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McLane: Defensive backs put Eagles in a corner

Cornerbacks are to the Eagles defense what wide receivers are to the offense. It's been evident throughout the entire season, but Aaron Rodgers and the Packers hammered the point home in their 27-13 win on Monday night.

Cornerbacks are to the Eagles defense what wide receivers are to the offense.

It's been evident throughout the entire season, but Aaron Rodgers and the Packers hammered the point home in their 27-13 win on Monday night.

The Eagles won't be a legitimate playoff contender until they have a pair of cornerbacks who can consistently cover good - not even great - NFL wide receivers.

They don't need two No. 1 corners like the Broncos have with Aqib Talib and Chris Harris. They just need one and a competent No. 2. What they have instead are two borderline No. 2s in Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll.

Rodgers, time and again, went at the tandem. And pass after pass after pass, McKelvin and Carroll came up small. Rodgers (30 of 39 for 313 yards and two touchdowns) may not be the dominant force he was in the early 2010s, but he's still an elite quarterback with an arm to die for. So it's not as if McKelvin and Carroll were up against Scott Tolzien.

"He's Aaron Rodgers . . . he puts the ball where it needs to be put," McKelvin said, "and their receivers made plays."

The best corners in the world are going to give up a few against Rodgers. But the Packers' receivers aren't in the same category as their quarterback. Jordy Nelson was once top-tier, but he has regressed after a late-career knee injury. Randall Cobb is good out of the slot, but he's been so-so since his new contract.

And Davante Adams . . . well, he's very good and getting better. And he terrorized McKelvin and Carroll to the tune of five catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns. Rookie Jalen Mills rotated in, as he has for most of the season, and fared better. But he's been too up-and-down this year to forecast him as a definite starter next season.

But even if Mills starts on one side next year, the Eagles still need another cornerback. Actually, they need two because they don't have an answer in the slot. Safety Malcolm Jenkins has been carrying that load, but the Eagles need a traditional inside corner. Jaylen Watkins is a fine third safety, but he shouldn't be the fifth defensive back when the Eagles switch to their nickel personnel.

So while receiver is a definite need next offseason, the Eagles - at the risk of looking ahead - shouldn't ignore cornerback. They haven't drafted one in the first round since Lito Sheppard in 2002. Of course, Howie Roseman's record on evaluating the position over the years has been dubious.

The Eagles didn't lose and fall under .500 and basically wave their postseason chances away solely because of McKelvin and Carroll. The offense, as mentioned above, is lacking in the skill position department. Carson Wentz needs bigger shoulder pads if he's to carry the team for the final five games.

But the defensive front failed to assist the boys on the back end, too. Brandon Graham, Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry and company failed to notch a single sack. Fletcher Cox deserves special notice - and special in this case is the bad kind.

"You're not going to be in a position to win many games without the pass rush," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. "You can't let a guy like Aaron Rodgers stand back there."

The $100 million defensive tackle wasn't a complete bust. Cox forced Rodgers to move around, but he gift-wrapped the Packers the game when he forearmed the quarterback to the helmet in the third quarter.

Green Bay faced third and 4 on their 31. The Eagles trailed, 17-13. A stop there and who knows what would have happened. But Cox ran a stunt and hit Rodgers on the lower part of his face mask after he threw incomplete.

"I thought it was a clean hit," Cox said.

It was a bang-bang play, but Cox should have known better. The unnecessary roughness penalty was his third this season and the third that gave an offense life. Rodgers took the first down and ran the Packers down the field.

He hooked up with Adams for 23 yards on third and 10 against a soft-covering Carroll. And after a Carroll holding penalty, Rodgers handed off to fullback Aaron Ripkowski for a 1-yard score. A 24-13 lead with 13 minutes and 53 seconds left in the game would be more than enough.

The Eagles had hung tight for nearly three quarters almost exclusively because of Wentz. But Jim Schwartz's defense, which had been so dominating at Lincoln Financial Field in the first four games, couldn't contain Rodgers.

Schwartz threw a fair amount of Cover 2 at Rodgers in the first half. He took away the deep ball, but with two safeties deep, Rodgers whipped out his scalpel and sliced the Eagles underneath.

"We tried to play the cat-and-mouse game with him," Carroll said, "and he was really just getting the ball out fast - dinking and dunking."

On the Packers' opening drive, Rodgers marched his offense down the field like it was 2010. He hit Nelson for 10 yards. He flung a 12-yard pass to Cobb. He flicked a 7-yard strike to tight end Jared Cook on third and 4. And he connected with a slanting Adams in front of the soft-covering McKelvin for a 12-yard touchdown.

But Rodgers also took advantage when the Eagles' man defense failed to account for his running ability. He scrambled for 16 yards on third and 1 and then for 9 yards on the play before the Adams touchdown.

Rodgers and Adams hooked up again on the next series when the quarterback threaded a 20-yard touchdown pass to the diving receiver. Carroll looked back too late and the Packers were up, 14-7.

The Eagles managed to hold off the Packers' third drive of the half, but Rodgers opened the second half by going right at McKelvin with a 50-yard heave to Nelson. Green Bay settled for a field goal, but the nail in the coffin would eventually come.

The Eagles' season isn't in the ground. But it might as well be. It's hard to bury McKelvin and Carroll. They are what they are. It's about time the front office digs up some suitable corners.