July 21, 2017

Eagles training camp preview: Cornerback

Eagles NFL

On Monday, there will be football again, as quarterbacks, rookies, and select veterans will report for training camp. Leading up to camp, we'll be taking a look at each positional group. Today we'll preview the cornerbacks.


TRAINING CAMP PREVIEWS:
 QB | RB | WR | TE | OT | OG/C | K/P 
DE | DT | LB


First, here's a look at the depth chart at corner:

 CBJalen Mills Aaron Grymes Dwayne GratzRandall Goforth (R) 
 CBPatrick Robinson C.J. Smith Mitchell WhiteSidney Jones (R) (injured
 Nickel CBRasul Douglas (R) Ron Brooks Jomal Wiltz (R)  

In the 2017 NFL Draft, it was crystal clear that the Eagles were going to select cornerbacks in what was thought to be a very deep and talented corner draft. They grabbed Sidney Jones, who was a potential top 10-15 pick had he not ruptured his Achilles at his Pro Day, in the second round. In the third round, they grabbed Rasul Douglas, a bigger corner with good instincts and ball skills, but very questionable long speed, as he ran a 4.59 at the Combine.

And then there's Jalen Mills, who was a seventh-round rookie a season ago. He had some decent moments in 2016, but did not produce any turnovers. In coverage, there was a lot more bad than good, as Mills was susceptible to the deep ball. Heading into 2017, it is expected that Mills will be better, but he has a long way to go before anyone could consider him an ideal starter.

The Eagles may have some answers long-term at corner if Jones, Douglas, and Mills all pan out, which is a realistic scenario. However, the 2017 season could be ugly.

The Eagles' top three corners heading into 2017 training camp, as noted in the depth chart above are, in order, a second year player who struggled as a rookie (Mills), a late Band-Aid free agent signing (Robinson), and a rookie who was barely a top 100 pick (Douglas). Uh-oh. The Eagles' front four better create pressure early and often, or it could get ugly on the back end.

The player everyone will have their eye on during camp will be Douglas, who showed good instincts and ball skills during the spring but was also beaten deep a few times. Douglas has a chance to start, and Jim Schwartz has a history of playing rookie corners early

As for the rest of the bunch:

Sidney Jones: Jones is still recovering from his ruptured Achilles and will miss all of training camp and the preseason. He has the tools to become a No. 1 corner in the NFL, but will have to prove that he can be the same player he was, pre-injury. Back in May, we spoke with Dr. Larry Miller, who is the chairman and chief of orthopedic surgery at Cooper University Hospital, about Jones' chances of playing this season, as well as his chances of returning to 100 percent.

Aaron Grymes: Grymes was poised to make the final 53-man roster last season, but he got injured in the second preseason game, killing his chances. He eventually rejoined the team, appearing in one game. Grymes had a strong spring, making a number of plays on the football, including a handful of interceptions.

C.J. Smith: Smith initially made the final 53-man roster, only to be demoted to the practice squad after the Eagles added three players on waivers. He was eventually added to the 53-man roster again and appeared in 10 games.

Ron Brooks: Brooks was a "starter" last season in the slot before suffering a serious quad injury against the Redskins. Last year he was a roster lock. This year? Not so much. After taking a pay cut this offseason, Brooks will be fighting for a roster spot.

Dwayne Gratz: Gratz was added to the roster late in the season after the Eagles' injured reserve list began piling up. Gratz was a former third-round pick (64th overall) of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2013. In his fourth year with the Jags in 2016, he was released and claimed off of waivers by the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams released him a month later. Gratz did not stand out (in a good or bad way) in the spring.

Mitchell White: White is something of a dark horse to make the team for me this camp. In the spring, he looked solid in coverage, albeit against the third stringers.

Jomal Wiltz: Wiltz is an undrafted free agent with good speed (he ran track at Iowa State), and has the willingness to stick his nose in and make tackles. He wasn't drafted because he's small, at 5'10, 180. 

Randall Goforth: Another undrafted free agent, with corner and safety versatility.


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