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What the Eagles should do at cornerback

Eagles roster outlook: position-by-position.

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The 2018 NFL offseason has begun for the Philadelphia Eagles, which means Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson will spend the next couple of weeks evaluating the 2017 roster. It’s already time to start figuring out what this team needs to do to repeat as Super Bowl champions next year. We continue this roster outlook series by looking at the cornerback position.

THE PLAYERS

JALEN MILLS

Regular season stats: 932 snaps, 51 tackles, 14 passes defensed, 3 interceptions, 1 defensive TD, ∞ finger wags

Playoff stats: 10 tackles, 5 passes defensed

Review: The Green Goblin really took a step forward in Year 2. He went from being a rotational player as a rookie (who graded out as PFF’s worst corner) to a full-time starter on the outside. Mills had his moments where he got beat by being too aggressive but for the most part he did a good job as a starter. He’s been a good pickup for the Eagles as a seventh-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Outlook: Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz loves him some Jalen Mills. He always goes out of his way to praise the young corner. That’s something to keep in mind before you make the assumption that he’ll be headed to the bench in favor of another corner. Perhaps the Eagles will eventually try to transition Mills to safety, which is what Mills played in college. For now, I’m penciling him in as a starter on the outside until I see hard evidence that the Eagles are moving him out of that role.

RONALD DARBY

Regular season stats: 382 snaps, 30 tackles, 9 passes defensed, 3 interceptions

Playoff stats: 16 tackles, 6 passes defensed

Review: The Eagles traded for Darby at a time in training camp when it looked like they desperately needed help at corner. Darby looked really good in the summer before suffering a dislocated ankle in Week 1. His injury kept him out until Week 11, when he returned to action and played great against the Cowboys. For all his highs, Darby also had some bad lows. His performance against the Giants in Week 15 was ugly. He did make one of the most underrated plays of the season by picking off Derek Carr late in the fourth quarter on Christmas. That interception set up a Jake Elliott field goal to allow the Eagles to beat the Raiders and clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC in Week 16.

Outlook: The 24-year-old Darby is entering the last year of his rookie contract. Though he was up and down in 2017, there’s reason to believe he can be more consistent in 2018. Let’s see how he plays when he has a full offseason to learn the Eagles’ defensive scheme and when he’s not immediately coming off a significant ankle injury in the middle of the season. The Eagles didn’t give up Jordan Matthews and a 2018 third-round pick to have Darby sit the bench this year. He’s going to start. It remains to be seen if he’ll be re-signed beyond this year.

PATRICK ROBINSON

Regular season stats: 710 snaps, 38 tackles, 18 passes defensed, 4 interceptions, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery

Playoff stats: 5 tackles, 1 pass defensed, 1 interception, 1 defensive TD

Review: Crazy year for Patrick Robinson. He went from being one of the worst players in training camp to one of the best players on the team. The 30-year-old Robinson, who signed to a minimum deal in free agency, had a career year as the Eagles’ slot corner. He even played well on the outside when Philadelphia had to move him there due to injuries. Robinson was responsible for the biggest play in the NFC Championship Game when he picked off Case Keenum (thanks to a nice pass rush from Chris Long) and took it to the house. That totally changed the momentum of the game after the Vikings first went up 7-0 and then forced Philly to punt.

Outlook: A surprising report recently emerged indicating the Eagles and Robinson are discussing a contract extension. It’d be great to keep Robinson around, but it’s hard to imagine the Eagles can reasonably afford him given their cap situation. It feels like Robinson could get better offers in free agency. The Eagles also have to choose wisely who that spend on. And does spending money on a 31-year-old slot corner with an injury history who just had a career year seem like the best bet? Especially when the Eagles might have younger alternatives they can turn to? Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but respect for P-Rob. I just wonder if keeping him makes sense business-wise. I think he walks in free agency. If that’s the case, here’s hoping he gets a big deal and the Eagles get a nice compensatory pick in the 2019 NFL Draft for him.

RASUL DOUGLAS

Regular season stats: 420 snaps, 22 tackles, 11 passes defensed, 2 interceptions

Review: The Eagles’ 2017 third-round pick was up and down in offseason practices. He had some real rough moments where he got thoroughly roasted by the likes of David Watford. As such, I had my doubts about his readiness to contribute immediately. So did the Eagles. Douglas was kept inactive in Week 1. He was only called up to the game day roster after Darby got hurt. Then he was forced into a starting role once Jaylen Watkins got banged up. Douglas had some nice moments as a starter. The Panthers game sticks out, although that’s the kind of matchup he should win. The 6-2, 209 pound Douglas is built to handle bigger receivers better than he is to handle speed guys. Remember that Douglas ran a 4.59 second 40-yard dash, which ranks in the 18th percentile. In other words: he’s not the fastest CB. Douglas did have moments where he got burned, such as in the Chargers game.

