July 21, 2021
Over the last few weeks, we've been taking a look at every player on the Philadelphia Eagles' roster, and how they fit with the team heading into training camp. Today we'll look at the cornerbacks.
Previous training camp previews
First, a look at the depth chart at cornerback:
|CB||Darius Slay||Zech McPhearson||Shakial Taylor||Nate Meadors|
|CB||Michael Jacquet||Craig James||Kevon Seymour|
|Slot CB||Avonte Maddox||Josiah Scott||Lavert Hill|
No. 1 receivers absolutely wrecked the Eagles' defense in 2019, and as a response the team acquired Slay in a trade during the 2020 offseason to stop the bleeding. Slay traveled with the opposing offense's best receiver all season long, and save for a pair of bad performances against DK Metcalf (10-177-0) and Davante Adams (10-121-2), he was at least able to slow them down. Notably absent were "big plays," as Slay only had one INT and 6 PBUs on the season.
With the benefit of hindsight, knowing how badly the Eagles' 2020 season went, what would you rather have?
The obvious answer, in my view, in option 2, given that Slay is now 30 years old on a rebuilding team.
At this stage of his career, Slay is probably just a good-not-great starter, but he's the only good one the team has, and thus, a pretty important player on this roster.
As we all saw in 2020, Maddox is not an outside corner, and the Eagles should have never asked him to be one.
Maddox is a prime example of Howie Roseman overrating his own players. Here's what Roseman said about Maddox and the possibility of him moving from the slot to the outside back in March of 2020.
"I grew up admiring the Darrell Greens and Aaron Glenns of the world, and these guys, they’re explosive, twitched-up guys who had an incredible vertical, and it’s hard to get the ball on them. Avonte’s got a lot of those same characteristics, if you look at his profile, his height, his length.
"And so nobody is talking about kinda him in the same way. This is a guy who has started on the outside for us in playoff games. He has the ability to have sticky coverage with receivers inside or out. Obviously, he’s also played on the back end. He’s got a great mentality, and he’s got a great physical skill set. He’s an explosive, twitched-up guy as well, so yeah, we feel like he’s a guy who can play all over the secondary and certainly feel comfortable with him outside as well."
I suppose it's possible that Maddox could end up being the best option on the outside again after training camp plays out, but that would be a result of an extremely thin and uninspiring group at corner. Ideally, some other corner will step up, win the outside job opposite Slay, and Maddox can return to the slot, where his size and skill set will be most effective.
McPhearson was a fourth-round pick of the Eagles in the 2021 draft. He originally enrolled at Penn State, didn't play much there, and transferred to Texas Tech, where he was a two-year starter. In 2020, he had a productive season in which he showed good ball skills, collecting 53 tackles, 4 INTs (including a pick six), and 6 pass breakups.
At 5'11, 191 pounds, McPhearson is slightly undersized, but has the ability to play outside or in the slot. He has very good athleticism overall, but did not post an ideal 40 time, at 4.50.
McPhearson also showed that he can be a positive contributor on special teams, as he had 2 blocked PATs in his college career, as well as long blocked FG return for a TD.
There's a decent chance McPhearson will be the starting CB2 for this team, if they don't add another corner between now and the start of the regular season. That makes him a player of high interest in training camp.
Jacquet was an undrafted rookie free agent forced into a starting role late in the season in 2020, and he got absolutely abused by the Cowboys' passing attack. After he got benched in that game, the FOX crew put a graphic on the screen that said he gave up 7 catches for 182 yards on 9 targets. Yeesh.
On the bright side, he battled against the Cardinals' receivers, he has good size, and he's worth developing. It's worth noting that Jacquet was playing on the outside with the first-team defense in OTAs.
On Sunday, we took a deep-dive look at Scott's rookie season in 2020, during which he only played 80 snaps. Small sample size, but he showed that his 4.42 speed is legit, and he's a good tackler, but at 5'9, 185, he's going to be at a disadvantage against receivers with good size.
He will likely back up Avonte Maddox at slot corner, and since the team gave up a sixth round pick to get him (and Howie Roseman has final say over the 53-man roster), expect Scott to make the team unless he's awful in training camp and the preseason games.
James is still young (he turned 25 in April), and he was probably the Eagles' best special teamer, though he only stayed healthy for four games in 2020. He's a gunner on the punt team, the jammer on the punt return team, he covers kicks, and he's an OK backup at corner. He feels like a good bet to make the roster, and is something of a dark horse to win a starting job.
Taylor was an undrafted free agent with the Colts in 2019, where he appeared in five games, so he is somebody Jonathan Gannon is familiar with. He has since bounced around the league a bit, as the Eagles are now his fourth team.
Seymour was a sixth-round pick of the Bills' in 2016, and he'll turn 28 in November. He has appeared in 33 games, including two with the Eagles in 2020. Because of his age, Seymour is probably a longshot to make the roster out of camp.
Hill was an undrafted free agent of the Chiefs' in 2020. He landed on their practice squad for a bit, before being waived, and winding up on the Eagles' practice squad. Slot guy, and another longshot.
Meadors appeared in three games for the Vikings after they signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2019. He had a brief stopover with the Jaguars, who released him in May, before being picked up by the Eagles. Again, longshot.
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