Cornerback Still Unresolved Issue for Eagles
As the defensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles under Andy Reid, Jim Johnson had a big advantage by being able to employ guys like Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor, then Sheldon Brown and Lito Shepard as their top two cornerbacks. It allowed the defense to do a lot of unique things and put pressure on their opponents because they knew their cornerback play was so strong.
Now in Philadelphia, new defensive coordinator Billy Davis is trying to find the two guys who can help bring the same ideologies.
"It's what we're working through right now," Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis said. "The new techniques for teaching them, they have to learn to trust them in game day. Our practices are looking pretty solid and the techniques used."
A challenge for any individual corner, but it's also a daunting obstacle for the entire defense with so many questions surrounding the assumed starting corners; five-year player Cary Williams and four-year man Bradley Fletcher. Can a position that is as heavily relied on as cornerback is in today's pass-happy NFL get by without a shut-down corner?
Due in part to Williams being out with a hamstring injury and Flectcher's average play, the Eagles are certainly trying a little bit of everything to see if that player is on their roster right now. Brandon Hughes started the preseason opener over second-year man Brandon Boykin, but Davis said not to read into that.
"We were anticipating [Tom] Brady was coming out in 11 personnel, no huddle," explained Davis. "So I wanted Boykin inside and have Hughes outside. When they came in to base, I didn't want to start Boykin both spots. So it just played out that way, but it would have played differently had they come into nickel, no huddle, which we anticipated they were going to throw at us."
There's no exaggeration that the Eagles have at eight corners vying for spots on the Eagles roster. So far, Williams, Fletcher, Boykin, Curtis Marsh, Trevard Lindley, Hughes, Eddie Whitley and rookie Jordan Poyer have taken reps - all seem to have a reasonable shot to make the team.
The one guy to keep an eye on his Boykin.
He has impressed all throughout camp, and even though he didn't start against New England, it seems like a safe bet that Davis has confidence in him.
"Absolutely," Davis stated. "And we will. As we go forward ‑‑ he's having a great camp so far, both in and out. But when you're asking him to do the assignments of both, you try not to overlap them in the same series. For instance, he was a nickel for a while, and we moved him out to corner later. The fact that he starts a game or doesn't start a game it's really more with the scheme we anticipated coming at us, and that's what happened there."
With Williams out with an injury, it's giving guys more reps then they might have gotten if he was out on the field. The overall volatility at that spot has been the best friend to him, who many consider to be the favorite to be one of the starters when the Eagles open up their regular season. However, Boykin has outplayed just about everyone at the position, and now has to be at least be under consideration to start outside.
There is a good chance that Williams will return this week when the Eagles host the Panthers (listen on 97.3 ESPN), the Eagles will continue on with working different players into the starting lineup at cornerback in the hopes that they learn everything there is to know about them. Even with the uncertainty, Davis feels his guys are getting better.
"We'll continue to trust the techniques and I've got to continue to do a better job of putting them in the situations that best suit them, I think, again, that was a starting point for us and we have to just put our heads down and work our tails off until both the techniques I'm asking them to do and the scheme that I'm putting them in is best for us."
"Every game we play puts us closer," Davis added. "Everything counts, but the games are weighted the most. Because when the lights come on and you have to think fast and you have to make the adjustments and you have to make the tackles, we're going to put the best 11 out there that can tackle the best and sit in the scheme the best. Right now it's a close battle, and the games will separate it along with the practice days"
The Eagles have one more practice before they host the Panthers for the team's second preseason contest.