Help Wanted: What Now For Birds At CB?
Updated: May 13
As we transition away from assessing a notable draft haul and shift focus toward OTAs and minicamp, I answered any lingering post-draft questions, in addition to pertinent roster questions, as we venture into the roster evaluation portion of the offseason.
Let's get to the questions!
From ITB Facebook Group: Chris Glover
Q. Do you think Grayland Arnold has a shot at winning the backup slot corner spot behind Maddox?
A. I do. Arnold was widely considered to be a draftable player in 2020 and in high demand post-draft. Now, he’s not exactly young for a second-year player at 26 years old, but he’s instinctive, versatile, and has solid ball skills. Of all the fringe defensive backs, I believe Arnold has the best chance to stick. However, it will ultimately come down to his special teams value.
From ITB Facebook Group: Zack Terek
Q. With Dickerson drafted, is Brooks job in jeopardy? Is he possibly a chess piece to be moved?
A. If anything, the player in jeopardy would be Seumalo. I think if all goes according to plan this season, Dickerson serves as the top reserve at center and both guard spots. Should Seumalo falter or injuries mount along the interior, then you’re likely to see Dickerson pressed into duty earlier than expected. The Eagles probably want to squeeze one more season out of the incumbents rather than turn a spot over to Dickerson prematurely.
From ITB Facebook Group: Polydeuces Castores
Q. Who’s no.1 on their board for the 2022 draft?
A. LSU CB Derek Stingley Jr.
From ITB Facebook Group: Bj King-Mitchell
Q. Your favorite rookie not named devonte smith and Landon Dickerson to be a major contributor for this youth movement?
A. This is a great question. Based on the sheer lack of numbers at the position, I want to lean Zech McPhearson. However, the transition to playing cornerback at the professional level isn’t quite as seamless as other positions. Also, it behooves the Eagles to have a contingency plan and not put too much on McPhearson’s plate in the early goings, as it could potentially stunt his growth and/or impact his confidence. That said, I’m not so sure how much he’ll contribute out of the gate.
I think Milton Williams would be the most logical choice after Smith. Aside from the lack of depth on the defensive line – particularly at defensive tackle – Williams offers positional versatility and should serve as a disruptive presence along the interior on passing downs.
From ITB Facebook Group: Chris Colburn
Q. How does John Hightower fit in the WR depth given the new coaching staff? I hear his route running skills are phenomenal.
A. I really like this question. Yes, Hightower is a skilled route-runner, but there were other areas of his game that contributed to his lack of playing time over the second half of the season. When Hightower entered the NFL, he was largely regarded as a raw pass catcher with traits to become a field-stretcher. When I saw him up close at the East-West Shrine Bowl, he separated from defenders with ease – it was his hands that failed him in critical moments.
I think initially he was thrown into the deep end and overburdened. He demonstrated a lack of spatial awareness and struggled to track the football, but had little trouble separating. His route tree also appeared to be extremely limited. The early gaffes likely affected his confidence, and coupled with the late emergence of Quez Watkins, he lacked a defined role.
That said, Hightower does have abilities and traits worth developing, but there will be much more competition this summer compared to last. If he expects to put his stamp on a roster spot in 2021, he must first stave off JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Quez Watkins, and Trevon Grimes.
From ITB Facebook Group: Shaine Babjeck
Q. TE2 and TE3? Does McPherson have the requisite skills to start on the outside?
A. I still believe Ertz gets moved at some point this summer. Making a dire situation a bit less daunting is the fact that former Eagles Trey Burton and Richard Rodgers remain unsigned, so I’d have to think the Eagles would strongly consider bringing one of them back into the fold to be the TE2. As for TE3, veterans Caleb Wilson and Jason Croom remain on the roster, as well as intriguing projects Hakeem Butler and Tyree Jackson, and UDFA Jack Stoll was recently added to the mix.
Yes, McPhearson offers inside-outside versatility.
From ITB Facebook Group: Kevin Stewart
Q. What’s the plan for a vet CB to come in after the draft? Nelson on a 1yr deal? Has the league given up on Conley since he’s still out there?
A. I certainly believe the Eagles have a contingency plan in place, as the CB group beyond Darius Slay is conceivably among the league’s worst. Steven Nelson is still out there, though at 28 years old, I’m not sure that would make a ton of sense from a cost perspective and for a team undergoing a rebuild. This feels like a classic spot to move either a Zach Ertz – or potentially Andre Dillard – and a pick late in the summer to shore up the position.
Conley has had two ankle surgeries. It was also very telling that the Raiders, who perpetually struggle on the back end, jettisoned a young cornerback they’d just selected in the first round in 2017 after just two seasons. Houston also declined the option on Conley's contract after surrendering a 2020 third-round pick to bring him in. I’m not sure that’s the kind of help the Eagles need.
–– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
Listen to the latest "Inside The Birds" podcast from Geoff Mosher and Adam Caplan here:
Or watch on YouTube: