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September 28, 2019

What they're saying: Whether it's Jalen Ramsey or someone else, Eagles need cornerback help

Let's take a look at the latest on Ramsey and some other names that could help fix the Birds' secondary...

Eagles
Eagles-CB-options_092819_usat USA TODAY Sports/File

Titans CB Adoree' Jackson, Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey and Dolphins CB Xavien Howard.

The Eagles came away with a big road win on Thursday night, handing the Packers their first loss of the season and doing something not many teams can claim in recent years — leaving Lambeau with a primetime win.

It took a complete 60-minute effort from Doug Pederson's squad, and following the 34-27 upset in Green Bay, Pederson was rightfully fired up.

But the win — and the two goal-line stands in the fourth quarter — masks an ever-growing problem for the Birds: they need secondary help, and they need it yesterday.

Jim Schwartz' defense entered the Packers game with just four healthy cornerbacks, including Craig James, who was recalled from the practice squad just a few days earlier. The only one aside from James left standing at the end of the game was Rasul Douglas. The other two, Sidney Jones (hamstring) and Avonte Maddox (concussion), left the games with injuries and we've yet to receive a timetable on when they could return to action. Add to that the loss of Ronald Darby, who hurt his hamstring in Week 2, and the Eagles are clearly in desperation mode.

But don't worry, help could be on the way. On Friday, the team brought back corner Orlando Scandrick, who was with the team over the summer but didn't make the 53-man roster out of camp. As Jimmy Kempski pointed out, Scandrick merely solves a short-term problem in the slot while Maddox is out. But where the team really needs help is on the outside. The 10 receptions and 180 yards they allowed to Davante Adams before his injury was just the latest in a growing list of receivers who have torched the Eagles this season.

Sure, the Eagles won the game, but Thursday night served as an obvious reminder that this team's Achilles' heal right now is its decimated secondary. That issue is only compounded by the fact that their defensive front is struggle to sack opposing quarterbacks, exposing the second- and third-team cornerbacks who have been forced into action.

The good news for the Eagles is that they have a long week to scour the league and try to remedy this seemingly non-stop run of injuries to their cornerbacks. Interestingly enough, there's an All-Pro corner who just happens to be on the market in Jalen Ramsey. The latest on the unhappy defensive back has him traveling with the team for Sunday's game but he's still questionable to play for the Jaguars with a back injury.

And while Ramsey is obviously the biggest name out there — not to mention that he has been previously linked to the Eagles — he's hardly the only option for Howie Roseman and the Eagles.

So strap in, because there's about to be a lot of cornerback talk in today's edition of What They're Saying...

Howie already on the phones?

Mike Lombardi | The Athletic

Mike Lombardi, who writes for The Athletic and is probably best known in these parts for his freezing cold take regarding Doug Pederson the year the Eagles won the Super Bowl, believes Roseman and the Eagles are currently trying "to pry Jalen Ramsey from the Jags."

That has to be music to Eagles fans ears after they spent much of Thursday night wondering if there was a chance Ramsey could make it to Lambeau for the fourth quarter.

Were the Eagles the better team? No, not on this night, with all their injuries and a lack of coverage talent in their secondary. (A quick side note on that: The Eagles will spend the next few days trying to pry Jalen Ramsey from the Jags, as they know their lack of coverage will prevent them from competing at the highest level. The Eagles typically win with their defensive front dominating the game, but with all the injuries to their defensive line, the lack of pressure has highlighted their lack of talent in the secondary.) But the Eagles were the better situational team, as they went 4-4 on their goal line visits and ultimately that was the difference in the game.  [theathletic.com]

Doug not worried about Ramsey in locker room

Dave Zangaro | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Jalen Ramsey has a big personality. And whenever a player essentially forces his way out of an organization, it's always going to make prospective trade partners hesitant, even if he's arguably the most talented in the league at his position. But one thing the Eagles have done is establish a culture in which the veterans inside the locker room, like Malcolm Jenkins and others, help get new additions in line with the team culture right from the start.

Just look at what the Eagles were able to get out of LeGarrette Blount in 2017 or Michael Bennett last season. The Eagles have a history of this, and Pederson wasn't shy about sharing that fact on Friday.

On Friday afternoon, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was asked if he thinks his locker room culture is strong enough to withstand a move for a prominent player.

