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July 18, 2019

Eagles training camp preview: Cornerback

Eagles NFL
071619SidneyJones Jim Brown/USA TODAY Sports

Sidney Jones will have to stand out in training camp in order to carve out a significant role in 2019.

Leading up to training camp, we'll take a look at every player on the Philadelphia Eagles' roster, and how they fit with the team. In case you've missed any of our previous positional previews, you can catch up here.


TRAINING CAMP PREVIEWS:

 QB | RB | WR | TE | OT | iOL | DE | DT | LB


Today we'll look at the cornerbacks.

 CBJalen Mills Rasul DouglasJay Liggins (R)
 CBRonald Darby Sidney JonesJeremiah McKinnon
 SlotAvonte Maddox Cre'Von LeBlanc Josh Hawkins

Jalen Mills

As we all know, Mills is a Jim Schwartz favorite, and he isn't going anywhere, whether you like it or not. In 2019, I thought he was OK. He had some early struggles, particularly Week 2 against the Buccaneers, but he played better before injuring his foot in London against the Jaguars and going on IR. While Mills certainly has his flaws, such as his deep coverage ability, he is a very good red zone corner, and a great tackler for a corner.

Mills is still recovering from a foot injury sustained in London against the Jaguars. The team -- and Mills -- have not been forthcoming about his injury, so his availability for training camp is unknown, but it's not looking good. Not only did he not participate in spring practices, but he didn't even work off to the side with other injured teammates while practice was going on. The bet here is that he won't be ready when the team reports for training camp.

Ronald Darby

Darby had some tackling issues early in 2018 (notably against the Buccaneers), but on the whole he was having a good season before he tore his ACL against the Dallas Cowboys. 

Will Darby be ready for Week 1 of the 2019 regular season? His torn ACL occurred on November 11 last year, which gives him roughly 10 months to rehab. He was out on the field during spring practices, warming up with his teammates, and then doing sprints on a side field while the rest of the team practiced. He also noted after one practice that he is running 22 miles per hour.

Asked if Week 1 remained the timetable for his return to the field, Darby said, "Yeah, that's what I'm aiming for."

Asked if he'll be ready for training camp, he said, "Oh yeah, I'll be doing stuff in training camp."

Asked if he'll be a full participant in training camp, Darby said, "I gotta see. We'll talk it over."

Darby is the Eagles' most athletic defensive back, and their best cover corner. If fully healthy, there's little question that he would be one of the Eagles' starters on the outside. That said, with the Eagles' depth at the position, there should be no reason to rush him back out onto the field.

The guess here is that he starts training camp on the PUP list. If not, that would be a very encouraging sign for his availability for the 2019 season.

Avonte Maddox

Maddox had a great rookie season, playing outside corner, slot corner, and safety, never looking overwhelmed by any of it. In spring practices, he was one of the best players on the field.

Putting the Eagles' cornerbacks in a depth chart in print is sort of a hard thing to do, and Maddox is the reason why. There's an argument to be made that he is the best corner on the team, and it will be interesting to see what role he plays in 2019. My best guess? He starts, never comes off the field, and plays in the slot in nickel. That's a whole lot of responsibility, and Maddox seems ready for it.

Rasul Douglas

Douglas entered the 2018 season as the fourth corner, and got a chance to start after the Eagles lost Mills, Darby, and Sidney Jones. In his first few starts, Douglas was shaky, but he turned it on late it the season, and made a case that he should be able to at least compete for a starting job in 2019.

Douglas isn't the fastest corner, but he has good ball skills and is a good tackler. The Eagles have to be pleased with the way he grew as a player in 2018.


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Sidney Jones

Jones will be one of the most interesting players to watch in Eagles training camp this year. He had a good spring, as he provided close coverage, but even in shells and shorts, it's obvious that he is often over-matched physically. He'll have his share of obstacles in getting on the field in 2019.

Based on past precedent, Mills and Darby are ahead of Jones on the depth chart. Meanwhile, Maddox is clearly the better player at this time, and there's a strong argument to be made that Douglas is as well. Hell, even Cre'Von LeBlanc might get on the field before Jones if there were a need for a backup slot corner to enter a game.

Depending on the health of Mills and Darby, it's not crazy to think the Eagles would be open to moving Jones to a team that is (a) in need of some help at corner, and (b) willing to be patient as Jones develops in the weight room.

Cre'Von LeBlanc

LeBlanc was an outstanding in-season addition last year who "really solidified the nickel spot," according to Schwartz. He's a good tackler, he's quick, and most importantly to Schwartz, he's confident. To be determined if he was merely a flash in the pan for a half season, or if he can sustain his success over a longer period of time.

Josh Hawkins

Hawkins was forced into action in the Eagles' playoff game against the Saints, and that went about as expected. He is a long shot to make the team. Hawkins has three years of NFL experience, playing for the Packers, Panthers, and Chiefs. In 2017, Hawkins played in 15 games (three starts), registering 38 tackles, six pass breakups, and one forced fumble.

Jeremiah McKinnon

McKinnon has bounced around the league, mostly as a practice squad player, since he entered the league in 2016. He has been with all four NFC East teams (including the Cowboys twice), as well as the Titans and Browns. He's a respectable practice guy who will give the receivers legitimate reps.

Jay Liggins

Liggins is an undrafted rookie free agent, and a big corner, at 6'2, 200. He didn't get many reps during the spring.


MORE: What effect do the potential holdouts by Ezekiel Elliott and Jadeveon Clowney have on the Eagles?


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