Bradley Roby Hopes To Rescue Birds Secondary
In the waning moments of the third quarter of the Eagles’ 20-14 loss to the New York Jets on Oct. 15 – following a tackle of Jets wide receiver Allan Lazard on a third-down conversion – Eagles cornerback Bradley Roby exited the game with what was ruled a shoulder injury.
Not only was the veteran cornerback withheld from the remainder of the contest, but Roby also missed the next three games as the Eagles supplemented his void at nickel cornerback with rookies Eli Ricks and Sydney Brown.
Roby’s absence was particularly glaring over the team’s past two games against the Commanders and Cowboys, in which quarterbacks Sam Howell and Dak Prescott peppered the middle of the field with great success.
“I was talking to those guys and trying to help them as much as I could,” Roby said Thursday. “I think they did well for being rookies. The slot position is a hard position. It’s not easy. A lot of things are moving fast. You have to know the play, know what they’re doing, tackle, run, cover, everything.
“I think they did very well just with how everything is moving. You know, Eli was playing outside, Sydney was playing safety, so for them to just kinda pick up a brand-new position and spacing like that, it’s a pretty big jump.”
Whether or not the pass coverage woes could be attributed to acclimation (Kevin Byard), injury (Roby), or communication blunders, the inefficiencies were evident. The Eagles allowed 771 yards and seven touchdowns over the two divisional games.
But after three games – four total weeks – of mending, Roby is set to make his long-awaited return Monday night against the Chiefs, giving the Eagles their first look at their newly configured, veteran-laden secondary.
“I just had to let it heal,” Roby said of his rehab. “It wasn’t my shoulder, it was my pec. And I just had to let it heal, basically. I had a situation in there and just had to let it heal up and get strong.”
Roby, of course, returns to the lineup at a crucial point in the Eagles’ season, amid the heart of a brutal slate of games, but specifically ahead of the highly anticipated Super Bowl LVII rematch.
Roby has faced the Chiefs quite a few times throughout his career.
“The Chiefs always kind of just have guys that can catch and run,” he said. “It’s really about [Travis] Kelce and [Patrick] Mahomes, their connection. I played them in Denver 10 times … I played them in Houston a few times. They’re gonna get guys who can run and catch the ball, and then they’re gonna have Kelce. And that’s just their offense.”
Despite joining the Eagles prior to Week 5 and logging precisely 55 snaps, Roby’s reinsertion at nickel corner should only help from a communication and savvy standpoint, invaluable qualities when facing a cerebral quarterback in Mahomes, who’s equipped to pounce on coverage lapses, slow processing and inexperience.
This year’s version of Kansas City’s traditionally high-octane offense currently ranks fifth in the league in passing yards (264.9) – modest by Chiefs standards. It’s also accounted for 29 receiving plays of 20 yards or more.
Kelce enters Monday night averaging 74.6 yards per game, pacing the Chiefs offense with a team-high 72 pass targets. Running back Isiah Pacheco, who totaled 76 rushing yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl LVII, has accumulated 525 rushing yards and three touchdowns through nine games.
But Roby’s instincts and veteran prowess should also help an Eagles defense expected to be challenged by a multi-layered Kansas City offense that can exploit defenses both vertically and horizontally.
“I think that’s one thing that Andy Reid does great,” Roby said “He attacks every part of the field, and he has a guy that can elongate the play for 10 seconds and get it anywhere on the field. So, that’s why they are successful every year.
“And it doesn’t matter who is really on the field, as long as 15 [Mahomes] and 87 [Kelce] are out there. Because Andy Reid is gonna have a great scheme that’s gonna attack and stress man coverage or zone coverage. It’s just hard to stop. It’s really just a fight. You gotta play hard and take the ball away from ‘em.”
While it’s both unfair and unrealistic to expect Roby’s return to unequivocally absolve the Eagles of its leaky coverage, that hasn’t quelled heightened expectations for his return.
The 31-year-old remains the team’s most viable solution in steadying the turbulence and shoring up its mid-range pass coverage, but it’ll take a collective effort to stymie a supercharged, progressive Kansas City offense that’s also had an additional week to prepare.
The deafening crowd noise reverberating around Arrowhead Stadium – one of the NFL’s loudest venues – creates communication challenges for opponents, an area that’s hurt a patchwork Eagles secondary already this season.
But Roby, a veteran of 10 NFL seasons, acknowledged the benefit of being a seasoned player, even if on-field chemistry has hardly been afforded ample time to flourish.
“Just because defense is only a certain amount of plays you can actually call,” he said. “It’s only a certain amount of coverages. Playing in the league a lot, you realize there’s a lot of similar calls, but just different verbiage.
“If we can just get that verbiage right – and specific words right – we’ll know how to communicate. And I think that as a veteran, you learn that communication is how you continue to play well and at a high level. And I think that’s something that just comes in time.”
– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.