GREEN BAY, Wis. — Near the end of the first quarter in Thursday night's preseason opener, the Eagles' starting defense came out of the game.
Except for two players.
Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson, the current frontrunners to win the starting cornerback jobs (well, maybe not anymore), remained in the game and played an extra series. Cornerback has been the hottest topic of conversation surrounding the Eagles for months.
On Thursday night, though, the top corners held up. Although Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was a spectator for his team's 24-9 win.
"We played maybe two series, three series," Mills said. "And that offense is way different without No. 12 in the backfield. We just have to work onto next week and just get better."
With Rodgers and his favorite target Jordy Nelson on the bench, backup Brett Hundley had trouble getting anything going against the Eagles' first-team defense. The Packers went three-and-out on the first drive and Fletcher Cox forced a fumble that Robinson recovered on the next.
The biggest play either of the starters gave up was an 18-yard pass from Hundley to Davante Adams on the third series. Robinson was beaten on that play but he looked pretty good on Thursday and picked up a pass defensed. The veteran has had a rough training camp, but played much better in the game.
Mills started strong, tackling Randall Cobb for a 1-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage.
"Going into a preseason game you really don't know how much you're going to play, especially me coming off being a rookie last year and trying to compete for the starting job," Mills said. "I felt pretty good though."
One third of the Eagles' current group of starting cornerbacks was injured on Thursday night. Ron Brooks, who appears to be the lead candidate to be the team's slot corner, left the game with a hamstring injury. He was the first man down the field near Trevor Davis before Davis broke off a 68-yard punt return for a touchdown. It's unclear how significant the injury is, but Brooks seemed to be walking fine late Thursday night.
It's no secret that the Eagles' cornerbacks are a weak spot on the team. It's a major reason that on Friday they traded Jordan Matthews and a third-round pick to the Bills for third-year corner Ronald Darby. Last week during his press conference, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz — for the second time during training camp — noted that most of the questions were about the position.
He knows why.
"All those guys have shown something," Schwartz said about his group of CBs. "I don't know that anybody is consistent enough where we don't look at anybody else. I said the same thing coming into camp, or maybe back in OTAs, that it would be nice to have solid guys or solid starters at those positions, but we're still in the middle of a competition. Everybody is striving to be consistent."
Second-year player C.J. Smith wasn't consistent on Thursday night, but he did bounce back. In the second quarter, Smith gave up a 10-yard pass to Geronimo Allison and then two plays later was beaten by Jeff Janis on a little double-move for a 20-yard touchdown. It was ugly.
But Smith had a short memory and made a couple nice plays later.
Rasul Douglas, the third-round pick from West Virginia, had a pretty quiet night but could still make a charge for playing time. And Aaron Grymes is still in the mix.
With three preseason games remaining, the competition at cornerback is far from over.
"We played good but I always look for improvement," Mills said. "Always those little bitty things whether it's keying down-and-distance or formation. Just have to learn from those little bitty errors that we made and get better next week."