Philadelphia Eagles training camp 2014 is fast approaching. Coaches and players report as soon as Friday, July 25th. The entire Eagles training camp schedule, including information on practices open to the public, can be found by clicking here.
As we count down the days together, Bleeding Green Nation will be previewing every position on the Eagles roster. Today we look at the cornerback position. [QB] [RB] [WR] [TE] [OL] [DL] [ILB] [OLB]
Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Nolan Carroll, Jaylen Watkins, Curtis Marsh, Roc Carmichael, Davon Morgan
The Eagles' cornerback position is, for a lack of better terms, fluid. Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher are the returning starters from 2013 but neither might be back after the 2014 season. Fletcher is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent while Williams could suffer the fate of a salary cap casualty. There's also no guarantee that both players will be starters in 2014.
Williams had a very up and down season in 2013. At his best, he was a pretty good cornerback. At his worst, he was frustrating and flat out bad. Still, I think the Eagles view Williams as their top corner. They're not paying him $6.5 million this year to sit on the bench.
Some fans are drawn more to Fletcher's solid but largely unspectacular style of play but I'm not sure Philadelphia values him as much as Williams. Fletcher is far from a terrible corner but he's hardly irreplaceable.
And that's where Nolan Carroll comes in. The Eagles signed Carroll in free agency not only for cornerback depth but also to challenge for a starting role. Carroll has recorded 26 career starts in 58 games played over his first four seasons. The Miami Dolphins clearly didn't have too much interest in bringing Carroll back but now he's fighting for a spot in Philadelphia. If he doesn't earn a starter role (likely over Fletcher), Carroll will serve as a positive contribution to the special teams unit. Carroll looked impressive during the Eagles spring practices.
Continuing with the theme of complicated situations, Eagles slot cornerback Brandon Boykin is the best corner on the team but they still won't play him on the outside. This means Boykin is limited to playing a lot less snaps than he could be. Boykin will look to solidify his status as the best cornerback in the league but it's unclear how the Eagles will manage to keep him if he wants to play on the outside and they only want to use him in the slot. Keep in mind Boykin is eligible for a contract extension following the 2014 season.
Rookie fourth round draft pick Jaylen Watkins is spending most of his time at cornerback despite having the versatility to also play safety. Watkins will compete for a spot but likely end up playing on special teams. He stood out as a gunner during the Eagles spring practices. Watkins could earn a role as the Eagles dime corner.
Curtis Marsh, the Eagles third round draft pick in the dreaded 2011 draft class, is still on the roster. Marsh suffered an injury and was released last summer but wound up back on the Eagles because the team lacked cornerback depth. Marsh is competing for a depth spot.
Roc Carmichael returns as a player the Eagles liked enough to sign off the Texans practice squad last season. Carmichael filled in for an injured Bradley Fletcher mid-way through the season and mostly held his own but there were some ups and downs. One of the most down moments for Carmichael came on special teams in the playoffs where he accidentally kicked a punt into the red zone for a touchback. Carmichael is fighting to earn a spot this year.
Davon Morgan, like Watkins, can play both corner and safety. Morgan is my super deep sleeper pick to impress this summer. The 25-year old Virginia Tech alumnus spent last year playing for the Richmond Raiders of the Professional Indoor Football League.
How will it play out?
The safe bet is that Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher will return as starters with Brandon Boykin manning the slot. Nolan Carroll will strongly challenge for Fletcher's spot. Jaylen Watkins is a lock as a fourth round pick. That's five. If the Eagles keep a sixth, it will come down to the winner of Curtis Marsh/Roc Carmichael/Davon Morgan.
I don't see any surprise cut potential at this position. With that in mind, the Eagles cornerback position could be in for a major makeover AFTER the season is over.