PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Most NFL experts believe the Eagles cornerbacks may be the weakest position on the team.
Don’t tell that to them.
The noise outside the Eagles locker room is blocked out by many of the members of the secondary. Some admit they have not even heard of any dire predictions for the team’s last line of defense. Jalen Mills is one of the corners who will be counted on to step up this year and the second year defensive back doesn’t need any outside motivation to succeed.
“I’m self-motivated,” said Mills. “Anything that anybody can say is really irrelevant to me. I just come out here each and every day and try and get better.”
The secondary will have to be better than it was last season. Safety hardly seems to be a problem with the return of Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. The concerns are at corner even after the departures of Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll, who both struggled during the 2016 campaign. It would appear Mills has the inside track for one starting spot while veteran Patrick Robinson and rookie Rasul Douglas are candidates for the other starting job. Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz says there is still plenty of time to evaluate the cornerback position in training camp.
“I’d love to have some continuity there,” said Schwartz. “But we also have to let it play. We have to be able to see who can survive the slings and arrows of training camp. There are going to be some situations that are bad.”
Schwartz also admits it is often difficult to get a true evaluation at times due to some of the limitations of the workouts at training camp.
“There are periods in practice where you’re sort of handcuffing guys,” said Schwartz. “The offense knows what the call is. The period is nothing but one coverage or something and it might not look like a guy is particularly doing well, but it’s hard. It’s hard to judge how it goes in there…when the quarterback throws the ball one time, when he doesn’t, seven-on-seven, if he pumps and then goes. There are a lot of other things that go into it other than that.”
One thing which will help the secondary this season is an improved pass rush. In practice, the defensive linemen are limited as quarterbacks are not allowed to be tackled. Linebacker Nigel Bradham believes the secondary will get plenty of help from the men up front in the trenches.
“It’s going to help a lot especially with the guys we’ve got up front,” Bradham said. “We’ve got unbelievable guys up front with unbelievable talent. It’s definitely going to make the ball come out a lot quicker.”
Even if the pass ushers do their job, there will be times when the cornerbacks have to make plays. Mills is confident the corners will answer the call once they are trying to slow down some of the game’s top receivers during the regular season.
“You see us getting a little bit better each and every day,” said Mills. “That’s all you want. The season isn’t here yet. We do have preseason coming up, but even then, you still want to get better each and every day.”