The Philadelphia Eagles haven’t had an elite slot cornerback in a minute.
Since striking gold on Patrick Robinson in 2017 only to lose him in free agency the following offseason, the Eagles have largely been forced to rely on a slot cornerback-by-committee approach on the interior – handing out starts to everyone from Sidney Jones and to Orlando Scandrick.
Gosh, remember when Scandrick was a member of the Eagles? Weird times, weird times.
In 2020, the Eagles narrowed their sights and largely rolled with a two-man rotation on the inside featuring 2018 surprise standout Cre’Von LeBlanc and the self-proclaimed “slot god,” Nickell Robey-Coleman. While, in theory, having a pair of quality players should have set the Eagles up for success, as injuries happen all of the time and dime defense is becoming more and more used with each passing season, neither player performed particularly well in the final year of their respective contracts, and remain unsigned to this day largely as a result.
Fast forward to 2021, and it’s safe to say the Eagles will be on the lookout for yet another payer to prove their worth on the inside and potentially pick up the mantle of long-term slot cornerback a la Brandon Boykin from 2012-14 and Robinson in 2017.
Josiah Scott deserves a bit more attention from Philadelphia Eagles fans.
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Normally, when a team moves on from a player after their rookie season, it’s not a good sign.
Maybe they underperformed in practice, crashed mightly under the weight of the NFL’s pressure, or worse, pulled an Isaiah Wilson and demanded a trade after an underwhelming rookie snap count before flaming out of the league shortly thereafter.
Fortunately, Josiah Scott falls into the one category where being traded after your rookie season might actually be a good thing: A head coaching change.
Much like Eric Rowe in 2016, Scott’s size and style of play were ill-fitted for the Jacksonville Jaguars’ new defensive coaching staff, and he was traded for pennies on the dollar to effectively free up a roster spot and recoup a little bit of capital on their investment.
Fun fact: Eric Rowe went on to fill a very unique role with the New England Patriots over the final three years of his rookie contract before signing with the Miami Dolphins in free agency. He’s now about to enter Year 3 as one of Brian Flores’ starting safeties. Interesting stuff.
But hey, it’s cool; after only logging 80 defensive snaps during his rookie season, Scott should be in line for a pretty substantial play bump heading into his second NFL season, as the Eagles really don’t have that many other quality options.
Now sure, Scott measures in on the smaller side at 5-foot-9, 185 pounds – near-identical measurements to Avonte Maddox – and predominantly played on the outside during his three-year tenure at Michigan State. If you’re a team like the Seattle Seahawks or, apparently, the Jacksonville Jaguars, those factors would likely label Scott a “slot only” guy, if not a downright undraftable player undeserving of a spot on their draft board, let alone roster.
Even if the whole mythology of cornerback height is a bit overstated – as Jonah Tuls broke down at The Draft Network a few years back here – if you run a man-heavy scheme predicated on pressing at the line, having smaller cornerbacks can legitimately impact any given snap.
If the Eagles opt to run a defensive system similar to the run Jonathan Gannon’s Colts deployed from 2018-20, where Matt Eberflus preferred to press, Scott’s value may not be particularly high, but if he instead goes back a little further in his coaching roots to take pages out of Mike Zimmer’s playbook, the new number 46‘s playmaking abilities could become a whole lot more exciting.
In 29 games of action with the Spartans, Scott amassed six interceptions and 22 passes defensed, including a team-leading three picks during his final season in 2019. He played with good aggression, amassed 95 total tackles, and almost routinely made plays that looked a whole lot bigger than you’ll typically see from a sub-5-10 corner. If an opposing team has a non-DK Metcalf receiver on the outside, Scott should be able to hold up on the outside about as well as any of the Eagles’ other CB2 candidates, right up there with Maddox.
Which is good, because Maddox and Scott will surely confuse many a fan watching preseason games due to their physical similarities.
On paper, Maddox and Scott could conceivably be interchangeable. They both played predominantly on the outside in Mark Dantonio defensive systems, have above-average foot speed from the cornerback position, and present inside-out versatility depending on the opponent. But Scott brings a unique brand of aggressiveness to the table that could open up a world of blitzing opportunities from the slot corner spot in a way that Maddox could only dream of.
Over Gannon’s tenure with the Colts, cornerback Kenny Moore averaged two sacks per season as one of the better slot-blitzing cornerbacks in the business. While Scott isn’t a 1:1 Moore clone – he was actually compared to Maddox in his NFL draft profile, according to Lance Zierlein – if he can fill a similar role with the Eagles this fall, it’ll go a long way to solidifying the Eagles’ slot cornerback position, but fortify their defensive backfield moving forward.
Remember, Scott is under contract through the 2023 season, whereas Maddox’s contract expires at season’s end. If nothing else, Scott could learn from Maddox this season and step into his shoes for the final two seasons of his rookie contract.
Not too shabby for a sixth-round pick and Jameson Houston’s contract.
At this time of year, every player has the potential to be a star. From highly touted first-round picks all the way down to undrafted free agents without so much as a dollar guaranteed, fans, pundits, and armchair GMs alike can collectively sit back and envision the ideal Philadelphia Eagles season. Maybe the Jacksonville Jaguars were wise to move on from Josiah Scott early and recoup some value from the pick they initially acquired from trading A.J. Bouye to the Denver Broncos. If that happens, and Scott becomes nothing more than a depth special teamer, so be it, but between you and me, I don’t see that happening. No, I really like what Scott brings to the table and could genuinely see him earning starts in the slot if Avonte Maddox sticks outside. Call it a hunch, but I think this guy’s got it.