The Eagles secondary has their work cut out for them the rest of the 2018-19 season. They’ve got to overcome some injuries and an inability to protect big leads in the second half of games. Their confidence seems to be damaged and they’ve got nine games left to play. They’re definitely going to get the chance to embrace being the target.
It’s been a tough year, so far for the Birds. After surviving the Falcons, being bombed out of Tampa Bay, holding off the Colts, letting the Titans come back, coming up short versus the Vikings, blowing out the Giants and then falling apart in the fourth quarter against the Panthers — the Eagles will be happy to get to 4-4 against the Jags at the season’s halfway mark.
This Eagles secondary has to get more aggressive if the Birds are going to turn this season around. They’ve got to be on the attack, yet still guard against giving up the big play. They’re going to need to do this despite having some players playing out of position.
I think the defensive — coaches dropped the ball in the offseason when they failed to have both Jalen Mills and Rasul Douglas working at cornerback and safety. Every time anybody asked about either of them working at safety, it was shot down by the coaches with they’re cornerbacks.
“It’s been a tough year… coming up short versus the Vikings, blowing out the Giants and then falling apart in the fourth quarter against the Panthers”
It wasn’t wise, because both of these youngsters have a future at the safety position. Plus injuries are a constant challenge in the NFL. It’s just a part of the business and that’s why you need your players to be versatile.
Mills and Douglas have got good size, especially Rasul. They like to hit. They’re good open field tacklers and they lack the speed to be elite cornerbacks in the NFL. As they get older, they will be forced to play safety. Mills is a great competitor with leadership qualities and that’s what you want from your safeties. I think Mills could be a Pro Bowl safety one day. Who knows Douglas could have a great future there as well. In my opinion, the eventual replacements for Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod are right here.
Now, the Eagles have lost McLeod for the season and they’ve replaced him with rookie cornerback Avonte Maddox. This is unfortunate. They’re asking quite a bit from Maddox because he’s not only a rookie, but he also doesn’t have any experience playing the safety position. He exclusively played cornerback in college and he stands only 5’9” and weighs 183 pounds.
“Let me say that again, Maddox who was brought in here to play nickel is the starting safety, a position he never played before.”
If Mills and Douglas had been working at the cornerback and safety positions all along it wouldn’t have been a negative to ask them to move to safety, when McLeod went down. Now when they eventually ask Mills to move to safety, it will be looked on as if he failed at cornerback which should never have happened.
Dexter McDougle is now the starting slot corner or nickel back, but it should be Maddox because he took all the reps there during training camp along with Jones. Let me say that again, Maddox who was brought in here to play nickel is the starting safety, a position he never played before.
I think Ronald Darby, Sidney Jones and Maddox should be the Eagles corners because they run 4.3’s and 4.4’s. They have catch up speed. Neither Mills nor Douglas has that type of speed, so any time they get into a flat out foot race on those deep balls, they lose.
The Eagles have Maddox, a pure cornerback with 4.39 speed playing safety and a 4.6 guy like Mills playing cornerback. That makes no sense. They didn’t do a good job of planning. Maddox doesn’t have the understanding of the coverages in order to disguise what he’s doing from opposing quarterbacks and Mills is out on the corner chasing speedsters.
The inexperience of Maddox prevents him from disguising the coverages. One of the keys to being successful in the secondary in the NFL is being able to disguise your coverages. You want to make it as difficult as possible for the opposing quarterback to figure out what coverage you’re playing. The best secondaries play tricks on the quarterback by waiting to the last split second to line up in the coverage or blitz they’re getting ready to play. Cornerbacks will line up in press technique, then in the final split second before the snap, drop back and cover the wide receiver from the off position. They will also move up into press technique at the last split second.
The safeties do similar deceptive moves by lining up in a two-deep look, then stemming into a blitz or single high safety. You have to keep the quarterback guessing or you will get picked apart by the top quarterbacks. Maddox isn’t ready to be making these types of moves because he wasn’t getting reps at the position during the offseason. He was solely a cornerback, but the Eagles threw him in there at safety because they weren’t ready for McLeod to get hurt. This secondary is going to be challenged the rest of the year because they’re not playing with confidence. It doesn’t help that you have a rookie cornerback starting at safety either.
“[The Eagles secondary] should be thinking ‘Interception’ every single time that ball is in the air.”
I want to see the Birds get much more aggressive in their playing style. Every time they move up into press technique, they should try to get physical and jam the receiver to throw off the timing with the wide out and the quarterback. The receivers hate it and they will be able to get under their skin. I want to see this secondary get aggressive, yet be smart. Sometimes when they’re playing zone, they should give a man-to-man look and get into press technique, so they can beat up the receivers before dropping into coverage.
In fact, the rule should be every time you get near a receiver within five yards of the line of scrimmage, JAM HIM. They must stop playing scared and get aggressive and physical. Jamming receivers with a good pass rush is the perfect formula to stop the passing game and it’s hated by all quarterbacks. Their receivers are delayed while the pass rush is on the way. That reduces their time to make a decision.
Another rule in the secondary, should be, when the ball is in the air, “IT’S OUR BALL”!!! That should be the mindset of the Eagles secondary. They should be thinking ‘Interception’ every single time that ball is in the air. This mindset must start in practice and follow them into the games.