“What if I told you that a team with no corners backed into a corner……cornered the cornerback market.” Ok, maybe it isn’t something you write a documentary out of. And even if it was that certainly wouldn’t be the start.
Regardless after a thrilling, down to the wire victory against the Falcons in the season opener, one thing that is obvious about this 2018 team is how much talent Jim Schwartz and Corey Undlin have to work with inside the cornerback room.
Don’t let the stat line of Julio Jones confuse you. The secondary was impressive Thursday night and the once weak point of an elite defense suddenly seems like a strength.
Ronald Darby stood out the most of the group, and of the entire team but Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, and even Rasul Douglas popped on numerous occasions in the film.
Play #1: Mills crashing on the ball
The best trait of Jalen Mills is his aggression. Especially when it comes to closing on the ball and making tackles. Mills and Hicks crash on the ball here and blow through Ridley who can’t hang on.
Play #2: Sidney Jones recognizes the screen pass
One of the best parts of Sidney Jones’s tape at Washington was his ability to wreck a screenplay. Here Jones recognizes Ryan is coming to Freeman after an RPO (offensive line is run blocking so it isn’t a play-action) and sits on the route. Even if it was a completion Jones would have immediately brought Freeman down. His patience and route recognition was impressive in this game.
Play #3: First example of Darby’s close-in speed
Atlanta catches Darby too deep off the line of scrimmage as Sanu comes back inside. Luckily for the Eagles Darby is one of the fastest cornerbacks in the game so he can make up for the ground lost. Matt Ryan throws to Sanu’s outside and Darby breaks it up.
Play #4: Jalen Mills against the run
Mills is a corner but he often looks like a mini-linebacker on the field. Atlanta leaves Mills untouched so he needs to shoot through the D-gap to take down Tevin Coleman. Mills gets through and finishes the play. Extremely important part of being a corner in this defense.
Play #5: Sidney Jones plays the pass over the run
This was a good run by Ryan but I like how Sidney Jones played this. Jones is all over Sanu, sees Ryan flushed out of the pocket rolling right and instead of pursuing he tries to get in front of Ridley who Mills is behind. Most likely he assumes Graham in the middle will break off and go after Ryan. Like the decision.
Play #6: Darby shows off tackling ability
Another example of corners having to make tackles in open space. Everyone is blocked except for Darby who is one on one with Coleman. Darby shoots down, gets the push on Coleman’s legs and forces him out of bounds for a three-yard loss. That is something Darby has improved on.
Play #7: Blanket Coverage
This was perfect coverage from all three. Ryan’s first read is Jones trying to beat Darby on a double move cutting inside then immediately out. Darby doesn’t let it fool him, then Ryan looks to his right where Mills is trailing Ridley, and Jones jammed Sanu in the middle of the end-zone allowing no separation. This coverage allowed the pass rush up the middle to push Ryan back and back until he was too far to make a play.
Play #8: More speed from Darby
Another example of Darby’s recovery ability. Jones has the inside leverage and a step on Daby over the middle, Darby closes in and makes an athletic breakup.
Play #9: Mills plays the run perfectly
Because Mills was beat deep a few times it seemed like the third year corner wasn’t having a sharp 2018 debut. He didn’t have the game Darby did but he was rock solid. Here he once again plays the run very nicely. Another strong combo play with Hicks who keeps Coleman running sideways not pursuing too hard. Mills also recognizes the play is coming his way, knows Hicks has the inside so he pushes off his block to the left, forcing Coleman out.
Play #10: Jones and Darby shut it down
Matt Ryan fakes the handoff and immediately looks for Freeman on a swing, Jones recgonized it and buried in on the play then quickly got back up to Sanu down the field. Darby was already there covering the top and the ball sails out of bounds.
Play #11: No.Where.To.Go.
Jordan Hicks gets the highlight play on the sack as the Eagles brought five but take a look at the coverage from all three corners. Mills locks down Hooper, Jones is all over the inside route, Darby has Julio deep, Ryan has no time.
