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Five Tough Questions for Eagles Training Camp: Cornerback

Five Tough Questions for Eagles Training Camp: Cornerback

We pick up our training camp preview at cornerback, where despite the "losses" of Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the Eagles look as though they might be improved and even somewhat deep.

[ Five Tough Questions for Eagles Training Camp:
Quarterback | Running Back | Wide Receiver | Tight End | Offensive Line
Defensive Line | Linebacker | Safety ]

Is Cary Williams going to be a free-agent bust?

That might depend on your expectations going in. Williams isn’t a shutdown corner by any means. In fact, only six corners in the NFL surrendered a higher percentage of first downs and touchdowns per snap than Williams during the regular season in 2012 according to Pro Football Focus, which is highly suggestive that opposing quarterbacks are willing to go after him.

His disinterest in the Eagles’ spring workouts won’t allay any concerns, either. Williams was absent from OTAs with a number of excuses, and while it’s debatable just how much that really matters, his attitude likely only created even more doubters.

Still, it seems like the former seventh-round pick is a perfectly adequate replacement for right now. He was good enough to start all 32 regular season and six playoff games for Baltimore in the past two years, including the Ravens’ victory in the Super Bowl this past February. The 28 year old even became something of a playmaker for the first time in ‘12, hauling in six interceptions with 23 passes defensed over 20 games.

The Eagles are only on the hook for three years, $17 million with Williams. It’s not a contract reflective of a star, so we shouldn’t necessarily expect to have one. That said, for that kind of money I’d expect Williams at least perform better than Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie did last year, something he seems more than capable of.

Who is the other starter at cornerback?

The competition is probably a bit more wide open opposite Williams, but for now it appears the favorite has to be Bradley Fletcher. Fletcher was actually the first corner the Eagles signed this offseason, which probably doesn’t mean all that much other than their interest level was high. He’s also the only other corner on the roster to have started more than one NFL game on the outside.

Signed as a free agent from the Rams at a very reasonable two years, $5.25 million, the third-round pick out of Iowa posted solid numbers as a sophomore in 2010, intercepting four passes and defending 11 more in his first full year as a starter. Injuries derailed his follow-up campaign though, and the organization was quick to move on in the offseason. New head coach Jeff Fisher brought in his buddy Cortland Finnegan from Tennessee, then used a second- and third-round picks on Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson.

Fletcher appeared in all 16 games last year and started four, performing well with the snaps he was given – one pick and eight passes defended in 374 plays. He’s been working with the first-team D for the Birds this spring, and as long as he can stay healthy it seems like an excellent low risk/high reward signing.

Can Brandon Boykin play on the outside?

Maybe he can. Thought of almost exclusively as a nickel cornerback when the Eagles drafted him in the fourth round of the ’12 draft, Boykin is lobbying for a chance to start, and Chip Kelly gave the Georgia product some looks on the outside with the first-team defense this spring.

The primary concern is Boykin’s size. At 5-10, 185, bigger wide receivers can move out of the way, or one would think go over the top of him. However, the latter might not be the case. Anybody who’s ever seen Boykin dunk a basketball knows what we’re talking about. The dude can fly.

Boykin still may not be the ideal person for that role. He’s coming off a fine rookie season in the slot, playing all 16 games for the Birds last season, and they might not have anybody better suited for that position right now, whereas there is some competition on the outside. That said, Boykin could probably handle the responsibility in a pinch – perhaps he could even do more with the chance than that.

Will Curtis Marsh make the team?

He’s on the bubble to be sure, but has a shot. The Eagles used a third-round pick on Marsh in 2011, although he hasn’t been able to get on the field for a number of reasons. He was very raw coming out of Utah State, having begun his collegiate career as a running back. Since then of course he’s been blocked by the likes of Asomugha, DRC, and Asante Samuel to name a few. Marsh has just 75 career snaps at cornerback in the NFL.

It’s a little curious he never got a chance to play last season while two of those other guys were stinking up the joint. Marsh has good size (6-1, 197) and athleticism (4.46 40-yard dash), and always seemed perform fairly well versus stiffs in the preseason for whatever that's worth. Thanks in part to Cary Williams’ absences, he got to run with the first teamers a bit in the spring, but he did in 2012 as well, and look how much that meant.

I’d venture a guess there is a fifth CB spot on the roster, and it’s between Marsh and Brandon Hughes. We’ve seen what Hughes can do, and it’s nothing special. Wouldn’t mind seeing Marsh get one last opportunity instead.

Could Jordan Poyer make an impact in his rookie season?

Perhaps as good or better of a chance as any mid-to-late-round draft pick on the team. Projected to be an early mid-rounder (if that makes sense), Poyer was a pleasant surprise for the Birds in the seventh. He was a consensus All American his senior season in college with respectable size (6-0, 191) and measurables (4.54 40, 30.5-inch vert). He’s not lacking confidence, either. Having played in the Pac-12 at Oregon State, Chip Kelly is plenty familiar with his capabilities as well.

