Eagles legend and NFL Hall of Famer, Brian Dawkins. Dawkins, like Wallace, also went to Clemson. Wallace brings grit and toughness to this Eagles team with desperately needs it after the departure of Malcolm Jenkins.
Trevor Williams: This signing has sort of flown under the radar this offseason. The 26 year old Williams is a talented corner who’s been hampered by injuries throughout his 4 year career. However, when he is healthy, Williams is a talented corner. In 2017, Williams’ last fully healthy (16 games played) season he was one of the top cornerbacks in the league. He put up 2 interceptions with 13 passes defensed and was PFF’s 10th best corner. He started opposite 2 time pro bowler Casey Hayward that year and injuries have derailed his career ever since. With the Eagles, Williams has the opportunity to re-ignite his career and regain his status as a starting level corner in the NFL. This year with the aquisition of the pro-bowl level corner below, Williams may do just that.
Darius Slay: This is the biggest acquisition of the offseason. Slay will be the best corner to suit up for the Eagles since Asante Samuel. A 3 time pro-bowler, Slay brings an elite track record and top 10 level talent to an Eagles secondary that has desperately lacked it for over 8 years. Racking up 19 interceptions over the course of his 7 year career, Slay’s presence will have a domino effect for multiple members of the Eagles secondary, specifically 2017 second round pick, Sidney Jones, Trevor Williams or 2018 fourth round pick, Avonte Maddox, three of the candidates to start at outside corner opposite Slay. The number two corner(s) will no longer have to cover opposing team’s number one receivers and Slay gives the defense the ability to not have to have a safety shade over the top of one or the other side of the field. Slay has the ability to blanket other teams top receivers. He furthers the theme of acquiring players with relationships to the organization as he has experience in Jim Schwartz’s defensive system as he played his rookie year under Schwartz when Schwartz was the head coach of the Detroit Lions. Just Slay’s presence in the room and on the practice field will make the corners around him better and his reps in practice covering the Eagles receivers will make them better as well. Slay’s work ethic will be huge for the young corners around him and it will, undoubtedly rub off on the team.
What this all Means
Howie Roseman has brought in very versatile players who can replicate Malcolm Jenkins versatility/productivity on the field and in resigning Rodney McLeod and Jalen Mills, the leadership void that Jenkins departure created has also been patched up. The number one cornerback position has also been sured up. One of the goals of this offseason was to improve the secondary and Howie Roseman did just that. Roseman was even quoted as saying, “It’s hard when you’re watching games and the ball is getting thrown over your head, and you’re also not getting an opportunity to get the ball back, and that hurts the offense and that hurts the defense.” This has been one of the essential themes of this offseason: reality checks. The front office notices what’s going on and they aren’t just ignoring the issues or trying to put band-aids over them. They are actively trying and succeeding in finding solutions during this offseason.
Follow Us on Twitter!