New-look Secondary: More Versatile, But Better?
The Eagles made another unsung free-agent signing Wednesday, adding cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman on a 1-year deal. It’s a move typical of ones Howie Roseman has made the past few years, filling a hole with a short-term solution whose salary won’t impact playing time or even guarantee a roster spot. Robey-Coleman, the former Rams corner infamous for his non-penalized early hit on Saints receiver TommyLee Lewis in the 2018 NFC Championship, specializes in the slot. He’s been one of the league’s best slot corners for a few years but became a cap casualty for the Rams.
(Former Rams corner Nickell Robey-Coleman is slated to be the top slot cornerback for the Eagles, which clouds the position for Avonte Maddox)
At the end of the day, the success of the Schwartz’s secondary will be dictated by the talent of those who comprise it. And that’s the big question.
Schwartz has enough pieces with wide-ranging skill sets to draw up schemes that cater to strengths and limit weaknesses. He can finally trail the opponent’s best receiver with Slay, a true shut-down corner. Imagine if the Eagles had Slay to cover Davante Adams last year against Green Bay. Maddox, who was torched all game by Adams, instead could've been reassigned to Geronimo Allison, a much better matchup for the young corner. Mills is expected to play safety and slot corner, taking him away from the dangerous boundary, where he's allowed plenty of big plays in his four-year career. New safety Will Parks will move all around the defense like he did in Denver. Schwartz should have some fun with him. But this plan only works for as long as injuries don’t force guys into more snaps than they should play or into positions where they don't belong.
By Week 2, Schwartz's master blueprint could be crumpled up and tossed in the trash can. There’s no doubt this Eagles secondary, which should see more bodies after the draft, gives Schwartz options and flexibility that he hasn’t since becoming Eagles defensive coordinator in 2016. But it's also a backfield loaded with guys on 1-year contracts for bargain dollars, and that's revealing. From an overall talent standpoint, it’s fair to wonder if this secondary is more of an upgrade in talent than any of Schwartz's past three.
- Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is a veteran Philadelphia Eagles and NFL reporter, co-host of Inside the Birds and 97.3 ESPN sports-talk host. Listen to the latest Inside the Birds podcast here: