Training Camp Preview: SecondaryBREAKING NEWS, Eagles, News Sunday, July 20th, 2014
How much has changed since last year? Chung, Coleman and Anderson are gone. Free agency added three players to the defensive backfield. Safeties Malcom Jenkins and Chris Maragos, cornerback Nolan Carroll, how quickly will they make an impact? The Eagles used a 4th rounder in the draft for “defensive back” Jaylen Watkins and a sixth rounder on safety Ed Reynolds.
Has enough been done with the new faces and the players returning from 2013? Questions outweigh the answers. Speculation is that enough has been done to be a respectable and productive unit in 2014. A combination of speed, size and “versatility” in players like Jenkins and Watkins is what Kelly and the defensive coaches want with their defensive backs.
Much is the same. Williams and Fletcher are penciled in as starters. Williams had a good season, Fletcher minimized damaged with his weekly play. Boykins is the most talented cornerback. He had a breakout sophomore season and is knocking on the Pro Bowl door. His success manning the slot and his smaller stature will likely prevent him from a legitimate opportunity to matchup with receivers on the outside.
Carroll has experience starting at the NFL level. He is the biggest cornerback on the roster, and plays a physical style of football with better than average closing speed. He has a legitimate shot of overtaking Fletcher this season, but it would take a strong camp and preseason showing; the coaches are high on Fletcher for his football I.Q. and consistent play.
Curtis Marsh is somehow still on this roster, merely a camp body at this point. Roc Carmichael, recall that play in the Saints game where he entered and Brees went right in his direction? Watkins is listed as a defensive back because of his time at both the safety and cornerback position during his collegiate career at Florida. Williams, Fletcher, Boykins, Carroll, and Watkins, not going to scare off offensive coordinators, but there is certainly better depth than the 2013 unit.
Will Malcom Jenkins is better than any safety on the roster last year, but how good does that make him? Jenkins will police the secondary, ensuring guys are in the correct position, making the audible calls much like the role that Connor Barwin had last season with the linebackers. Jenkins will be used all over the football field, but he must improve on his tackling, he ranked as one of the worse in the league last year with missed tackles.
Will it be Allen or Wolff playing alongside Jenkins? Allen had a “safe” season last year, nothing great, was not considered a detriment to the team. Wolff had glimpses when healthy that the Eagles received good return value with their 2013 5th round selection. Wolff has committed himself to everything the Eagles have asked of him, and has spent significant time with Jenkins to improve in all aspects of his game.
Chris Maragos comes from the Seattle Seahawks, a Super Bowl championship team with the best defensive backfield in the NFL. Even as a special teamer with limited defensive snaps, Chris has top end speed, and work ethic that coaches wished every player came with; attributes that you like to have as your fourth safety. Ed Reynolds will have a good shot of making this team as a rookie. Projecting as a special team player; Keelan Johnson, Daytawion Lowe, and Davon Morgan are the other names that Reynolds has competing for that 5th safety roster spot likely kept by the coaching staff.
The secondary with the projected 10 player unit is not one that jumps out at you. They provide what the coaches want, guys who can play multiple positions, understand what the coaches are asking of them and who prepare the right way. Jenkins is the name you hear mentioned as what will be the biggest impact to the secondary. Chip wanted Jenkins when the rest of us were requesting Byrd, Ward or Whitner.
If the Eagles can simply be in that 14-18 grouping against the pass, it would be a tremendous help to how far the Eagles could go this season.
There were stretches of games last season where the secondary played well. With better talent, the hope is that the “stretches” become “consistency.”
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