The Eagles made Byron Maxwell one of the five highest-paid cornerbacks in the NFL before he was ever a true No. 1 cornerback, and he'll need to earn that salary by covering an opposing team's top wide receiver - regardless of which side of the field that receiver lines up.
Defensive coordinator Bill Davis said Thursday that the Eagles would allow Maxwell to shadow receivers more than they have in the past, when Davis' defense stuck almost exclusively to a left and right cornerback.
"Of course that's what I would like to do," Maxwell said. "I didn't know that coming here, but only a couple guys in the league get that opportunity. So it's an opportunity I look forward to and I embrace it."
It won't happen every game, but it will happen more than in Davis' first two years calling the defense. Cary Williams had hoped to be used that way, but the Eagles didn't go in that direction until late last season. As Davis termed it, he will "mix it up more this year."
Many teams stick to left and right cornerbacks. Richard Sherman plays the left side - Maxwell's experience in Seattle was on the right - whereas Darrelle Revis famously trailed an opposing team's top receiver when he earned the "Revis Island" moniker with the Jets.
"It will be a game-to-game thing," Davis said. "You have to really see a difference or a reason why to do that. Because a lot of times, those guys get in a nice little pattern with their footwork in the left and right."
Maxwell, who signed a six-year, $63 million contract in March, has played both sides during training camp. In recent days, he has spent more time learning the left side. He is confident that he knows the right side because of his experience in Seattle, so the footwork as the left cornerback is an adjustment for him.
The NFC East is a hotbed for top receivers. The Eagles have six games against Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham Jr., and DeSean Jackson. Each recorded 100-yard receiving games against the Eagles in 2014. That places a premium on a top cornerback.
"That's why they paid me," Maxwell said. "To be in this division and follow those type of caliber receivers, it's an opportunity I wasn't expecting, but I'd gladly take."
Safety Malcolm Jenkins noted that some teams have two standout receivers, so both cornerbacks have difficult matchups. He pointed to the Week 1 game against the Atlanta Falcons. Julio Jones is on one side, and Roddy White is on the other. So the No. 2 cornerback, who will likely be Nolan Carroll, also bears considerable responsibility.
"Although you probably make Maxwell travel with Julio, it's not a slouch on the other side of that," Jenkins said. "We've all got to be good and be able to hold up in our matchups."
There's a minor adjustment for the safeties when a cornerback travels. The Eagles often play with a single-high safety, so there is one player deep. Last year, it was usually Nate Allen. This year, Walter Thurmond and Jenkins can alternate in that role, so the two safeties will be more interchangeable. The key is for them to know how to play with both cornerbacks in case Maxwell changes sides during a game.
Jenkins said he is confident about both Maxwell and Carroll, although he acknowledged that the Eagles brought in Maxwell to become a "lockdown corner" for the team.
"I don't think we'll travel unless we have to - unless we go into a game where we feel like we're outmatched," Jenkins said. "But otherwise, if we like the matchups, we'll stay left and right."
Sticking to one side of the field works in Seattle, where Sherman is arguably the NFL's top cornerback and their secondary is the best in the league. But Revis, Joe Haden, and Patrick Peterson are examples of players who shadow receivers, and they join Sherman on the list of the NFL's five highest-paid cornerbacks. Maxwell is the other one in the group, and his coverage assignments might show why.
"Once you start following guys, your name is up there," Maxwell said. "That's how I'm looking at it."