Eagles Plan on Sticking With Bradley Fletcher at Cornerback
The Eagles aren't planning to bench starting cornerback Bradley Fletcher. While Fletcher has had some outings for the team, he was picked on constantly on Sunday against the Packers having some wondering if Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis was thinking of making a switch.
Fletcher has been targeted more than any other cornerback in the NFL, but Davis still has confidence in Fletcher, even though he has struggled at times.
"I don't know if you guys notice," stated Davis. "I kept a really close eye because he had a bad start and it wasn't going well. And a lot of corners have a lot of outs. They don't keep fighting and battling. I've got a lot of respect for Fletch and how he responded. I was watching him close [and thinking], ‘Wait one more? What do I do? Do I make a move?’ Then you watched him come out and play in the second half and he made those same plays that beat him in the first. He was on it; he played the ball. His press was better. He got better and fought through it. He's a mentally tough human being, and I was very impressed with the way he finished."
A lot of time, as Fletcher and partner Cary Williams go -- or in this case doesn't -- so does the Eagles defense. When the defense is unable to get a mass rush, the Eagles corners struggle. In games when the Eagles generate a pass rush, like games against New York and Carolina for example, the Eagles corners don't seem to be an issue.
That’s one message I send the players all the time Davis explained: "D‑line you are attached to this cornerback’s play, and same thing to the D‑line. If we can press and reroute, it gives you another step in the pass rush.’ So we succeed together and we fail together. They're all attached to each other."
Fletcher has potential, the 2009 third-rounder has shown some flashes this season and during his first season in Philly in 2013. However, he really showed his ability while with the Rams in 2010, picking off four passes with 75 tackles, and 11 pass breakups as a 14-game starter before an ACL tear ended his season.
The Eagles brought him on board because they liked his physical press-man coverage and his starting-caliber skills he displayed in St. Louis. The two main things that allowed the Eagles to scoop him up were penalties and consistency issues.
However, Davis isn't ready to pull the plug but did provide a caveat when speaking about his choice for starting cornerback.
"Yes, he is (our guy). Absolutely," Davis said after having the weekend to think about it. "I have to make sure that the best players that are playing the most consistent technique are out there, and right now Fletch had a couple of bad plays, but he had some good ones, too."
The term 'right now' sticks out like a sore thumb. Should Fletcher struggle again this week against the Tennessee Titans mediocre passing attack, Davis has left himself some wiggle room to opt for either veteran Nolan Carroll or rookie Jaylen Watkins whenever he chooses.
While it's Fletcher's job for the time being, there's no telling what could happen if he continues to be targeted with the level of success the Packers had on him.
As for Watkins, Davis was succinct on his rookie's progress as a guy who has yet to play yet in the NFL.
"I think he is (ready to play)," Davis admitted. "He is still in the rookie mode. Jaylen has positional flexibility for us. The good news to that is he can play corner, nickel and safety in a pinch. The bad news is he's not getting reps at one thing and that's what rookies need the most. Rookies, in order to excel at one position, need to get in there and get the reps. So when you're not active on game day and you're in the back‑up role, then you take on the role of multiple positions if you have the skillset, and he does. So we're anxious to see him grow, and again, we're kind of stretching out a little bit because we have different positions."
The Eagles did re-sign cornerback Roc Carmichael, who ironically spent some time with the Eagles last season when Bradley Fletcher was banged up. The 2011 fourth-round pick of the Texans rakes the roster spot of safety Earl Wolff on was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury, ending his season.