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Why Fixing the Eagles’ Secondary Will Be So Hard

Howie Roseman
CSNPhilly.com

The issue with the Eagles' secondary isn't just that it was bad this year.

It's that it was bad and there's not a lot of hope for the future.

Howie Roseman and his staff are facing an almost complete rebuild of the Eagles' defensive backfield, and maybe that's a good thing considering what we saw this past season.

Big play after big play sailing over the heads of the Eagles' d-backs.

The Eagles this year allowed an NFL-high eight passing touchdowns of 50 yards or more. And then another one in the playoff loss to the Seahawks.

The last time they allowed more was 1965.

They allowed seven more pass plays of 40 to 49 yards. Include the postseason and that's 16 pass plays of 40 yards or more.

These are game-changing plays. Momentum killers.

And in the case of Russell Wilson's 58-yarder to D.K. Metcalf last weekend, season killers.

And opposing quarterbacks are going to keep chucking deep balls against the Eagles until they find people who can stop them.

Which won't be easy.

The Eagles went into the season counting on Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas and Avonte Maddox at corner.

Darby got hurt twice and was terrible the rest of the time. Mills was barely adequate. Jones and Douglas both struggled. Maddox was disappointing. Cre'Von LeBlanc did some good things but then had that devastating missed tackle against Seattle.

Mills and Darby are free agents, so sitting here today the corners under contract are Jones, Douglas, Maddox, LeBlanc and Craig James.

Excited for next year yet?

Making the whole equation trickier is that with Rodney McLeod facing free agency, the only safeties under contract are Malcolm Jenkins, who said he's not going to play under terms of his current deal, and Marcus Epps and Rudy Ford.

Remember Andrew Sendejo? Seems like a lifetime ago.

That's the problem. When the Eagles think they're upgrading the secondary, they're not. Sendejo didn't even make it to the bye week.

Now, nobody really expects Jenkins to sit out or get traded. But when your popular 32-year-old safety is threatening to hold out, that's not ideal.

The reality is the Eagles are going into the offseason without a single known quantity in the secondary.

We can sit here and say, Oh, just move Rasul and Avonte to safety, draft a couple corners, sign a free agent, whatever.

But one of the reasons the Eagles are in this situation in the first place is because in 2017 they drafted Jones in the 2nd round and Douglas in the 3rd round and neither one could even get on the field on defense for the Seahawks playoff game.

Everybody keeps saying Rasul can play safety, but after watching him this past year can we honestly trust him to change positions and replace a steady pro like Rodney McLeod? Sidney? He made a couple plays late in the season, but this is a third-year 2nd-round pick who was a DNP-CD in the biggest game of the year.

Maybe they can resign McLeod and agree to a reasonable extension with Jenkins. Maybe Douglas and Jones will magically figure everything out in Year No. 4. Maybe Maddox or LeBlanc can hold down the slot. Maybe Epps can be that third safety. Maybe they'll draft or sign a couple all-pros.

Way too many maybes. No definitelys.

It's a precarious situation.

The issue isn't as much that the Eagles need a couple corners and a couple safeties. It's that their track record of finding players at those positions is so troubling.

The last Pro Bowl defensive back they drafted was Lito Sheppard. That was 18 years ago.

Their premium-round d-backs since? Matt Ware, Nate Allen, Curtis Marsh, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Eric Rowe, Douglas and Jones.

Rowe was Chip Kelly's pick and Ware was back in 2004, but everybody else was Howie.

You can make an argument the Eagles are drafting good players, they're just not developing them. But it's not like any of those other guys have gone to another team and been any better.

There's a ton of work to do going into the offseason and no real indication the Eagles are capable of doing it.

They know what they need. Whether they can find it is a much different story.


 

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