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The 22: The Eagles have cornered the cornerback market

Louie DiBiase

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Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

 

“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.

Louie, an Eagles, and NFL enthusiast all his life has finally found his home to share his thousands of takes on the Philadelphia Eagles with Locked on Eagles. Louie also works in Buffalo sports radio as a producer for WGR Sports Radio 550 the official home of the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres, in addition to working as the Sports Director for 91.3 FM WBNY Buffalo. He may be far from the nest, but Louie bleeds green just like the rest of Eagles Nation. Fly Eagles Fly.

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