Play #12: Darby denies Julio again
Darby sees Julio cutting inside, has a little hesitation to read if it is a double move, and when it isn’t he makes a play that a lot of corners would have no chance at getting at. Jones also all over his man on that one.
Play #13: Mills gets beat on a familiar route
Hate to put one of the bad plays in here but this is a route Mills and the secondary has struggled with for two years. More hesitation is needed when reading this Sluggo because that should have been a catch. Mills doesn’t have the long speed Darby has to catch up. He is quick and fast side to side but that is a play he will get burned again and again with.
Play #14: Another near coverage sack
There were many plays where Matt Ryan had nowhere to go with the ball. Ryan has to throw it away and gets a penalty rather than take what would have been a coverage sack. Darby is on Jones like white on rice, Sidney Jones is not allowing anything inside, and Mills keeps Ridley at arm’s length.
Play #15: Darby makes a CB1 play
Darby was really good on Julio. Reads the out route, closes inside and punches it away. That is a CB1 play right there.
Play #16: Darby Island
Very next play they come right back at Darby. The Eagles trusted him enough one on one with Jones that they sent a blitz with McLeod. Ryan sees it and targets Julio deep but Darby is running stride for stride.
Play #17: Sidney Jones forces run inside
Love this awareness for Jones on the reverse. Sees it coming, takes on his block outside. Made the runner stay inside where Darby takes him down before a big gain.
Play #18: Douglas only needs one snap
Probably my favorite play. The young guns are alone on the outside as Douglas checks in for Darby who was dealing with cramps. Communicating who takes who since it isn’t exactly man on man, Jones takes the shorter out which gives Douglas Julio deep. He recognizes the route, turns at the perfect time and does what he does. Ballhawks.
Play #19: Sidney the screen killer
Jones was so good at stopping screens at Washington. Here he knows it is coming, sheds his block perfectly and makings another nice tackle which he did all summer.
Play #20: Streetball
23 seconds left, red zone. Man coverage, Graham pushes inside and forces Ryan to roll out and this is when you need your corners to just play street ball. Pickup football where you just run with your man. Darby has Julio in the left corner, Jones is all over his route in the slot, and Mills tracks the outside perfectly giving Ryan no options. Another example of perfect play with the pass rush and coverage.
Pick #21: Standing tall
Julio is doubled with Graham and McLeod in the slot, and even if Ryan went elsewhere there was nowhere else to go. Sidney Jones’s first game he is thrust into a goal-line stand situation to win the game and he had one hell of a drive
Pick #22: Darby is a hero
Last year it was Mills. This year it was Darby. One play to win the game. Julio catches the ball but is high in the air to catch it so Darby makes sure he forces Julio out before he can get his body down. The game ends the way it should. With Darby making a play. Hey, at least Julio caught it this time right Atlanta?
*Bonus Play: Jones vs Jones
Long makes an amazing play here but the coverage on this play was excellent. Jones on Jones in the slot sees Julio go out but plays it deeper which was the right move as Julio broke up the field.
Bell over Brown is an obvious choice for the Eagles
It’s almost fishing season in the NFL as all 32 teams look to catch some nice pieces for their roster through free agency, the draft, and the trade market. While the biggest fish don’t always tend to swim in those waters, every year a few big names suddenly become available for a team looking to spend.
This year, it just so happens two of the best at their position are up for grabs, and they both are coming from the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Star offensive weapons in RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown will both be in different jerseys next year for the first time in their careers. Bell is set to become a free agent, while Pittsburgh and Brown agreed a trade is in the best interest for both sides.
On paper, the Eagles could make sense for both. Adding weapons around Carson Wentz will always be a priority. However if Howie Roseman and the front office decide they want to go after one of these expensive play-makers, Bell makes much more sense for a number of reasons.
