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.
As the Eagles prepare for their second preseason game on Thursday (7 p.m. NBC10) against Buffalo at Lincoln Financial Field, they do so with a significantly different look. The trade that netted cornerback Ronald Darby and sent wide receiver Jordan Matthews and a third-round draft pick to Buffalo changed the complexion of the roster at two key positions.
So how it is going to shake out? Here is some perspective from Inside the Eagles …
- Darby becomes an immediate starter at the left cornerback position and the Eagles could very well use him to shadow some of the top receivers on the schedule (Odell Beckham Jr., for example). Darby has the speed and the experience to step right in, and his skill set is better suited for what Jim Schwartz asks of his cornerbacks. He’s going to play a lot of man-to-man defense. That wouldn’t have been the case in Sean McDermott’s defense in Buffalo, which plays more zone. Darby doesn’t have a high interception number – he dropped four interceptions last year, from what I’ve been told – but he puts himself in position to make a lot of plays. He’s not tall, but Darby is strong and he tackles willingly and aggressively. The Eagles improved themselves substantially at the cornerback position.
- Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson are going to compete at the right cornerback position for a starting job. Mills appears to have the inside track here. He has had a good summer and he played well in limited time in the preseason opener in Green Bay. I see Robinson, because of his quickness, as a very strong candidate as the nickel cornerback. Ron Brooks has a hamstring injury, which is a concern after suffering a quadriceps injury (to his opposite leg) last season. Brooks is out for some time, and it’s going to be tough for him to come back and show that he can be durable.
- Who else fills out the cornerback depth chart? Rasul Douglas played well in Green Bay and he’s improving every day. The Eagles don’t have to rush him into anything now that Darby is here. Remember this with Douglas: He was playing at Nassau Community College three seasons ago. C.J. Smith, despite his poor game in Green Bay, is a young prospect. He can’t have another struggle in the preseason, though. The Eagles are counting on him to provide some depth. Maybe Aaron Grymes. Maybe another player on this roster who wows the coaches in the next three preseason games. It’s all about the preseason games now. The players have to impress under the preseason lights.
- At wide receiver, the Eagles have to replace Matthews’s production. A lot of that is going to come from Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, the starters. Nelson Agholor has a lot of quickness and more speed than Matthews, but Agholor clearly needs to play better and more consistently in games. Rookie Mack Hollins will get a long, long look in the slot and outside. He’s an impressive young receiver who has been playing well since the day the Eagles started practicing. Bryce Treggs has a real chance to make this team. Marcus Johnson has been great in camp, and now he has to do it in the preseason games and he has to stay healthy. Those are your six leading candidates for five, maybe six, roster spots. Shelton Gibson appeared to be coming on with a good week of practice, and then he dropped a pass in Green Bay.
- The Eagles are also going to use their running backs out of the slot, specifically Darren Sproles and Donnel Pumphrey, and see how that works. Tight ends Zach Ertz and Trey Burton could get some reps there.
- You know how much Howie Roseman likes to wheel and deal, so this is subject to change at any time: The Eagles have a total of seven draft picks in 2018 at the moment – a first-round pick, three picks in the fourth round (one of those picks, from New England, becomes a third-round pick if cornerback Eric Rowe plays 50 percent of the snaps this season), and their own picks in rounds 5-7.
- One of the benefits of the trade to acquire Darby is that the Eagles won’t be rushed, under any circumstance, to push cornerback Sidney Jones into action this season.
- What is the next position to concentrate on as the preseason winds along? For me, it’s time to see the running game get going just a little bit. The offensive line did not win the battle against Green Bay’s pressure, but the running backs still did not do a whole lot. Pumphrey spun his wheels and had a fumble. LeGarrette Blount had no chance to get a head of steam going. I would like to see him move the pile when he gets the ball. Corey Clement looked pretty good, actually. Wendell Smallwood has missed time with a hamstring injury. He needs to prove he can be durable.