While it is hard to pinpoint that many glaring needs on the Eagles roster, it is worth noting some prospects Eagles fans should be interested in heading into the season. As we get closer to the beginning of college football, I want to highlight some of the more intriguing prospects in the country. This time we look at a defensive player with eye-popping stats.
Name: Tavarus McFadden
School: Florida State
Measurements: 6-2, 195 Pounds
2016 Stats: 20 Total Tackles, 3 TFLs, 6 PBUs, 8 Interceptions
Tavarus McFadden broke out in a big way once he was given playing time his second year at FSU. The long armed, towering cornerback led the country in interceptions as a sophomore and picked up All-ACC and and Second Team All American recognition. Any time a player has the type of ball production that McFadden had in 2016, especially considering he was in his first real year as a starter, it is worth taking note.
McFadden's success is predicated on some pretty simple aspects of his game. He wins at the line of scrimmage using his long arms and a strong punch. When he can land his hands, he disrupts the timing of the receiver and forces his opponent to play at his speed. Once the ball is in the air, McFadden's long arms once again come into play to defend passes and create turnovers.
This is a bad process, good results type of play from McFadden. Notice how he (top of the screen) steps forward aggressively, lunging at the receiver to land his hands. This aggression could get him absolutely roasted in the NFL, but it does show how he likes to play the position. Luckily for him, he gets his hands on the receiver and absolutely destroys his timing. McFadden is a feisty, physical player in coverage and that is how he wins as a defender. But it can also lead to losses.
Here is why it is important that McFadden is winning at the line. If he loses in the first five yards, he has yet to show the recovery speed to deal with faster players. The player he got burned by, Rodney Adams, was drafted in 2017 so he obviously is talented but that is exactly the type of player McFadden should be showing out against. McFadden, at least in his first season, looks speed deficient and overly dependent on winning at the line using an uneven and inconsistent process.
Him being inconsistent at what he does best is understandable as a first year starter and a young player (was 19 during his sophomore season). However, what is frustrating about McFadden is how bad he is as a run defender.
The same exact play and the same exact results. McFadden looks generally disinterested in fighting through blocks to bring down the ball carrier and gives up massive yardages. While run defense is not priority number one for cornerback, it is especially worth noting when offenses are running at him. McFadden has shown the ability to make tackles in the open field so it really comes down to effort to fight through blocks.
The hype around a 19 year old, first year starter who picked off eight passes in his first season makes sense at the surface level. However, McFadden has a lot of red flags in his game that would make me slow my roll on him in the preseason. If he can clean up his technique in press coverage, he could be a very good player but all around his game is too inconsistent to anoint him anything at this point.
Pro Comparison: Rasul Douglas
Why should Eagles fans be interested?
Pretty simple. Even after spending two picks on cornerbacks in the 2017 draft, the Eagles still lack any assurance at the position. Sidney Jones likely won't be playing until 2018 and no one knows to what level he returns, Rasul Douglas was a third round pick, Jalen Mills is being counted on to improve on a rough rookie season and Patrick Robinson was brought in as a veteran presence but has had an up and down career at best. The outlook at cornerback for the Eagles right now is easily the worst positional outlook on the entire team. While that can very quickly change depending on their young players, at this point it makes no sense to absolutely bank on them getting better or helping cornerback play improve from last year.
What games will be pivotal for McFadden?
The season starts out with a bang for Florida State and McFadden as they open 2017 with a game against Alabama (September 2nd). Alabama will be returning a lot of offensive firepower including star receiver Calvin Ridley, a dynamic Jalen Hurts and a running game that will challenge the Florida State defense. Every aspect of McFadden's game will be tested and slowing down Alabama will largely depend on his play.
His next big test in the season will be taking on Lamar Jackson and the Louisville Cardinals (October 21). The reigning Heisman trophy winner will team up with dynamic deep threat, Jaylen Smith, to threaten FSU. Jackson is enough of a handful as a runner but will also keep FSU honest with his passing ability. McFadden will need to turn in another big game to avoid an upset.
Clemson will be a challenge for McFadden with their dynamic group of receivers coming to town (November 11). Even with Deshaun Watson gone, McFadden will not have an easy task in slowing down the likes of Deon Cain or Ray Ray McCloud
A sneaky challenge will come at the end of the season with Florida State's in state rivalry game against Florida (November 25th). While Florida has been stagnant on offense the last few years, they have a talented pass catch in Antonio Callaway who could give McFadden some trouble.