Bell doesn’t come with the baggage Brown does
Don’t let this fool you. Talent beats culture. It is why the Steelers were consistently atop the AFC despite a chaotic locker room. Coaches like Chip Kelly flamed out because they prioritized scheme and a robotic culture.
Despite that, Brown’s antics off the field are a real concern. He quit on his team with the season on the line. Pittsburgh needed a win and a Baltimore loss to make the postseason in Week 17 but Brown was MIA.
The temper tantrums on the sidelines, ghosting your team with the season on the line, that kind of behavior despite six straight seasons of 100+ receptions is eye opening.
Bell doesn’t have that stench to him. While Steelers fans will tell you Bell was selfish and uncommitted to football, it is unfair to say he has character concerns because he didn’t want to risk his long term health in a contract year. He wanted to be paid like the star he is and Pittsburgh wanted to pay the position not the player. Can’t blame either side.
Brown would require trade assets AND a big contract
Some people love to scoff at the idea of paying any significant resource for a star RB like Bell. While it wouldn’t be smart to kill the salary cap for the do-it-all weapon, it is far more reasonable to pay Bell rather than pay Brown big money and give up the trade assets it would take to get him from Pittsburgh.
What sounds better to you? $14+ million a year for Bell or $14+ million a year for Brown and perhaps a 2nd round pick + Nelson Agholor?
Bell, Agholor, and the rookie taken with that 2nd round pick sounds a lot better than just Brown.
The report Bell wants $50 million in the first two years is scary. He turned down a 5 year $70 million deal with the Steelers but perhaps when the market develops Bell will have to temper his expectations.
Bell’s age and position is more attractive to the Eagles
Two other major elements in deciding between Bell and Brown would be age and position.
By the start of next season, Brown will be 31. Bell will be be 27. Bell has four years on Brown.
If Bell could maintain his productivity into his early 30’s, the Eagles could be set at RB for 5-6 years.
Being a running back also makes him a more attractive option. Doug Pederson’s offense is in desperate need of a talented RB.
Having a weapon like Bell in the backfield that can be your top runner, a top receiver, and efficient pass blocker puts this Eagles offense on a level only the Saints and Rams can match in the NFC.
It also makes the offense less predictable. Using a committee with featured grinders like Ryan Mathews, LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajay, and Josh Adams to go along with the clear pass catchers in Darren Sproles and Corey Clement can be a good way to keep your backs fresh, but it is clear what the offense plans to do on 3rd and 4 when Sproles is out there.
It is easier to predict what Pederson will do on 3rd and 2 when Blount was out there. Someone like Bell keeps the defense guessing in any situation.
While the Eagles could use more speed on offense, Brown would be a luxury. A luxury that could cost high draft picks, players, a high cap hit, and potential baggage.
Is that worth it for a team that already has at least four quality receiving options? Can’t imagine Brown would be happy not seeing 13+ targets a game.
History tells us the Eagles won’t go after either Bell or Brown. However with an aggressive front office that has shown a commitment in surrounding their franchise QB with weapons, it wouldn’t be suprising to see one of these two in midnight green. Especially with Roseman’s ability to perform magic on the salary cap.
If they decide to pursue one, it should be Le’Veon Bell.
Offseason Options: Wide Receiver
The Eagles have plenty of weapons for Carson Wentz to throw to in 2019. The WR position, however, could use more speed to compliment the bigger weapons in Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, and Dallas Goedert.
If Golden Tate, Mike Wallace, and/or Jordan Matthews leave the Eagles this offseason, what options does Howie Roseman have in free agency and the draft when it comes to pass catchers?
Louie and Gino give some big name options in the draft and free agency, as well as some receivers that could fly under the radar in both offseason periods.
Offseason Options: Running Back
It is time for the Eagles to add some serious talent in the backfield. What are their options if they want to add a big name free agent? What about a high draft pick?
If Howie Roseman sticks to his strategy of lower-priced free agents or draft picks, who could be a diamond in the rough?
Our “Offseason options’ series begins with RB on the Locked on Eagles podcast!
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