In a league where teams scuffle to stock the roster with quality cornerbacks, the Eagles have aggressively addressed the position the last couple of years and now, as they step back and look at cornerback as a group, they like what they see. There are still questions, but the possibilities are tantalizing.
“Competition across the board,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “That’s what you want. We’ve got a lot of young players there and they’re going to bring out the best in each other.”
By using a fourth-round draft pick on Saturday on Pittsburgh’s Avonte Maddox, the Eagles brought yet another prospect into the mix, adding to a group that has been almost completely overhauled in the span of 12 months. Only Jalen Mills, a seventh-round draft pick from 2016, was here before last April’s draft that started the rebuild. Taking Sidney Jones in the second round and Rasul Douglas in the third round began the transition, and trading for Ronald Darby set the Eagles up for 2017. Of course, the Eagles signed Patrick Robinson late in free agency last March, and he emerged as a vital component in the cornerback room as a top-notch nickel corner last season.
Robinson signed with New Orleans as this year’s free agency period opened. Maddox is here as a candidate to replace Robinson, but there are certainly no guarantees. Not many would have predicted after watching Robinson in Training Camp last summer, for example, that he would blossom as he did during the season.
So there are no givens at cornerback looking ahead. Just a lot of talent and a lot of youth and open competition. Let’s take a look at some of the candidates at cornerback, where the Eagles could keep five, maybe six, on the 53-man active roster in 2018.
A two-year starter who continues to improve, Jalen Mills is going to fight. We’ve seen that from him. Mills is a worker, he’s a physical cornerback and he’s got an air of confidence that is refreshing. Mills may not have the requisite short-area quickness to play inside against the likes of Cole Beasley, but if the Eagles see a bigger body lining up in the slot, Mills could be a candidate to slide inside. Where does Mills fit into the picture now? He’s the returning starter. He goes in as a starter, understanding that the best men win the playing time. Mills has answered the bell for two seasons. His plan is to start, so we should see the best of Mills in the…