WHAT SHOULD you take from Chip Kelly's declaration yesterday that Bradley Fletcher will remain a starting cornerback?
Seemingly, the Eagles have resigned themselves to not having any better options, 14 games into the season. If they thought there was a move to make, they would have made it weeks ago. They were not surprised by what happened against Dallas. They were just crossing their fingers and hoping it wouldn't happen, through an effective pass rush, a sore-backed Tony Romo, or some combination thereof.
"I've seen Fletch compete. I think he gives you everything he has, and the one thing I like about Fletch is that he's going to compete out there," the Eagles' coach said, when asked why he continues to have confidence in the man who gave up three Dez Bryant touchdowns in Sunday night's 38-27 loss.
Kelly then said that one of the touchdowns was just a great throw by Romo, and that Bryant is "a tough matchup for anybody."
If you've been following along, you know the Eagles have made it clear since last spring that they aren't interested in moving a corner Brandon Boykin's size outside. (And frankly, Boykin's nickel coverage against Dallas was nothing that would get him promoted.)
Yesterday, mixed in with Kelly's testament to Fletcher's will to compete was an explanation of why the other veteran corner, Nolan Carroll, can't move outside from his dime linebacker role. Carroll started for the Dolphins. Can he be worse than Fletcher has been lately? Someone noted that in training camp, Carroll supposedly was competing for one of the starting jobs.
Kelly referenced Carroll's preseason groin injury, then said: "He's such a valuable person for us in our dime personnel, in terms of what we're doing there, and we're in a lot more dime than we are nickel now, because of the loss of DeMeco [Ryans]."
So, if they weren't tissue-paper thin at linebacker, you might see Carroll (6-1, 205) in Fletcher's spot, but since they aren't willing to put first-round rookie linebacker Marcus Smith on the field - he again was active but did not play Sunday - they are stuck with what they have. It took Carroll, an intelligent player, quite a while to learn the hybrid dime role; if they move him out of it now, they have no one to plug in.
Fourth-round rookie Jaylen Watkins has been active for only three games all year, and as general manager Howie Roseman noted last night on his 94WIP radio show, rookie corners who play a lot for winning teams are rare.
No, at this point in the season, you are what you are, and the Eagles are a team that has given up 63 pass plays of 20 or more yards, by far the most in the NFL.
I think coaches and management really thought Fletcher and Cary Williams were progressing in Bill Davis' scheme at the end of last season, and that they thought they could get through 2014 without the secondary killing them, once they replaced Patrick Chung with heady Malcolm Jenkins. I think they thought they could wait another year to blow up the corner position.