Eagles' draft options at CB, WR after Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith signings

Eagles' draft options at CB, WR after Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith signings

During the 2016 season, it was clear the Eagles had two glaring needs: wide receiver and cornerback.

On Thursday, de facto GM Howie Roseman eliminated one of those needs by signing veteran receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith.

But what about corner? A.J. Bouye, Stephon Gilmore and Logan Ryan were three of the top corners on the market. The Eagles weren't seriously linked to any of them, and on Thursday Bouye landed with the Jaguars, Gilmore agreed with the Patriots and Ryan went to the Titans.

Roseman chose to surround Wentz with proven commodities rather than add to the defense.

With how phenomenal this cornerback draft class is, that appears to be a wise move.

The experts have spoken, and they say this defensive back class could be historically good. As a draft nerd who spends a good portion of his free time studying college football players, I can tell you this year's crop is stupid deep. There could be as many as seven corners taken in the first round this year.

But the depth doesn't stop there either. Players like Colorado's Chidobe Awuzie and Ahkello Witherspoon are intriguing prospects. Both players met with the Eagles during the combine and both will likely be available in the third round. This was something Roseman and vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas surely factored in when assessing the free-agent market.

Besides, Roseman has been down this road before. The Eagles shelled out big money to Nnamdi Asomugha and Byron Maxwell and both were disasters. They've tried Band-Aid corners like Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher, who were equally as dreadful. Knowing how strong this draft is, why overpay someone like Bouye -- who the Jaguars paid handsomely -- after only one strong season?

With that said, drafting a corner is no sure thing. Of all the corners the Eagles have drafted recently -- that they haven't traded to Super Bowl champions -- Jalen Mills is the only one still on the roster (Jaylen Watkins is sort of a hybrid but spent most of last season as a safety). Roseman and Douglas are now under even more pressure to find the right fit.

And speaking of fit, Jim Schwartz's defense isn't the easiest on a young corner. Mills will likely be the only corner returning from 2016. Given his lack of foot speed, he seems destined for the slot. Maybe the Eagles disagree with that sentiment, but if I'm right, they'll need two starting outside corners before the season starts.

Schwartz needs his corners to play on an island if his defense is going to work. If you're able to snag Washington's Sidney Jones, he could likely handle those duties from Day 1. He's the most gifted cover corner with the best technique in the class. But drafting a corner in the second or third round and expecting him to play in this defense is a big ask.

Conversely, the Eagles spent big at wide receiver after not really throwing any money at the position over the last decade or so. Jordan Matthews has been mostly successful in the slot, but the team hasn't drafted a legitimate outside receiver since taking Jeremy Maclin in the first round in 2009.

After missing on Josh Huff and Nelson Agholor, the Eagles didn't draft a receiver last season. Jeffery and Smith are here, but both are on one-year deals. Roseman still needs to look closely at the position for the future. The position may not be as stacked as corner but the receiver crop has many intriguing names beyond the top trio of Mike Williams, Corey Davis and John Ross.

Zay Jones out of East Carolina has seen his stock soar and for good reason. Jones posted ridiculous numbers at ECU, hauling in 158(!) passes for 1,746 yards. He impressed at both the Senior Bowl and the combine, where he measured at 6-foot-2 and ran a 4.45 40. Someone like explosive Louisiana Tech receiver Carlos Henderson, who could be available in the third or fourth round, is worth a hard look. Henderson averaged 18.7 yards per catch and caught 10 touchdowns.

Another need that gets somewhat overlooked is at defensive end. Brandon Graham was the Eagles' only edge rusher to get consistent pressure last season. The hope is Vinny Curry will bounce back after signing a huge deal last offseason, but you can't rely on that. If someone like Tennessee's Derek Barnett is there at No. 14, he's worth a look. Barnett recorded 32 sacks in just three seasons with the Volunteers.

There are a number of Eagles fans enamored with Florida State's Dalvin Cook. I get it. He is talented and the Eagles don't have a starting running back. Cook's multiple shoulder surgeries and an off-field incident (he was acquitted after a woman alleged that he had punched her in the face) are red flags. For a running back to be taken in the top half of the draft, he has to be a near sure thing. Consider this: Of the NFL's top 10 rushers last season, only rookie Ezekiel Elliott was a first-round pick. Luckily for the Eagles, this is another position rich with talent in the draft.

It's a risk to rely on so many young players to fill needs, but it's a calculated one by Roseman. They say the third time's a charm, but in this case, the last thing the Eagles needed was another Asomugha or Maxwell.

What's the best play in Eagles history?

untitled-1.jpg

What's the best play in Eagles history?

Throughout the week, we have asked fans help determine the best play in Philadelphia sports history. Today, upvote below to adavnce one Eagles play to the finals on Friday where five plays will face off to determine the top overall play.

Tune in to Philly Sports Talk at 5 p.m. to see which play will advanace to the final.


Eagles 2017 training camp position battle: Cornerback

Eagles 2017 training camp position battle: Cornerback

It's no secret.

If anyone is looking for the biggest weakness on the 2017 Eagles roster, here it is. Cornerback could be an adventure.

At least this isn't anything new. In 2015, when the team trotted out Nolan Carroll and Byron Maxwell, fans probably thought things couldn't get worse in 2016. They were wrong. Last year, the struggles continued with a combination of Leodis McKelvin, Carroll, Ron Brooks and rookie Jalen Mills.

The good news is the Eagles might finally have some young talent to keep around for a while. Mills, a seventh-rounder last season, got valuable playing time and this year, the team drafted Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas in the second and third rounds. Jones is still recovering from his Achilles injury, but Douglas could figure into the rotation early.

The team also added veteran Patrick Robinson and brought back Brooks, C.J. Smith and Aaron Grymes.

During the spring, Mills, Robinson and Douglas worked with the first team, but defensive backs coach Cory Undlin said there isn't anything decided yet.

“It’s just going to be who’s going to step up here in training camp and through the preseason," Undlin said. "Who’s going to say, 'Listen, I’m starting here, I’m starting here, I’m going to play the nickel,' and then here’s the backups. 

"I like them all right now and we’ll find out how it goes down, and that’s what this whole [offseason] is for, to find out who’s going to rise to the top and who’s going to earn a spot and take it and then hopefully can keep it. We’ll see how that goes."

During the spring, Mills and Robinson worked as the Eagles' cornerbacks in the team's base package. And in the nickel, Mills pushed inside and Douglas took his spot outside. That is the same type of role Brooks had during training camp with the Eagles last season.

Brooks is sort of the forgotten man, coming off a serious leg injury that ended his 2016 season early. He was the team's primary nickel corner last season and when he went down, the team was forced to play Malcolm Jenkins in the slot, which meant putting Jaylen Watkins on the field as a safety.

While Undlin was hesitant to name starters at the end of the spring, it seems likely the Eagles will give Mills every opportunity to keep one of those starting gigs. After that, there are a bunch of guys in the mix for the three jobs.