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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — As a whole, the Eagles secondary is one of the best in the NFL, with safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod both back, and cornerbacks Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas and rookie Avonte Maddox making up one of the deepest corps in the league.
With training camp beginning on Wednesday, this group makes the Eagles favorites to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
Wipe away the numbers of the Super Bowl LII, when Tom Brady threw for a Super Bowl record 505 yards—and the New England Patriots racked up a Super Bowl record 613 yards of total offense—and still lost. If not for Jenkins wiping out Brandin Cooks with the devastating hit early in the second quarter, does Brady catch the ball on the following play—when he was wide open down the sideline?
But Brady heard Jenkins closing in and dropped it. That was one of the determining plays of Super Bowl LII (By the way, when Jenkins laid that hit on Cooks, U.S. Bank Stadium, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, went suddenly completely silent, if you remember).
Depth and talent overflow at the cornerback position. The grave problem that the Eagles could face is if either Jenkins or McLeod would go down and are lost for the season.
Last season, Jenkins played slot corner, outside corner, both safety positions and linebacker. He was the hub of the Eagles’ defense. Although appreciated in Philadelphia, his status across the league deserves more attention than he gets. He’s one of the top three safeties in the game. He and McLeod have that great silent communication all superior tandems have.
Mills, though he some troubles here and there, came up with one of the biggest plays of the season, covering Julio Jones in the corner of the end zone on the Atlanta Falcons’ final play of the divisional playoff round last season. Mills has improved each season he’s been in the NFL and this season could mark another major step in his maturation (like not biting on double moves).
After a season in which he primarily rehabbed from a ruptured Achilles, Jones looks primed to show why NFL experts projected him as a first-round draft choice coming out of Washington before the injury in 2017. He could be paired with Mills as the Eagles other starting corner.
Darby will obviously have some say in that rotation. He had some injuries last year and bit of a rough Super Bowl, but he does come into 2018 with the added motivation that this is his last season under his rookie contract, meaning a great year could mean big free agent dollars next season, that is if the Eagles don’t choose to resign him.
Then there is the rookie Maddox, who at 5-9, 185 pounds, may find a home as a slot corner.
But the key to the season, at least one of them, is that Jenkins and McLeod stay intact.