Philadelphia Eagles training camp 2015 is fast approaching. Coaches and players report as soon as Saturday, August 1. The 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 cornerbacks.
Top 10 Under-The-Radar Eagles For 2015
This feature is a weekly piece on BleedingGreenNation.com titled From The Eagles, featuring Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro. The intention is to provide a perspective directly from the Philadelphia Eagles in this forum for the great fans who visit BGN.
Byron Maxwell, Nolan Carroll, Eric Rowe, Brandon Boykin, JaCorey Shepherd, Jaylen Watkins, E.J. Biggers, Randall Evans, Denzel Rice
The Eagles made Byron Maxwell their top target at cornerback in free agency and they got their man. Maxwell didn't come cheap, but the Eagles were very desperate for cornerback help. Philadelphia's corners have been an obvious point of weakness in recent history and Maxwell is here to help fix that. The former Seahawks defensive back really fits what Philadelphia likes in their defensive backs. He's tall at 6-1 and his 34 inch arms are very long. Maxwell did a good job covering NFC East receivers last season: he was targeted only five times and allowed two receptions for 68 yards and no touchdowns. Now Maxwell will be tasked with defending the likes of Dez Bryant, DeSean Jackson, and Odell Beckham Jr. on a more regular basis.
The starting cornerback job across from Maxwell is up for grabs. It's safe to say veteran Nolan Carroll is the early favorite to win the competition. Carroll took the bulk of first team reps during the spring. Chip Kelly and Eagles players alike have raved about how Carroll has had a great offseason. It's a little curious that Carrollseems like such a sure starter after the Eagles wouldn't play him over Bradley Fletcher last season, but that seems to be how things are going. Carroll has looked good in practice. Now he needs to show up in games.
The Eagles are clearly high on Eric Rowe. The team traded up for the Utah defensive back in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Rowe has the versatility to play both safety and cornerback, but the Eagles seem intent on first giving him a shot on the outside. Rowe could steal the starting job away from Carroll if he has a strong summer.
Brandon Boykin enters the last year of his rookie contract poised to be the team's starting nickel corner yet again. Boykin did get some first team reps at outside cornerback this spring, but it's hard to believe the team will give him a real chance to start on the outside until we see it. Boykin is currently the longest-tenured cornerback on Philadelphia's roster. It remains to be seen if he's in the team's long-term plans.
If Boykin isn't in the long-term plans, the Eagles may have his replacement on the roster. Rookie cornerback JaCorey Shepherd was considered by many "draft experts" to be one of the biggest steals in this year's draft. Shepherd spent time shadowing Boykin during formation drills this spring. The Kansas alumnus isn't the best athlete but he has incredibly savvy ball skills. He recorded 30 pass breakups in college to go with five interceptions. Shepherd looked pretty good during spring practices.
Jaylen Watkins is in a weird spot. The 2014 fourth round pick didn't play much as a rookie. He made a nice play against the Giants during Philadelphia's Week 17 finale but was otherwise torched by Beckham Jr. Watkins has been lining up at both corner and safety this spring. One would figure the team could use him more at safety, but he hasn't received any first team reps there. Watkins really needs to show something this summer.
E.J. Biggers is arguably one of the most forgettable players on the roster. It's hard to remember he's on the team. The veteran really struggled in Washington. He has some versatility to play cornerback and safety, but he hasn't been too good at either spot. At the least, he can provide some veteran competition this summer.
Rookie Randall Evans could find himself contributing as a nickel or a dime cornerback. He's not necessarily guaranteed a roster spot so perhaps he might end up on the practice squad.
Denzel Rice was the Eagles' lowest ranked undrafted free agent per CBS Sports. He's a long shot.
How will it play out?
Maxwell and Carroll are likely the starters. Rowe could rotate in at some point or get a shot if Carroll struggles. Boykin will likely be the team's nickel cornerback. Shepherd might be in the mix for some playing time at some position as well. The Eagles only keep five or six cornerbacks so Watkins, Evans, Biggers, and Rice could be competing for one spot.
Who could be a surprise cut?
It would be a little surprising to see the Eagles give up on Watkins after only one season. Then again, one could theorize he was more of a "Howie Roseman pick" in last year's class. Roseman's Florida bias may have been in play there. Like I said earlier, Watkins needs to show something this summer.
Seeing Evans get cut might be a surprise to some since he was a draft pick. The Eagles cut Ed Reynolds after drafting him in the fifth round last year, however, before he ended up on the practice squad. Evans might find himself in a similar situation.