Darby Gets Thrown in the Deep End
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - If you thought the Philadelphia Eagles were going to integrate Ronald Darby into the mix slowly, think again.
The speedy corner was running with the first-team at left cornerback throughout team drills on Sunday, his first practice with Philadelphia since being acquired for Jordan Matthews and a third-round pick two days earlier.
"We've just got to get him up to speed as quick as we can and see the way it shakes out," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said after practice. "But excited to have him."
With Darby playing on the left side, Jalen Mills moved over to the right side and Patrick Robinson also mixed in at times. With Ron Brooks still out with a hamstring injury suffered Thursday night at Green Bay, Aaron Grymes, Robinson and Malcolm Jenkins for looks in the slot in the team's nickel package.
When Jenkins moved down, Darby's old teammate in Buffalo, Corey Graham, rotated in at safety next to Rodney McLeod.
"He's a very dependable player and part of his skill set is his multi-dimensionality," Schwartz said of Graham. "Being able to blitz a nickel and still cover the slot. That corner background helps him there. He can play the safety, he can play in the box, he can play deep and he can play short. There are a lot of similarities between him and Malcolm and [S] Rodney [McLeod]. All those guys played corner at some time in their career, and it gives you a lot of flexibility on defense."
As for Darby, he held up pretty well in his new surroundings with the only real problem coming in 7-on-7s when Alshon Jeffery got the best of him.
"We were just trying to get him out there," Schwartz said. "It’s tough when you come in and you've got one day to try to get up to speed, and there were a couple signs of that where we had a miscommunication. It really wasn't a miscommunication, it's just he's not up to speed on a lot of the calls. But we tried to limit it, mainly a lot of man-to-man just so it would stay that way."
Darby was runner-up for NFL Defensive Rookie of the year in 2015 before falling back a not last season something Graham attributed to a revolving door at safety behind the young corner.
"We had safeties in and out," Graham said. "...So if I'm away from Darby, pretty much every week he's got a different guy talking to him. So there's different terminology, different assignments, things like that. So it's tough on a corner not knowing what you're going to get, not knowing if the safety even knows what he's talking about. So there's a lot that goes into it. You can't just look at him and say, 'Wow, he didn't play as good.'"
DAY 16 NOVACARE NOTES:
-Jeffery continues to be kept out of team drills by Doug Pederson and just handles 7-on-7 work.
-Give Trey Burton the play of the day with a one-handed, stabbing grab of a Matt McGloin pass thrown behind him.
-Nick Foles continues to rest his "sore elbow" and there are no signs of a return other than Pederson saying he was about to resume throwing on Saturday. Others missing practice included defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (back spasms), swing tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee), right guard Brandon Brooks (ankle), cornerback Ron Brooks (hamstring), receiver Paul Turner (shoulder), running back Wendell Smallwood (hamstring), tight end Anthony Denham, receiver Bryce Treggs (leg soreness) and guard Josh Andrews (hand).
-Carson Wentz wasn't as sharp today, especially in red-zone drills where he was picked by both Jenkins and Robinson. The latter was supposed to be a fade to Mack Hollins that was woefully underthrown.
-Rookie running back and Glassboro product Corey Clement continues to struggle to catch the football.
-The running backs had a really difficult time in one-on-one, blitz-pickup drills. Darren Sproles whiffed completely on one Jordan Hicks rush.
-Late in the afternoon, the Eagles added another body at WR by signing undersized receiver and return specialist Rashard Davis, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound James Madison product. To make room for Davis Philadelphia waived CB Mitchell White.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen