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June 08, 2017

After impressing Pederson, Eagles rookie CB Rasul Douglas taking first-team reps

When the Eagles drafted injured Washington cornerback Sidney Jones in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, it became clear that the team was resigned to the fact that its secondary could again be a major liability this season.

"You always have to hedge short-term and long-term in this business," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said last week during his OTA press conference with reporters. "That's a difficult balance, not only for coaches, but for the organization. He's a really good player, and the opportunity to get a really good player is really important to us. So, I'm happy to have him. Whenever he gets back, we'll be happy to get him on the field."

The good news, however, is that Jones, who may miss the entire year as his surgically repaired Achilles' tendon heels, is out of his walking boot and will be back next week for the team's mandatory minicamp. 

"He's been doing well," head coach Doug Pederson said of Jones on Thursday. "[Next week] will be the first time since rookie mini-camp that we've had a chance to put our eyes back on him. So it will be good to get him back in the building and see where he's at from not only conditioning, but rehab and everything that's going on."

Jones wasn't the only cornerback taken by the Eagles on Day 2 of the draft. With their next pick (99th overall), the Birds selected Rasul Douglas, a 6-foot-2 defensive back from West Virginia. 

The team let CBs Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin walk in free agency and along with their two draft picks, the Eagles also added veteran Patrick Robison, as well as UDFA's Randall Goforth and Jamal Wiltz. Here's a look at their depth chart (according to PhillyVoice's Jimmy Kempski) heading into OTAs:

 CBJalen Mills Dwayne Gratz Aaron GrymesMitchell White 
 CBPatrick Robinson Rasul Douglas* C.J. SmithSidney Jones* (inj
 Slot CB Ron BrooksRandall Goforth* Jomal Wiltz*  

But by the time training camp rolls around next month, there could be a change to one of the starting cornerback positions.

Prior to Thursday's practice, head coach Doug Pederson was asked about which players have stood out in the first couple weeks of the Eagles offseason program. And the first player he pointed to was Douglas, saying that he's "shown some strides here in the last couple practices."

And he must have, because when the team took the field at the NovaCare Complex, it was Douglas – and not the veteran Robinson – running with the first team.

A glass-half-full guy would say this is good news: The rookie is playing so well he's already supplanted one a veteran

But if I know Eagles fans, they're not the glass-half-full type: This Robinson guy must be terrible if a third-rounder passed him on the depth chart in his first couple weeks.

However, given that Pederson seemed impressed with Douglas' play so far, I'm going to lean toward the former being the more likely scenario. 

Still, the current group of Eagles cornerbacks is not great, and on paper it doesn't look like an upgrade over last year's group, especially with Jones still sidelined. 

"Well, we'll find out during the season, for sure," Schwartz said last week when asked if the team did enough to address the cornerback position. "[The season is] the final determination in every move that we make and everything that we do – from preparation, to drafting, to signing free agents, to new coaching schemes. That's the great thing about this sport. It all comes to light during the season. 

"I think it's probably a little too early to evaluate right now. We're still working through a lot of different stuff. It's certainly a position of importance for us. We understand where we were last year and how it affected our defense, and we need to be better at our corner position, for sure."

Let's just hope that when "it all comes to light during the season," it looks better than it did in 2016. 

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin

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