After speculation that Malcolm Jenkins could be a no-show for mandatory minicamp because of a contract dispute, multiple reports on Monday morning stated that Jenkins will in fact be on the field once mini camp gets underway tomorrow morning.
This is obviously great news for the Birds for a multitude of reasons. Jenkins is the life blood of Jim Schwartz’s defense and easily the most valuable piece the defensive coordinator has at his disposal.
But despite the pro bowler’s return, the Eagles secondary is still a huge question mark heading into this season. Jenkins has been able to mask some of the deficiencies in the defensive backfield during his time here. Yet, the Birds secondary has still had its ups and downs.
The front office has neglected to pair Jenkins with any other note worthy talent in the secondary other than bringing Rodney McLeod on board in 2016. He was a nice addition and has played well during his time here. He and Jenkins have formed one of the better safety duos in all of football over the past few seasons, but after missing essentially the entire season last year with a torn MCL, it’s hard to project what kind of season we’ll see out of McLeod this year.
The cornerback group is a much bigger concern though and it’s been one for some time now. They have plenty of bodies to work with and the potential for one or two of them to become a solid starter is certainly there. But if Howie Roseman was serious about putting together a Super Bowl caliber team for the 2019 campaign, why was this glaring hole not addressed?
That’s a question that I can’t provide an answer to, and I still find it hard justifying Howie’s refusal to use draft picks or his inability to pull off trades in order to solidify the position.
The only reasonable conclusion I can come to is that Howie and the rest of the Eagles defensive coaches must know something that we don’t, and have absolute faith that someone from the group is going to step up. Like I said, the potential among the corners on the roster is there, it’s just that Howie has never struck me as a guy who’s willing to bank on potential.
The only corners who I have faith in right now is Cre’Von Leblanc (in the slot) and Avonte Maddox.
Once LeBlanc was inserted into the starting lineup as the nickel corner — a position that Schwartz had trouble finding consistency at all season – the defense instantly improved. If he doesn’t start the season as the starter at the nickel, I’ll be very surprised.
I also really liked what we saw out of Avonte Maddox in his rookie season. But I’m not sure how Schwartz plans on using him this year. Through OTAs he’s primarily played corner, which I like, and I hope that’s a sign that he’ll stay put there throughout the season. He could easily beat out whoever is in front of him on the cornerback depth chart in my estimation.
As for everyone else, I think there’s a case to be made for almost all of them to start opposite Maddox, but they all clearly have their draw backs. Both Mills and Darby have started the last two seasons on the outside, so they have experience there, but both have their weaknesses. And at times, they’re utterly frustrating to watch.
Sidney Jones was drafted to eventually be the starter on the outside, but he had a disappointing season in his first year of actual play, so I don’t know what to make of him at this point.
And then you have Rasul Douglas, who is a personal favorite of mine, but even I can admit that he does struggle with consistency.
There’s no other position group for the Eagles with this much doubt entering 2019. I really have no clue how it’ll all play out, and it doesn’t appear that Howie plans to make any more major moves other than possibly giving Jenkins a new contract after recently getting the Wentz extension finalized.
We should get a more clear picture of what we truly have here once minicamp officially kick off on Tuesday.