June 18, 2024   5 MIN READ

Turned Corner?

DiCecco: CB Looks Like Birds Best Strength

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Hoping to rebound from a troubling 1-6 finish and early playoff exit despite a strong start, the Eagles have meticulously tinkered with the roster with the intent of reassembling a contender.

Parsing the largely upgraded roster, you’ll find notable free-agent splashes intermixed with intriguing rookies and second-or-third-year players expected to take a major step forward.

Every roster, however, is laced with strengths and imperfections, pockets of vulnerability and skepticism. The Eagles have those, too.

Here’s a primer for the Eagles’ strongest position from top to bottom. On Wednesday, we’ll go inside the weakest position group.

GETTY IMAGES: The elder statesmen of Eagles corners, Darius Slay is still playing at a relatively high level.

Cornerback

Arguably the team’s thinnest unit last season becomes the position of strength heading into the 2024 season.

Imagine that.

Veteran Darius Slay, 33, once again headlines the group as the undisputed top cornerback. Availability and potential regression are concerns given his age and the volatile nature of the position, especially with youth and inexperience behind him on the depth chart.

But even with an extensive resume of consistency and productivity, Slay’s value is somehow understated. The fifth-year Eagle sits comfortably atop the team’s cornerback hierarchy while also doubling as a mentor for the subset of young corners.

Emerging from spring practices with considerable buzz were Kelee Ringo and Isaiah Rodgers, the latter of whom showed no trace of rust following a year-long suspension.

Showcasing suddenness and footwork fluidity, short-area quickness, instincts and eye discipline, Rodgers, 26, exhibited starting-caliber traits.

While context is critical – it’s just spring practice – Rodgers never appeared overmatched and didn’t skip a beat. A veteran of 45 games (10 starts), Rodgers also has moonlighted as a kick returner, an invaluable attribute in light of the new kickoff rule.

As for Ringo, who’s soon to be 22, he looks to have built on his late-season momentum as a rookie, presenting a noticeably more confident and patient player with obvious trust in his technique.

Primarily functioning as a first-team cornerback opposite Slay this spring, Ringo logged a handful of quality reps against star wideout A.J. Brown.

On multiple occasions, Ringo executed the match, carry and deliver principles of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s scheme, most apparent in reps against veteran speedsters Parris Campbell and John Ross.

Whether figuring as a starter or prominent reserve, Ringo will be one to watch when the pads come on. He certainly looks the part.

My clubhouse leaders for the starting cornerback opposite Slay when the Eagles travel to Brazil for the season-opener is Ringo or Rodgers. In a tough spot, I’m giving the nod to projected readiness and experience.

Quinyon Mitchell

GETTY IMAGES: Rookie CB Quinyon Mitchell, the first Eagles first-round corner since 2002, will try to win a starting job.

Also factoring prominently into the 2024 plans are rookies Quinyon Mitchell and Cooper DeJean, selected in the first and second rounds of the 2024 NFL Draft, respectively.

Rodgers and Ringo might have garnered the majority of the headlines coming out of OTAs and mandatory minicamp, but both Mitchell and DeJean showed well and appear to be ahead of schedule from a developmental standpoint.

DeJean, for his part, saw time as a first-and-second team nickel and demonstrated high-level ball skills and football intelligence. And Mitchell, who garnered reps with the first and second units as an outside cornerback, while also logging snaps as a dime linebacker, was sticky and fundamentally sound in coverage. He exuded confidence.

It’s June, but I’m predicting DeJean to open as the starting Week 1 nickelback, while Mitchell is afforded every opportunity this summer to seize a starting job, like most first-round picks.

Returning to the Eagles following a brief flirtation with free agency is veteran Avonte Maddox, who has cross-trained at safety in addition to his normal nickel role. If healthy, Maddox’s multifaceted skill set and leadership could prove to be crucial components to the back end of Fangio’s defense.

I’d also include nickelback Tyler Hall, one of my top dark horses, when considering the depth equation.

Hall, who appeared in 31 games (six starts) during stints with the Falcons and Raiders, saw some time with the first-team this spring.

The 25-year-old experienced a relatively quiet spring compared to Rodgers and Ringo but flashed at times, plastering the short-to-intermediate levels and driving on underneath routes. I’m spotlighting Hall, as he has a legitimate chance to elbow his way onto the roster.

Josh Jobe

GETTY IMAGES: Third-year CB Josh Jobe will be tough to unseat for a roster spot because of his “Wild Stallion” tendencies on special teams.

Don’t forget about 2023 holdovers Eli Ricks and Josh Jobe, who last season combined for 541 snaps and three starts.

Ricks, 22, gained the trust of defensive coordinator Sean Desai early, navigating a new position out of necessity before eventually settling into his natural position on the outside, showing notable development as a rookie. He also offers positional versatility.

Jobe, 26, is the Eagles’ most impactful special teams performer, even appearing on the 2023 Pro Bowl ballot.

Nicknamed “Wild Stallion” for his eagerness, willingness and ability to impact the game, particularly from his gunner spot, Jobe is routinely the first name mentioned whenever coordinator Michael Clay is asked about core contributors or unit leaders.

When whittling down the roster to 53, teams often aren’t showing deference to their sixth- or seventh-best corner because of positional abilities, but more so because of their special teams acumen.

The Eagles suddenly have an influx of employable cornerbacks with varying degrees of upside.

The reality is that some will wind up on the cutting room floor due to strategic construction and capacity.

But zooming out for the 30,000-foot view, the organizational devotion to fortifying a notoriously shallow – and mostly turbulent – group has positioned the Eagles to have their deepest room in 20 years.

– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.

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