July 8, 2024   3 MIN READ

Getting His Worm

DiCecco: Birds Get Early Impact From Former Hawkeye DB

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The Eagles this offseason overhauled an aging defense largely absent of explosive playmakers and building blocks.

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will preside over has a vastly different roster than the one gutted in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.

Free agency yielded established veterans – namely edge rusher Bryce Huff, safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson and linebacker Devin White – but the Eagles also added what they hope will be centerpieces and key components for future success through the draft.

The first two rounds produced a pair of enticing defensive backs in Quinyon Mitchell and Cooper DeJean, while others, such as edge rusher Jalyx Hunt and linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr., offer developmental upside.

Last week, I selected which offensive rookie would have the most impact.

Today, I give my defensive selection:

Cooper DeJean

GETTY IMAGES: The Eagles hope Cooper DeJean can bring some playmaking to their secondary, even as a rookie.

DB Cooper DeJean

While first-round cornerback Quinyon Mitchell would appear to be the obvious choice – and he’ll be given every opportunity to nail down a starting spot opposite Darius Slay – it’s worth factoring in the potential acclimation period for a player making the leap from Toledo.

Mitchell will also be pushed by veteran Isaiah Rodgers and second-year pro Kelee Ringo, both of whom consistently flashed this spring.

I expect Mitchell to make an early impact, for sure, just maybe not as substantial as his multifaceted draftmate will make.

Predominately garnering second-team nickel reps this spring with some first-team snaps mixed in, DeJean, to me, has a clearer path to playing time.

The versatile defensive back showcased fluid movement, suddenness in and out of breaks, eye discipline and ball skills. On multiple occasions, DeJean’s instincts and anticipation were notable, as he broke on several passes and seemed to consistently remain in phase with the grab-bag of receivers repping inside.

With the competition far less challenging at nickel, it’s feasible to envision DeJean seizing the opportunity there with a strong camp.

The 21-year-old is expected to embark on a closely contested competition with veteran incumbent Avonte Maddox, who also flexed his multi-purpose skill-set in the spring, playing both nickel and safety.

Maddox, however, has grappled with various injuries over the years and it remains to be seen if he can endure what figures to be a more physical camp than recent years.

By comparison, for what DeJean lacks in experience, he atones for with athleticism, anticipation and football intelligence. Start-up costs aside, DeJean’s upside could be enough to stave of the veteran fan favorite.

Cooper DeJean

ITB PHOTO: Rookie DB Cooper DeJean practiced at outside corner and nickel during the spring camps.

But there’s also a world in which DeJean and Maddox can co-exist despite seemingly redundant abilities. Rostering an exclusive nickelback such as Maddox – or perhaps even Tyler Hall – presents optionality for Fangio.

With a strictly nickel-only player secured for insurance, it would, in theory, free DeJean up to be  deployed creatively so his best talents can be maximized.

Regardless, DeJean is likely in contention at a far more favorable position and, coupled with his versatility, it’s easy to conjure an early impact in some capacity.

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

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