A battered Eagles secondary already faced a huge challenge in the team’s visit to Arizona, which features DeAndre Hopkins, who might be the NFL’s best wide receiver, along with Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk. That challenge got much more difficult Saturday, when the Eagles announced that their top cornerback, Darius Slay, remained in the NFL concussion protocol and was not traveling with the team.
Safety Rodney McLeod was lost for the season with a knee injury in last week’s victory over New Orleans. Avonte Maddox, the starting corner opposite Slay, was placed on injured reserve Friday with a knee injury also suffered in the New Orleans game.
Presumably, the only healthy regular starting defensive back, safety Jalen Mills, will move to cornerback, where he will face a speed mismatch with Hopkins (94 catches, 1,155 yards, five touchdowns). The other starting corner probably will be undrafted rookie Michael Jacquet, in his return from a hamstring injury that kept him out against the Saints. Jacquet has played in five games, taking 51 defensive snaps.
When defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz spoke with the media during the week, he seemed to hint that he wanted to keep Mills at safety, in McLeod’s absence. Without Slay, that seems unlikely.
It’s also possible the Eagles will use practice squad corner Kevon Seymour, who saw his first NFL action since 2017 last week. Nickel corner Nickell Robey-Coleman and safeties K’von Wallace and Marcus Epps also will figure in the mix.
The Eagles brought back Blake Countess this week. Countess, a safety and corner, was a sixth-round Eagles draft pick in 2016 who was released before the regular season, then spent three years with the Rams. He came back to the Eagles last year, was injured, and ended up being released again, ultimately playing six games for the Jets last season. Countess still hasn’t played in an Eagles game, but this might finally be the time.
Rookie practice squad corner Jameson Houston saw his first NFL action against the Saints. Rookie corner/safety Elijah Riley joined the active roster from the practice squad this week; Riley played in two early-season games. There is one more corner on the practice squad, a rookie named Lavert Hill.
The Eagles also announced that safety Grayland Arnold (hamstring) and running back Jason Huntley (illness) did not make the trip.