EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Though Eagles cornerback Bradley Fletcher had been a target of opposing offenses and fans, his absence Sunday forced the Eagles into personnel changes on defense. The results were mixed.
The secondary surrendered 429 passing yards and a touchdown, but the Eagles were able to defeat the New York Giants, 34-26, in Sunday's season finale at MetLife Stadium.
Fletcher, who injured his hip in practice, was replaced on the outside by Nolan Carroll, who was making his first start for the Eagles after earning 26 starts during the previous four years for the Miami Dolphins.
Carroll had played in the slot this season, but now he was on the outside, and things didn't start out so well.
The Giants scored on their opening drive, and the two big plays came at Carroll's expense. Eli Manning completed a 43-yard pass to Rueben Randle, who came back and caught the ball against the coverage of Carroll and Nate Allen.
Randle then caught an 18-yard pass to the 1-yard line against Carroll.
It wasn't the start Carroll was looking for.
"The first drive, I was trying to feel it out, and they made a couple of good catches, but other than that, once I started getting the feel of the game, I felt fine," Carroll said.
In the third quarter, Carroll was bailed out after allowing a 34-yard touchdown pass to Randle that was called back when Giants tackle Will Beatty was called for holding.
"They had a route and beat us in the coverage and knew exactly what we were in," said Carroll, who left the game in the third quarter but returned after being examined under concussion protocol.
Overall, he was credited with four tackles and two pass breakups.
Carroll moved to the inside and played the slot receiver in the Eagles dime package, a spot where he had played before Sunday. He said he is more comfortable playing on the outside and hopes to get the chance next season.
"That's what I've been playing [mainly] in my five years in the league," he said. "Hopefully, I can continue to do more and build on this stuff."
It was also the first game in which Eagles rookie Jaylen Watkins lined up on defense. A fourth-round draft choice out of Florida, Watkins played on the outside in the Eagles' dime package.
Watkins made some strong plays, but - like the rest of the secondary - eventually was burned by Odell Beckham Jr. The Giants rookie caught 12 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown while being targeted 21 times.
Beckham's 63-yard touchdown came against Watkins early in the fourth quarter. Beckham got past a falling Watkins at midfield, then juked Malcolm Jenkins and went in untouched.
"I did a good job pressing him at the line and tried to ride him out of bounds, but he is a really good player and he kind of knocked my hand down and made my momentum go on the ground," Watkins said.
Despite that play, Watkins was satisfied with his first game on defense after all these weeks.
"It was definitely good to get the butterflies out and get my feet wet," he said.
The cornerback who arguably had the best day for the Eagles was Brandon Boykin, who played his usual spot in the slot. Boykin was credited with three tackles and a team-high three pass breakups.
"It was probably my best game this year in terms of doing my assignments right and the opportunities I got, capitalizing on them," Boykin said. "And coming out with the win was the most important thing."
The Eagles' other cornerback, Cary Williams, was used mainly to shadow Beckham. At some point, Beckham caught passes against all four corners.
Defensive coordinator Bill Davis offered this assessment of the cornerbacks: "They got beat a couple of times and made some plays. It is a starting point."