With the Darius Slay acquisition this offseason, the Eagles starting cornerback group should be vastly improved in 2020. With Ronald Darby now in Washington and Jalen Mills manning the vacant safety spot left by Malcolm Jenkins, Slay and Avonte Maddox will be the CB duo on the outside. Nickell Robey-Coleman figures to be the starting nickel corner, with Cre’Von Leblanc coming in with certain dime packages.
By all accounts, that starting group is the best starting cornerback group we’ve had here in Philly since Doug Pederson became the head coach. But if there’s just one injury to that group, the secondary could be in big trouble.
After the final roster cuts and seeing both Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones hit the road, the Birds have five corners on their final 53-man roster: Slay, Maddox, Robey-Coleman, Leblanc and Craig James. Both Robey-Coleman and Leblanc figure to be exclusively nickel corners, which leaves James as the only legit backup if Maddox or Slay goes down.
I understand moving on from both Jones and Douglas — they never became long-term options like the team envisioned — but I’d have more faith in either of those guys filling in than I do in James. He’s an unproven commodity, only playing 68 total defensive snaps in 2019. Maybe James is a solid backup, it’s impossible to know given how little we’ve seen him on the field, along with no preseason games this year.
They do have Trevor Williams on their practice squad if James can’t hold his own out there. The 26-year-old d-back has been on three different teams throughout his four-year career, with the Eagles being his fourth in five seasons. In 2017 he started 15 games for the Chargers, recording two interceptions and 56 combined tackles. I would imagine Williams would get called up immediately if one of the starting CBs gets injured.
Slay has never had any significant injuries throughout his NFL career, which is encouraging. But he’s not getting an younger, and the older you get in the NFL the more susceptible to injuries you become. Maddox has battled a handful of injuries throughout his short career, including battling a lower body injury during training camp this year. He’s missed multiple games in each of his first two seasons due to injury.
Chances are there will be an injury or two to this Eagles secondary this season. This team just can’t seem to catch any luck with the injury bug.
It may have been time for us to move on from Douglas and Jones, but if Slay or Maddox goes down for an extended period of time, we could find ourselves wishing we never did.