Eagles Armchair: Once Again, The Secondary Is An Issue


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The Eagles spent all off-season focusing on improving their secondary. They threw millions of dollars at Byron Maxwell, spent a second-round pick on Eric Rowe and converted Walter Thurmond to safety in hopes of solidifying the achilles heel of Chip Kelly’s first two teams. Heck, the front office was so confident in their new players, they traded away Brandon Boykin for a fourth-round draft pick.

Then training camp hit, injuries took their toll and weaknesses were exposed. Which brings up the question, “Will the secondary once again be the position group that holds the Eagles back?”

It should be noted first that Maxwell is head and shoulders better than anyone the Eagles have had a cornerback since Asante Samuel. His presence on the back end will give Bill Davis versatility in his scheming, allowing Maxwell to potentially shadow a team’s top receiver. Considering the Eagles will face Julio Jones, Dez Bryant and Desean Jackson in the first quarter of the season, that could come into play as Davis will try to hide the weak links in his secondary.

Thurmond is another pleasant surprise. A lot of eyebrows were raised when Kelly announced at the first open OTA that Thurmond would be transitioning to safety, but that move has been seamless and it looks like the Eagles may be dealing with best safety tandem since the duo of Brian Dawkins and Quintin Mikell.

Nolan Carroll is also much improved since last year, and his replacing of Bradley Fletcher gives the Eagles a quality starting secondary and maybe if we lived in an era of I formations and two tight end sets, that would be enough. Sadly, it isn’t 1983.

Modern football is a game built around downfield passing and spread formations, and in order to properly combat that on the defensive side of the ball, a team needs three or four capable corners. That’s where things get worrisome.

JaCorey Shepard was supposed to be Boykin’s replacement. He shadowed Boykin all spring during OTAs, and coaches and scouts alike raved about his ball skills. But he will be sidelined thanks to a torn ACL suffered before he got a chance to play in a preseason game. With Shepard gone and the roster already trimmed to 53, Rowe, Redskins castoff EJ Biggers and UDFA Denzel Rice are competing for the nickel spot. That isn’t a group that will be challenging for Pro Bowl votes anytime soon.

The logical choice of the group is Rowe, but he been given extended playing time the last two weeks and was completely abused by Brett Hundley and Matt Flynn. Rowe excels at jamming larger receivers at the line, but doesn’t have the top-end speed to stay with the smaller, shiftier receivers in the NFL. Rowe acknowledged his struggles after the Eagles final preseason game, remarking the league “is no joke.”

The NFL employs the greatest football players and coaches in the world, and you better believe they will make life difficult for the rookie out of Utah if he is unable to pull things together before the Eagles Monday night showdown in Atlanta.

The 2015 version of the Eagles secondary is higher priced and has bigger names, but if Rowe, Biggers or Rice doesn’t step up and solidify the slot, the defense may once again have a glaring hole waiting to be exploited.


5 – Kelly parted ways with five Pro Bowlers during the off-season. LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Nick Foles, Trent Cole and Evan Mathis will all be suiting up for different teams this season. But Chip Kelly, general manager extraordinaire has been able to replace them with comparable talent that fits in with his culture. That’s good.

22 – Twenty-two men had their dreams shattered on Friday and Saturday when Kelly gut them from the team. Yes, nine of them ended up on the practice squad, but with all the speculation and reaction to the guys who made the 53-man roster, it is easy to forget about these men who worked their whole life at something and were told they aren’t good enough to continue.

7 – Seven nights until real-life Eagles football! Get excited, this season — good or bad — will certainly be a memorable one.


As of this writing, Marcus Smith is the only Eagle who will be injured come Monday night. Zach Ertz is still a question mark, but Kelly seemed cautiously optimistic when talking with the media last week so it looks like the Eagles will be relatively healthy heading into the regular season.


This week, I will dedicate this section to the memory of Tim Tebow and the short time we spent together.

And so it began.

There certainly were some ups and downs.

But sadly, it was not meantto be.


Roster Surprise – Denzel Rice

An un-drafted free agent from Coastal Carolina, Rice has decent ball skills, but he didn’t look nearly as good in the games as he did in practice. He strictly played on the outside in college and it is surprising he was able to beat out Jaylen Watkins for the final cornerback spot. I assume he will be inactive on game day for the foreseeable future.

Roster Snub – Raheem Mostert

Mostert led the entire NFL in yards from scrimmage in the preseason and I think he has much more upside than Kenjon Barner. Barner has been a better returner, but with a crowded group already there, it doesn’t seem like he will get a lot of opportunities in that role.

Aug 29, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back Raheem Mostert (48) returns the opening kickoff for 67 yards against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports


  • I’m incredibly disappointed that Rasheed Bailey not only didn’t make the roster, but he was also left off the Eagles practice squad and hasn’t been picked up by any of the other 31 teams. Bailey’s story is the stuff of Hollywood and I hope someone gives the kid a shot, because he has the grit and toughness to be a special teams stand out in the NFL.
  • If E.J. Biggers finds his way on the field for extended playing time, the Eagles may be in trouble. Biggers was constantly picked on during his time in Washington and it’s hard to believe Kelly and company didn’t think Watkins had a higher upside.
  • I’ve said it before, but Nelson Agholor is amazing to watch after the catch. Cue up some of his highlights from USC and watch the guy leave defensive backs in the dust as he crosses the goal line like he’s finishing the 100-meter dash. He’s very aggressive with the ball in his hands and will be dangerous with the amount of space Kelly’s offense will give him.
  • I was surprised by the Eagles acquisition of Stephen Morris as their third QB yesterday. After Kelly said he wanted a veteran third-stringer in case something happens to Sam Bradford, it is interesting to see him take a chance on such a project. I would assume Kelly knows there a few experienced QBs on the street that will be available later in the season and can be brought in at a moment’s notice if Bradford is lost for an extended period of time.


The Eagles open up their season in Atlanta on Monday Night Football. I’ll have a more comprehensive preview of that game and the rest of the Eagles regular season next week.

Next: Will Chip Kelly be Able to Utilize all Three Tight-Ends?

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