Curtis Marsh (left) and Brandon Hughes (middle) are both recovering from broken hands while rookie Jordan Poyer (right) lacks experience. (USA Today Images/AP)
You wondered going into final cuts whether the Eagles would keep rookie seventh-round pick Jordan Poyer, injured Brandon Hughes or injured Curtis Marsh.
Turns out they kept all three.
In one of the biggest surprises of cut day, the Eagles kept three cornerbacks who they don’t figure on getting much immediate production from.
Behind starters Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams and slot corner Brandon Boykin, the Eagles now have only Poyer, who had an uneven preseason, and Hughes and Marsh, who are both out of commission for the time being with broken hands.
That’s your cornerback corps.
The Eagles last year, with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha starting, became the third team in NFL history to allow 33 or more touchdowns and record eight or fewer interceptions.
Over the last 14 weeks of the season, they allowed 32 touchdowns and had just three interceptions, something no NFL team had ever done over a 14-week span.
Are they better today with this group?
We’ll see soon.
“Obviously, you look at the numbers there and you see six corners and there’s some uncertainty just because you’ve got to have availability at that spot,” general manager Howie Roseman said.
That could be a sign the Eagles hope to add a cornerback off the waiver wire. Thanks to last year’s four-win season, they own the fourth position in the waiver-claim hierarchy.
If they don’t claim one -- or aren’t awarded one -- backup safety Kurt Coleman, who finished Thursday night’s preseason game at cornerback, presumably would be the next guy in for now.
Hughes broke his hand during the Eagles’ preseason game against the Jaguars last Saturday and Marsh got hurt a week earlier during a game against the Panthers.
Both have undergone surgery, but Roseman said he anticipates having both back soon.
“They’re not long-term injuries at all,” he said Saturday. “We expect them both back shortly. Just the question is what game that’s for.”
But for now, Poyer is the fourth corner, which is kind of a rarity. The last time the Eagles had a cornerback drafted in the seventh round (or later) who contributed as a rookie was 1993, with 10th-round pick Mark McMillian. Undrafted Rod Hood got some playing time in 2003.
Roseman said Poyer progressed a lot in recent weeks after starting camp out slowly. Because of Oregon State’s late graduation date, he missed all the offseason OTAs and most of the minicamps, since NFL rules prohibit football players from participating in pro camps until their class graduates.
“Poyer was affected by not having the offseason, and you saw he kept coming on, not only in games but in practice,” Roseman said. “He’s instinctive, he’s tough, he’s physical, he’s got size to him, so we just felt he was a guy we wanted to grow with and have here.”
Marsh and Hughes both have NFL experience and are good special teams players, but neither has excelled when given opportunities at cornerback.
Marsh, the Eagles’ third-round pick in 2011, has played mainly on special teams over the past two years. Hughes, the Chargers’ fifth-round pick in 2009, has played in 30 games over the past three years with the Eagles, starting once.
It was Marsh that Tom Brady picked on repeatedly during the Eagles-Patriots joint practices earlier this month at the NovaCare Complex.
Roseman didn’t give Marsh a ringing endorsement but said the Eagles simply would like to see more of Marsh, so it sounds like they’re certainly open to upgrading if something better comes along.
“He’s got size and he’s got length," Roseman said, "and quite frankly, ideally, we would have liked to have seen more of him.
“You would have liked to have seen him in games and at practice the last couple weeks, so we went with what we saw in the offseason, what we saw him kind of coming on after he had that experience [with] New England. That kind of helped him grow a little bit, going against Tom.
“You’re talking about a big guy who can run, and we just have to see how it goes from there.”