The Philadelphia Eagles are in the process of building a new-look secondary, but there are still various holes to fill and roles to figure out. How will it look when it all shapes out?
Obviously the newly traded for Darius Slay will be “CB1”; that spot is well secured. Along with being a top-flight corner that will play behind an actual pass rush - a refreshing change for Slay - he also diminishes (not eliminates) the need at CB2. With Slay, you can travel him around with WR1 and provide more help to your other outside corner. He did this frequently in 2019 with solid results.
That doesn’t entirely solve the CB2 issue, as Benjamin Solak pointed out on The Kist & Solak Show #177. Teams may just choose to avoid Slay for the most part if his counterpart proves to be a whipping boy. If you believe the reports, that would be Avonte Maddox.
Having taken 35% of his career snaps at outside corner, Maddox is no stranger to the role. That doesn’t mean it suits him though. He has obvious limitations with his size (5’9”, 184) and arm length (29 1/2”) that prevent him from being able to effectively jam against bigger receivers, which in his case, is just about all of them.
Maddox has shown he can fill-in on the outside in a pinch, as he did as a rookie, but even that stretch from Week 15 through the Divisional Round in 2018 is a serious mixed bag.
Looks like Cover 3 Cloud; Avonte Maddox does a wonderful job leveraging his zone. In a position to come down but also gets great depth to tip this ball (oh Michael Bennett is really good) - pic.twitter.com/o1IPO3mR4F— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) December 17, 2018
Maddox had a spectacular game against the Los Angeles Rams, followed by another solid performance against the Houston Texans, but he also received rolled coverages and struggled mightily thereafter. From Week 15 through the Eagles exit, Maddox allowed 1.55 yards per coverage snap (101st of 143) and a QB Rating of 82.3 (54th). In the playoffs alone he was picked on for a 62% completion rate for 264 yards, 1 touchdown and a 121.6 QB Rating that ranked 39th among 44 qualifying cornerbacks.
I’m of the opinion that Maddox can be used more effectively elsewhere on the defense, which would include safety reps and four cornerback sets that get him on the field with the newly acquired Nickell Robey-Coleman.
Speaking of Robey-Coleman, the Eagles interest in nickel cornerbacks as part of their draft process is likely over. Coming in on a super affordable 1-year contract with only $1M fully guaranteed, Robey-Coleman brings a level of steady play that the Eagles secondary has sorely missed.
Nickell Robey-Coleman slot yards allowed per coverage snap, per PFF (50% min)...— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) March 25, 2020
'17: 0.96 (t-7th)
'18: 0.68 (1st)
'19: 0.63 (3rd)
QB Rating Allowed:
'17: 90.5 (12th)
'18: 81.1 (4th)
'19: 80.1 (4th)
With two of the three spots likely figured out, where does that leave the rest of the group? Is Maddox capable of holding it down on the outside long-term? Are we finally getting the Sidney Jones redemption tour? Is Rasul Douglas even going to be on the team? What about Cre’Von Leblanc? Is this all a waste of time that ends with Jim Schwartz finding an excuse to plug in his favorite finger wagger?
I wish I could answer those questions, but I can’t. Thankfully, it’s only March and there’s time to work all of this out. Plus, there’s a draft happening between now and the start of the season that could add even more players into a muddy picture.
As it stands now, the Eagles secondary is better than it was last year. So, there’s that. We discuss it more in-depth on The Kist & Solak Show #177! Listen on the media player below or click here if the player doesn’t load. New to podcasts?! Check out our guide on how to listen and subscribe to BGN! FLY EAGLES FLY!