As training camp has begun we finally get to see competition take center stage as the Eagles looked to continue to shape their roster before the opening day matchup against Washington.

With new faces at a multitude of positions, this is supposed to be the time where players earn their stripes for lack of better terms. However, let’s talk about the one unit everyone seemed to have their eyes on in the secondary.

Goodbye Malcolm Jenkins and hello Darius Slay, as Philadelphia traded in the luxury of a do-it-all safety for the prospects of the first lockdown cornerback the franchise has seen in about a decade.


CB1: Darius Slay

Based on reports out of Eagles camp so far it sounds as Nickell Robey-Coleman has been arguably the best player in the Eagles secondary.


The standout nickel back has had a great camp, lining up in the slot and even has multiple passes defended against DeSean Jackson.


It sounds as if Robey-Coleman has a sizable lead on Cre’Von LeBlanc as the starting nickel, which is saying something because LeBlanc is having a pretty solid camp himself, especially during the one on one’s portions of practice.

Nickel: Nickell Robey-Coleman

As we mentioned the Eagles lost Malcolm Jenkins during the off-season and will look to the trio of free-agent acquisition Will Parks, rookie K’Von Wallace, and former cornerback Jalen Mills.

Mills is currently slated as the starting strong safety, with him taking first-team reps. It sounds as if Mills is attacking not only the position change head-on, shadowing tight ends, and making numerous strong plays during practice like when had a beautiful one-handed intercepted off quarterback Carson Wentz but the leadership role as well.


In fact, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, Mills asked head coach Doug Pederson to address the team, where he made a passionate speech endorsing accountability and competition.


Could it be possible that we see an entirely different version of the ‘Green Goblin’ we’ve come to know? Only time will tell. With the presence of Parks and Wallace, who look to be gaining the confidence of the coaching staff, Philadelphia certainly isn’t lacking in depth which should come in handy when they go to their Nickel and Dime packages.

SS: Jalen Mills

There’s really not much to talk about when it comes to the free safety position. The Eagles re-signed Rodney McLeod to a two-year deal worth $12m back in February, with the idea of maintaining some stability in the backend of the secondary with Jenkins now in New Orleans. McLeod will return to man the free safety position for the fifth year consecutive year. He is coming off a season in which he posted 74 tackles (45 solo), two interceptions, and six passes broken up while starting all 16 games.


McLeod sounds as if he’s been looking forward to getting back on the field with the rest of his teammates to right the clean the slate over the past few seasons.

“As a defense, I think we lost a little bit of respect. It was gained as the (last) season went on, I believe. We caught our stride, guys (got) confidence in one another. We were getting to the spots that we needed and you saw things coming together. But as a secondary, I felt that we were a little disrespected at times.”


FS: Rodney McLeod

It seems as if the puzzle that is the Eagles starting secondary, is piecing itself together. With all but one position addressed, its time for the main event! Well, at least what was supposed to be the main event. See heading into the off-season it was expected that we would see some friendly competition between Sidney Jones and Avonte Maddox to see who would come out as the man scheduled to start opposite Darius Slay.

Despite Jones playing arguably some of the best football of his young career to finish off the 2019 season, the former second-round pick faced an uphill climb this off-season. Still, as Howie Roseman emphasized the importance of this season to Jones in regards to his future in Philadelphia, it’s safe to say the challenge was laid out for Jones to step up to the plate this season.


So far that’s been far from the case.


As for Maddox, things are certainly in his favor as we lead up to week one. From him taking basically all of the first-team reps opposite of Slay, to Jim Schwartz calling him the “ultimate competitor” as he continued to praise much of Maddox’s skill set. One could make the argument that the position was Maddox’s to lose from the start. There are those that often like to mention the measurables or lack thereof when it comes to the 5’9/184 pound cornerback out of Pittsburgh. However, in typical David vs Goliath fashion, Maddox has often proved height means nothing, when you have the heart of a lion.

Photo: —

Despite his smaller stature Maddox seems to have a lot of supporters of his game roaming through the Novacare Complex. From Slay who made sure to acknowledge the “bunnies” [jumping abilities] Maddox has, to Schwartz who jokingly mentioned how “Maddox only looks small in the lunch line.”Maddox however has one particular member of the Philadelphia brass who’s off-season words could have been perceived as more than a strong vote of confidence. Howie Roseman seems to have been a fan of Maddox’s game for a while now; which makes sense given the fact that he’s the man who drafted Maddox.


Though when Roseman was asked if he generally believed Maddox was capable of succeeding as a full time outside cornerback. His response was very telling.

“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, and Avonte’s got a lot of those same characteristics. You look at his profile — his height, his length and you see there is a guy who got drafted in the top five, who has a very similar tale of the tape and nobody was talking about him in the same way. This is a guy [Maddox] 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 in 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”


With the season just over two weeks away it will be interesting to see if Jones is able to string together a few good practices, making this a contest again.


Though based Jim Schwartz’s recent comments about the situation, the hourglass seems to be approaching its final hours for Jones and any campaign he may have had for significant reps this season.

“Our time is starting to run short. The only thing we can do as coaches is coach the guys that are available to practice. There’s still time, but time is starting to creep in on us. We’re less than three weeks from our opener right now.”


Featured Image: Winslow Townson/AP Images
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