The biggest position of need the Eagles didn’t address in last week’s NFL draft would be cornerback. They waited until after the draft, when teams sign undrafted players, to add to what has been their most troubled position over the past decade.
So what does that mean for the team’s current players at that position?
— Les Bowen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
In his comments after the draft -- the ones that weren’t about why he took quarterback Jalen Hurts in the second round -- general manager Howie Roseman emphasized the trade for corner Darius Slay, which brought in a proven starter from Detroit for third- and fifth-round picks. Everyone knew Slay, 29, was here, of course, going into the draft, and it still seemed possible a corner would be a high priority, given the importance of the position and the fact that the Eagles’ plan of having 2018 fourth-round pick Avonte Maddox and 2017 second-round pick Sidney Jones compete for the outside spot opposite Slay seemed less than overwhelming.
Maddox is a Swiss Army knife type of player, whose best attribute is his ability to plug in outside and inside at corner, and as safety; last year he didn’t build on his surprising rookie season, missing four games after suffering a serious neck injury in the Sept. 26 victory at Green Bay.
Jones clearly was drafted with the idea that he would be an established starter by now, even though the team knew he would miss most of his rookie season recovering from the Achilles injury he suffered before the draft. He was widely heralded as one of the top 15 or so talents in that draft. Repeated leg injuries and an apparent lack of confidence exiled him to the margins by last season’s stretch drive. Even after he came in as an injury sub and made important, solid plays late in the season, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz declined to use him in the playoff loss to Seattle.
So far, the Eagles haven’t traded Jones, and they definitely didn’t draft anyone to supplant him. His size would suggest he is a better fit outside than Maddox (6-feet vs. 5-9), but Schwartz is given a great deal of leeway with his defensive operation, and if he has written off Jones, then nothing else is going to matter. Management would rather not have made a huge drafting error, though, and might be pushing for a reassessment whenever the team gathers again to compete for jobs.
Of course, we have no idea what Jones has been doing in this strangest of offseasons. Maybe he has added 10 pounds of muscle and found a training regimen that will help him avoid muscle pulls. Maybe he has forsaken football and joined a monastery.
But the Eagles don’t seem to have completely closed the door on the idea of Jones redeeming himself here.
I think the 17-game schedule had much to do with the QB pick. Don’t you? — Edmond Tiryak, via email.
That’s a thought, Edmond. With all the other issues swirling around the Eagles’ decision to draft Jalen Hurts 53rd overall, I hadn’t considered the impending addition of a game to the regular-season schedule, which also will affect the playoff format, by making it harder to earn a first-round bye, theoretically increasing the number of playoff games a team might expect to play to get to the Super Bowl.