There is surprisingly some stiff competition at corner, and Poyer will be starting at something of a disadvantage having missed most of spring workouts due to the graduation rule. Even still the 22 year old could rise up the depth chart to No. 4 – ahead of Marsh or Hughes – relatively quickly, which would put him right in the mix for playing time. I really expect to see him on the field in meaningful games and situations this season.

Andrew Kulp is a freelance writer covering Philadelphia sports for The700Level.com. E-mail him at andrewkulp@comcast.net or follow him on Twitter.

CSNPhilly Internship - Advertising/Sales

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CSNPhilly Internship - Advertising/Sales

Position Title: Intern
Department: Advertising/Sales
Company: Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia
# of hours / week: 10 – 20 hours

Deadline: November 20

Basic Function

This position will work closely with the Vice President of Sales in generating revenue through commercial advertisements and sponsorship sales. The intern will gain first-hand sales experience through working with Sales Assistants and AEs on pitches, sales-calls and recapping material.

Duties and Responsibilities

• Assist Account Executive on preparation of Sales Presentations
• Cultivate new account leads for local sales
• Track sponsorships in specified programs
• Assist as point of contact with sponsors on game night set up and pre-game hospitality elements.
• Assist with collection of all proof of performance materials.
• Perform Competitive Network Analysis
• Update Customer database
• Other various projects as assigned

Requirements

1. Good oral and written communication skills.
2. Knowledge of sports.
3. Ability to work non-traditional hours, weekends & holidays
4. Ability to work in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment
5. Must be 19 years of age or older
6. Must be a student in pursuit of an Associate, Bachelor, Master or Juris Doctor degree
7. Must have unrestricted authorization to work in the US
8. Must have sophomore standing or above
9. Must have a 3.0 GPA

Interested students should apply here and specify they're interested in the ad/sales internship.

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Phillies-Dodgers observations: Aaron Altherr's big night powers 3rd straight win

Phillies-Dodgers observations: Aaron Altherr's big night powers 3rd straight win

BOX SCORE

The Phillies continue to make baseball fun as they head toward the finish line of their fifth straight losing season.
 
They rallied for their eighth win in the last 10 games in beating the Los Angeles Dodgers, 7-5, at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night.
 
The Phillies have taken the first three games of the series against the team with baseball's best record. All three wins have been come-from-behind efforts.
 
Aaron Altherr, the hero of Monday night's win against three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, was a key contributor again in this one. He drove in four runs late in the game with a two-run homer in the seventh and a tie-breaking, two-run single in the eighth inning.
 
• The Phillies' bullpen, which had been so good lately, blew leads of 2-1 and 5-4, but the offense overcame those issues.
 
• Despite having the second-worst record in the majors, the Phillies are 32-33 since the All-Star break.
 
• The game ended with Phillies centerfielder Odubel Herrera making a tremendous leaping catch at the wall on a bullet by Yasiel Puig.
 
• Cesar Hernandez started the Phillies' eighth-inning rally by working a walk against Luis Avilan. Avilan then made an errant throw to help set up Altherr's big single.
 
• Hector Neris pitched for the third night in a row and earned his second save of the series.
 
• The Dodgers rallied for three runs against the Phillies' bullpen to take a 4-2 lead in the top of the seventh. The Phillies got the runs back quickly in the bottom of the inning. Rhys Hoskins continued to do things to help the team win when he led off with a walk against right-hander Ross Stripling. Stripling then threw two hanging curveballs and Altherr and Tommy Joseph deposited them in the left-field seats to give the Phillies the lead. Joseph, pushed into the background by Hoskins' emergence, had a two-RBI night.
 
• Phillies starter Jake Thompson gave up just one run but was not economical enough with his pitches to get past the fifth inning. Thompson allowed six base runners on three hits and three walks and got outs on several long fly balls. He walked two batters in the fifth, got a visit from pitching coach Bob McClure then got the final two outs on a pair of groundballs. He hung a full-count slider to Justin Turner with two outs, but Turner grounded it to short for the third out. Thompson survived and exited the game with a 2-1 lead.
 
• Chase Utley did not start for the Dodgers, but he entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the top of the seventh with the Dodgers behind, 2-1. Facing rookie right-hander Victor Arano, Utley showed that famous short, chop swing in lacing a triple off the center-field wall.
 
• Arano was originally Dodgers' property. He came over to the Phillies late in the 2014 season in a trade for pitcher Roberto Hernandez. After Utley tripled, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts sent up left-handed hitting Andre Ethier to bat in the pitcher's spot. Pete Mackanin responded by waving lefty Hoby Milner into the game. Roberts went back to his bench and replaced Ethier with Kike Hernandez, a right-handed bat. Milner is a side-armer who struggles against right-handed bats (they were 19 for 46 against him while lefty hitters were 9 for 54). The results were predictable; Hernandez doubled home Ultey with the tying run. Milner did get to face a lefty hitter later in the inning and NL Rookie of the Year slam dunk Cody Bellinger broke the tie with a two-run double. Despite the difficult inning, Milner has made a nice showing and put himself on the map this season. He had not allowed a run in 21 straight appearances before being charged with two.
 
• The series concludes with a Thursday matinee. Mark Leiter Jr. (3-6, 4.93) pitches for the Phillies against Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda (12-6, 4.91).