Outlook: Some have suggested a move to safety for Douglas. I think Mills is more likely to take that path, if any of the Eagles’ corners do. Douglas figures to be a good backup corner to have around. I don’t know if he’ll ever be a long-term starter here. It’s possible, but it really depends on what happens with Mills, Darby, and Jones. Maybe the Eagles trade Douglas to a corner-needy team in the future. Not this offseason, but maybe in a year or two. Maybe he sticks around and Darby is the one who leaves in free agency next offseason. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

SIDNEY JONES

Regular season stats: 29 snaps, 2 tackles

Review: The Eagles’ 2017 second-round pick spent the first 16 weeks of the 17-week regular season on the non-football injury list as he recovered from an Achilles injury suffered in March 2017. Jones practiced for three weeks leading up to his roster activation in time for Philadelphia’s Week 17 meaningless game against the Cowboys. He saw some limited playing time on defense and special teams in that affair. Jones was up and down in his NFL debut. He had good coverage on some plays and he got beat a few other times. It was obviously too small of a sample size to make any real conclusions.

Outlook: The Eagles are really high on the 21-year-old Jones. Howie Roseman literally said Jones (in addition to Derek Barnett) was a top 10 player on their board in the 2017 NFL Draft. With that in mind, one would expect him to get playing time in 2018. The question is: where? Do the Eagles move Mills into the slot? Or into the Corey Graham role as the Eagles’ third safety? Do the Eagles just have Jones start his career as a nickel corner? We’ll get a better sense for what the Eagles plan to do once offseason practices begin. For now, Jones is a really intriguing piece to be adding to an Eagles defense that finished fifth overall in DVOA last season.

RANDALL GOFORTH

Outlook: Goforth signed with the Eagles as an undrafted rookie free agent last year. He had some nice moments in offseason practices before suffering a season-ending injury during training camp. The Eagles kept Goforth on IR all year when they easily could’ve waived him with an injury settlement, so they must like him at least a little bit.

D.J. KILLINGS

Outlook: First of all, awesome name. The Eagles signed Killings to their practice squad back in October. He previously spent the 2017 offseason as an undrafted rookie free agent with the Patriots before being waived with an injury settlement. In college, Killings’ UCF teammates referred to him as a “genius.” Right after the Eagles beat the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game, Nelson Agholor gave a shout out to Killings on Twitter.

Based on this, it sounds like Killings was facing Agholor one-on-one as the scout team nickel cornerback. The Eagles showed they liked Killings by elevating his practice squad salary to an active roster rate. So it seems like Killings is more than just a camp body. He figures to have a chance to compete for the slot corner job, especially if Robinson isn’t back.

DE’VANTE BAUSBY

Outlook: The Eagles signed Bausby to their practice squad in September. The 25-year-old has logged 11 tackles in four NFL games played. Bausby was on the Chiefs’ roster bubble last offseason. At 6-2, 190 pounds, he’s tall and thin.

ELIE BOUKA

Outlook: Bouka is a former CFL corner who measures in at 6-1, 205 pounds and reportedly runs a 4.3 40-yard dash. The Eagles signed the 25-year-old long-shot to a futures contract this offseason. Seems like an interesting guy to take a flier on.

DEXTER MCDOUGLE

Outlook: The Eagles traded Terrence Brooks to the New York Jets in exchange for McDougle late in the preseason. McDougle made the team as a backup slot corner and special teams contributor. He played 189 total snaps before being released in order to make room for Dannell Ellerbe on the 53-man roster. McDougle is now on the Jaguars’ roster.

WHO COULD SIGN

If money wasn’t an issue, it’d be great for the Eagles to re-sign Robinson. The reality is that they might not be able to retain him at an affordable rate relative to their cap room.

I can’t see the Eagles spending money on a corner in free agency. I’d take another look at Brandon Boykin on a minimum deal. (Even just to spite the one guy in the BGN comments who gets pissed off when I bring him up.) Or some other inexpensive veteran who has the ability to play the slot.

NFL DRAFT OPTIONS

Can’t see the Eagles drafting a corner unless it’s a no-brainer pick. They already have a logjam of talented youth at the position. Maybe a guy with the ability to play the slot and return punts/kicks, if anything.