The names and the faces change, but the Eagles have had inferior cornerbacks for at least five years. It isn't revisionist history to point out that the current cast was unlikely to be consistently effective. Management invested little in the position, weakened depth with trades, and signed questionable talent.
"Facts of life," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said Tuesday. "Our corners aren't playing very well right now."
What do you expect when the starters are second- and third-tier free agents, and the third corner is a seventh-round draft pick? The Eagles used to consider cornerback a premium position. And while some of those evaluations were off the mark, the acquisitions reflected a belief in concentrating your defensive strengths at the edges.
But this offseason the Eagles seemingly adopted a new philosophy when they spent significantly more at safety by extending the contract of Malcolm Jenkins (four years, $35 million) and adding free agent Rodney McLeod (five years, $35 million).
After trading cornerback Byron Maxwell - understandable, considering his contract and performance in 2015 - along with linebacker Kiko Alonso to the Dolphins, the Eagles signed free agents Leodis McKelvin (two years, $6.2 million) and Ron Brooks (three years, $5.5 million) and re-signed Nolan Carroll (one year, $2.36 million).
"A lot of it is availability also," Schwartz said. "There are a lot of great corners in the league that don't become available in free agency, and you've got to take every chance you can to improve . . . any way you can. There's something to be said for being strong up the middle also."
The Eagles were unlikely to nab Josh Norman in late April after the Panthers rescinded their franchise tag (he signed with the Redskins), but other quality corners available in free agency have gone on to have strong seasons. Janoris Jenkins (Giants) and Sean Smith (Raiders) spring immediately to mind.
Even if Howie Roseman didn't want to dig that deep into the salary cap, there were young, promising cornerbacks who signed show-me one-year deals such as Prince Amukamara (Jaguars) and Morris Claiborne (Cowboys) and veterans who wouldn't warrant long-term contracts, such as William Gay (Steelers), Brent Grimes (Buccaneers), and Terrence Newman (Vikings).
The 31-year-old McKelvin and the 29-year-old Carroll, who was coming off a broken ankle, qualified as the latter. But the difference has been that Gay, Grimes, and Newman have played well, and McKelvin and Carroll have not.
Evaluation of the position, more than anything, has been the problem.
The Eagles have been forced to scour free agency because they have failed to hit on so many of their draft picks. They didn't draft a corner this year until they took Jalen Mills in the last round. But they had fewer high selections because of the trades for quarterback Carson Wentz, and they had other holes to fill.
But the most surprising decision was trading Eric Rowe just before the season. Roseman wasn't in charge of personnel when the Eagles drafted the corner in the second round in 2015, but even if Rowe wasn't considered a scheme or personality fit he certainly had tools to mold.
The Patriots obviously liked him enough to send the Eagles a conditional fourth-round pick. Rowe, who suffered a hamstring injury Sunday, started in four of New England's last six games.
Would Rowe have solved all the Eagles' cornerback woes? Probably not. He wasn't going to play at the start of the season. But it was apparent early that McKelvin, partly because of injury, was a burden and that Mills wasn't quite ready to shoulder his load.
Schwartz was able to compensate, though, because the front seven had been, for the most part, pressuring quarterbacks and because Jenkins and McLeod had been playing some of their best football.
But even in the Eagles' best defensive games, the objective was to just not allow the Steelers' Antonio Brown or the Falcons' Julio Jones to get into the end zone. And it worked. Every team has weak spots, and it's the successful coaches who are able to scheme around them.
Many evaluators and coaches consider cornerback to be a premium position because it is easier for offensive coordinators to attack the edges and get receivers singled up on the outside. The Bengals unmercifully went at McKelvin, Carroll, and Mills on Sunday.
McKelvin was targeted eight times and allowed seven catches for 84 yards. He looks like a pitcher who has lost his fastball, too unwilling to play press coverage. Carroll was the most consistent in the first half of the season, but he has slipped. Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton went at him five times and completed four passes for 76 yards.
Mills, who was on the field for only 36 percent of the snaps, allowed two catches for 50 yards on three targets. The rookie has swagger, but he may lack the necessary long speed to play outside. Despite their collective struggles, Schwartz said he has their backs. Of course, he has no other options.
"It doesn't mean I've lost confidence in them because that's the same bunch of corners that shut down some of the best offenses in the NFL," Schwartz said. "But we're in a slump."
The Eagles' front four has taken a lot of heat for the lack of sacks over the last six games, but the rush is a two-way deal, and the secondary - the cornerbacks in particular - have not held their coverage long enough.
"Facts were, in this game, we got beat in blitz. We got beat in zone. We got beat in Cover 2. We got beat in two-man. We got beat in six," Schwartz said. "We rolled through every one. We got beat in all of them."
The coordinators and schemes have changed, but come every recent December the cornerbacks have been in full meltdown mode. But it's what the Eagles have done March through May that has been the ultimate problem.