“I do. It’s been proven,” he said. “We’ve done that before here. I feel like our locker room is strong enough. We’ve got great leadership on the team with the players. And where our culture is right now, we can embrace just about anything in that locker room.”

Even a big personality?

“We’ve done it,” Pederson said. “Yeah, we’ve done it.”

While it’s important to note that Pederson was answering general questions — not ones specifically about Ramsey — you could certainly apply it to this situation. Ramsey definitely has a loud personality, but he backs it up with his play. And if the Eagles would feel confident about his fitting in, that would eliminate one possible hurdle.  [nbcsports.com]

What other options do they have?

Mike Kaye | NJ.com

Over at NJ.com, Mike Kaye took a look at a handful of players who could help the Eagles secondary this season — obviously Ramsey was one of the players listed, but we'll skip him for now since we already know that he should be their top priority. In addition to the names we'll look at below, he also listed an old friend who played a big role in helping the Eagles win their first Super Bowl: Patrick Robinson, who is back with the Saints for a second time.

Here's a look at two of the other names.

2. Chris Harris, Denver Broncos

Harris would be a nice get for the Eagles. He can thrive on the outside and in the slot. A proven veteran with notable experience, Harris has worked with Eagles defensive backs coach Cory Undlin in the past. That history with the coaching staff could help Harris hit the ground running following a deal. The Broncos are 0-3 and their defense isn’t playing well. The Broncos could look to sell away current talent for future assets.

3. Adoree’ Jackson, Tennessee Titans

The former first-round pick hasn’t found his footing in Tennessee. He has made some mistakes at punt returner and given up big plays in the secondary. At this point, Jackson may just need a change of scenery. The Titans are 1-2 and seem to be lost on offense. It may make sense to sell off Jackson while his value and name recognition are still somewhat high.  [nj.com]

Even more options not named 'Jalen Ramsey'

Jeff Kerr | CBS Sports

CBS Sports' Jeff Kerr also provided a list of names who could help the Eagles. Again, Ramsey was included — as was recently-signed Orlando Scandrick.

But two of the names were certainly interesting, and could become part of that fire sale (maybe "dumpster fire sale" is more appropriate) going on down in Miami. Unfortunately, the Eagles missed out on Dolphins defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, who looked good in his Steelers debut last week, but perhaps one of these two guys could be a nice depth addition for the Birds and could ultimately help them down the stretch.

Xavien Howard 

Howard won't be as expensive as Ramsey and has some familiarity with the Eagles defense as Eagles defensive assistant Matt Burke was his defensive coordinator the past two seasons in Miami. The 26-year old Howard, a former second-round pick of the Dolphins, led the NFL with seven interceptions last season and has 11 from 2017-2018, along with 25 passes defensed. 

Howard's starts haven't looked good in a Dolphins defense that has allowed 499 pass yards per game, but going back to a familiar defense could help. 

Bobby McCain 

Another Dolphins defensive back that would benefit leaving Miami is McCain. A former fifth-round pick of the Dolphins (2015), McCain plays safety in Miami's defense this year, but he played cornerback when Burke was the defensive coordinator, having three interceptions, three sacks, 106 tackles and 12 passes defensed in the two seasons under Burke. McCain has the versatility to play cornerback and safety, another plus for Schwartz's scheme.    [cbssports.com]

Taking a longer view

Matty Breisch | FanSided

Over at FanSided, Matty Breisch went a different route, taking a look at a cornerback who could possibly interest the Eagles in the draft next year — Alabama CB Trevon Diggs:

Diggs also just so happens to be the brother of Minnesota Vikings star receiver Stefon Diggs, a player the Eagles brass has surely kicked themselves for failing to draft out of Maryland in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Fortunately for Trevon, he might have the opposite problem.

Currently ranked the best cornerback prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft by Walter Sports and the second-best cornerback prospect on Mel Kiper‘s (way-too-early) big board, it seems almost impossible to imagine Diggs being available when the Eagles pick in the first round come spring – baring, of course, a monster breakdown that leaves the team on the outside looking in come January.

While his exact draft status will have a lot to do with his health, combine numbers, and the continued developments of college football’s other top corners, Diggs is the type of player worth trading up for if he drops into the late teens, much like how Roseman jumped three spots to ensure Andre Dillard‘s rights in 2019 with the Houston Texans nipping at his heels.  [section215.com]

Unfortunately, it's beginning to look like the Eagles aren't going to have quite that much time.


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