Eagles' Options at Nickel CB Could Push Malcolm Jenkins Out of Role - NBC 10 Philadelphia

Eagles' Options at Nickel CB Could Push Malcolm Jenkins Out of Role



    Eagles' Options at Nickel CB Could Push Malcolm Jenkins Out of Role
    Eagles' options at nickel CB could push Malcolm Jenkins out of role

    Malcolm Jenkins has been a fixture in the slot for the Eagles the last two seasons, but not the first two weeks of practice in 2017.

    Instead, the Eagles appear to be auditioning Jalen Mills for the job of nickel cornerback during phase three of OTAs – though Jenkins cautions it may be too early to read into the lineup.

    "The plan every year – I usually don't take many snaps in the slot during the offseason or preseason just because there's an evaluation process that has to happen with a lot of these young guys," Jenkins said.

    A safety by trade, Jenkins initially took on the added responsibility as the de facto No. 3 corner for lack of a better option. The ninth-year veteran wound up thriving in the role, his success facilitating a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2015.

    Still, bringing Jenkins down into the slot has always been viewed as something the Eagles were doing purely out of necessity. The move requires a substitution at safety, which is unconventional at the very least, and arguably an inconvenience.

    "We'll see as we approach the season though what our combination of best five (defensive backs) is," Jenkins said. "That's usually what it comes down to with our base, nickel (defenses) is who the best five guys are."

    Mills is currently penciled in as one of the starters at cornerback along with Patrick Robinson in base personnel. When the first-team defense goes into its nickel package, Rasul Douglas joins the duo on the field, kicking Mills inside.

    The current arrangement still requires some juggling, but nothing out of the ordinary – not like somebody changing positions entirely. Whatever the Eagles ultimately decide is "normal" for this season, Jenkins may continue to see some work at corner.

    "Obviously, once we get into the season, it's all situational depending on the matchups and who matches up better in that slot."

    Only a handful of NFL players have spent more time in the slot than Jenkins over the last two seasons. The 29-year-old limited opposing receivers to 0.9 yards per coverage snap and recorded two of his five interceptions in the slot during that span, according to Pro Football Focus.

    Playing closer to the line of scrimmage has also allowed Jenkins to make plays in the backfield, racking up 12 tackles for loss and three quarterback hits in the same period.

    While clearly comfortable with the role, Jenkins is willing to do whatever is in the best interests of the team.

    "It'll be an adjustment for me, but at the end of the day, whatever puts our best guys on the field is what I'm OK with," Jenkins said.

    Although the Eagles might prefer to go in a different direction, it remains to be seen whether they finally have the personnel at cornerback to proceed. There appear to be alternatives, as Mills, Robinson and Ron Brooks all have NFL experience in the slot. Those three along with Douglas appear to be competing for the top four spots.

    Jenkins described the competition at cornerback as wide open and says it will be fun to watch that play out. He also acknowledged playing corner in this defense is not easy, and the Eagles may try to scheme to alleviate some of that pressure.

    "Since I've been here, the last three years, we've asked a lot out of that corner position," Jenkins said. "A lot of man-to-man, the talent of the receivers in the NFC East keeps getting better and better every year, so that's a tough task.

    "I think one of the things we'll do this year is really try to relieve some of that stress with a few different coverages so that they're not out on an island the entire game. But no doubt there's going to be a lot of opportunities for us here to get out and play press man-to-man and have to win."

    No matter what the Eagles have in mind at nickel cornerback, they can go into the offseason program and training camp knowing they have a fine fallback option in Jenkins – maybe more.