- Left Tackle
- Middle Linebacker
Does that read as a list of the three most important positions in football?
Yeah… but it also doubles as a list of positions where the Eagles started a backup in the playoffs and Super Bowl. So if any team should understand the value of dependable depth, it should be this one.
With Beau Allen, Corey Graham, Brent Celek, and Trey Burton gone, the Birds had a lot to replace this offseason. That, on top of having to replace four starters in Mychal Kendricks, Patrick Robinson, Vinny Curry and—temporarily—Timmy Jernigan.
The front office has done a solid job of bringing in Michael Bennett, Haloti Ngata, Dallas Goeddert, and Richard Rogers to placate those losses. Not to mention Sidney Jones is on standby to fill a role in the secondary. But outside of that, the coaches seem to be willing to rely on rookies and career practice squad players to take key reps this season. Nate Gerry, Tre Sullivan, Devonte Bausby—to name a few.
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why the team is so comfortable with having so many new players take key reps this year. While I have confidence in some of the guys who have never played a meaningful snap before—like Jones, Goeddert, and linebacker Nate Gerry—a lot of that is cautious optimism.
I understand the cap situation; Patrick Robinson, Beau Allen, and Trey Burton were all signed to contracts that we can’t afford, and Mychal Kendricks cap number was just way too high.
But one area where I fail to understand the logic is at the third-safety position—a spot that the team has failed to address so far this summer. What makes the inaction of the front office even more unjustifiable is the fact that last year’s third-safety, Corey Graham, remains on the open market, and is openly willing to re-sign with the team.
I realize that Howie, Doug, the coaching staff, and the entire organization are on top of the world right now, and ‘can do no wrong’ in the eyes of pundits and fans, but if there is one area where you can nitpick the team heading into next season, it’s the secondary.
The team already let their pro bowl nickel corner walk in free agency. And despite the support that Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby get, there isn’t a single receiver in the league that fears a matchup with either of those dudes. I have a lot of confidence in Sidney Jones, but his skillset is much better suited on the outside—just like Mills and Darby.
Needless to say, are you really comfortable having two new players get significant playing time in a secondary that was already considered the weakest position group on this team?
I’m not sure why you would want to roll the dice like that. Especially since the Eagles have the option to alleviate that concern by bringing back Corey Graham on a 1-year deal for the league minimum.
If Beau Allen were available for the league minimum, wouldn’t you want to bring him back? What about Trey Burton?
I realize Graham probably has the least name recognition out of any player who contributed to our Super Bowl, but he was a vital piece to Jim Schwartz’s defense. He may not be a starter, but he played on 36% of the team’s snaps last season.
It’s hard to argue that he wasn’t a critical cog in the secondary. His presence allows the team to move around Malcolm Jenkins and make the most of his versatility—most notably, moving him down to the slot in “big nickel” situations to cover tight ends, big receivers, and running backs.
Because of the coaching staff’s trust in Graham, they were able to use Jenkins against Julio Jones in the slot in the divisional round, and against James White out of the backfield in the Super Bowl. Both of those adjustments were key aspects in Schwartz’s game plans and Corey Graham’s role in allowing the defense to execute that can’t be understated.
On top of allowing the defense to use Jenkins as a swiss-army knife, having a veteran like Graham in the secondary allows the team’s above average corners to play with more confidence knowing that they have a safety net behind them if they get beat.
I realize Graham isn’t the only player who can fill such a role, but it seems like the team is angling to turn the position over to Tre Sullivan—a 2nd-year undrafted player who spent most of last season on the scout team. No disrespect to Sullivan (I haven’t seen him play) but why not go with a known-commodity? Especially since you know he’s willing to come back on a cheap deal.
As it stands right now, our defense on opening night compared to the Super Bowl will be without Nigel Bradham, Patrick Robinson, Mychal Kendricks, Timmy Jernigan, Corey Graham, Vinny Curry, and Beau Allen…
… We’ll have added Michael Bennet, Haloti Ngata, and Sidney Jones. One of those players is a headache, one of them is over-the-hill, and the other is sort of a rookie.
You do your own math if you want, but the Birds are losing production on defense, and I’m not sure where they’re going to find it on their current roster.
They have the opportunity to button-up an important part of their secondary by bringing back Corey Graham, and there’s literally not a single good reason for the team not to do so.