Who Got Next?
Goodrich Heads List Of Maddox Replacements
Last month, the consensus of the Eagles’ cornerback landscape was thought to be a wealthy talent pool armed with ample reinforcements.
But the team’s latest injury at the slot position, to slot corner Avonte Maddox, promises slightly more problematic in configuring the defensive infrastructure and personnel deployment.
When Maddox – who has missed 21 games to date – exited Thursday night’s prime time conference showdown against the Minnesota Vikings with what was at the time deemed a shoulder injury, the 27-year-old’s absence left a glaring void, spawning a ripple effect.
The team had already lost Maddox’s backup, Zech McPhearson, to a season-ending Achilles injury in August.
After further examination, Maddox sustained a pectoral tear, which will sideline the six-year vet indefinitely, if not the duration of the season.
With Maddox on the mend for an extended period, expect the spectrum of outside options to be entertained, especially given the organizational importance placed on the slot position.
The team even hosted former Bengals 2016 first-round pick Williams Jackson III, who most recently played with the Steelers in 2022.
Jackson, however, has little experience playing inside.
Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni on Monday conveyed confidence in the team’s in-house solutions, which include second-year cornerback Mario Goodrich and veterans Justin Evans and James Bradberry.
“We feel like we have good options in-house to be able to move forward,” he said. “That’s why we cross-train people, whether that’s a corner, a safety, whether that’s the guys that play nickel.
“Listen, are we going to miss Avonte? Of course we are. He’s a great football player who has made a lot of plays here. I thought he was playing really good football, really being aggressive. He caused that fumble and then made some really good plays on the perimeter.”
Here’s a closer look at those in-house options to which Sirianni alluded.
CB Mario Goodrich
His numbers Thursday night – six receptions allowed for 60 yards and a touchdown on six targets, per Pro Football Focus – might tell a different story, but Goodrich ultimately settled into his role after being tabbed for the first defensive snaps of his NFL career.
The second-year corner, who logged 39 snaps in the slot against the Vikings, appeared disjointed and slow to react early, but Goodrich largely demonstrated increased confidence and urgency throughout the 34-28 Eagles win.
While the Clemson product’s uneven performance likely conjured more skepticism than optimism for some, it’s important to remember that Goodrich – who strung together a succession of eye-opening practices in camp – made the 53-man roster for a reason.
The team essentially kept Goodrich as insurance for Maddox. He deserves the first shot at replacing the incumbent.
Sure, hiccups and growing pains are to be expected, but the inevitable highs and lows should be viewed as invaluable on-the-job training in an audition that could potentially yield a cost-effective, long-term solution.
S Justin Evans
If the Eagles are going for experience, Evans, who accrued 135 snaps in the slot last season with the Saints, would presumably have the edge.
The dilemma here, though, is that Evans, 28, is a starting safety and the most adept in coverage. Moving him inside full-time would promote either Terrell Edmunds or rookie Sydney Brown into a starting role.
Pairing Edmunds with Reed Blankenship would appear to be redundant from a skill-set perspective, but the wild card in this scenario would be Brown, an inevitable starter when ready.
It’s worth acknowledging Brown’s collegiate experience playing the slot, but it’s difficult to envision the Eagles adding more to the rookie’s plate while he’s still mastering his primary position. Nevertheless, perhaps the Maddox injury, coupled with the 10-day layoff, influences a larger role for the third-round rookie.
CB James Bradberry
The Eagles cross-trained Bradberry inside some during training camp, but the team’s hefty investment – $12-plus million a year – all but makes permanently moving an All-Pro boundary cornerback inside an improbability.
That’s not to suggest that Bradberry, who generally thrives against big-bodied pass targets as opposed to smaller receivers with fluid change of direction, won’t be asked to kick inside situationally.
Expect Bradberry’s deployment to be more matchup-based, particularly against pass catchers such as Mike Evans, Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Darren Waller.
– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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