The Eagles cornerback position has been one of those spots in the NFL which just hasn’t been filled in a very long time, similar to the Browns’ QB situation. The worst part about it, however, is that the Birds have spent a countless number of resources towards that very thing and still have nothing to show for it.
Since 2010 the Eagles just haven’t been able to get a top 20 player at the position, let alone a star or someone who could lock down half of the field like a Richard Sherman. That person in 2010 was cornerback Asante Samuel who was known for gambling at the position, but when you end up with seven interceptions that’s pretty good. Especially considering that he got 9 INT’s the year before. However in 2011 his production dropped to three interceptions and he just wasn’t the same player. It’s no mystery why the Eagles haven’t won a playoff game since 2008. Yes there have been other reasons, but anyone who watches the team would tell you the holes on the outside have a lot to do with it.
Still the Eagles lack of secondary play in general isn’t for a lack of trying. They simply have missed on every single corner they’ve tried to go after for one reason or another. Let’s look at what they’re tried to do to sure up the position through the years.
The Eagles seemed to notice the writing on the wall that, at the very least: Asante Samuel was getting older. With that being the case they had a trade asset they were willing to part with. Young drafted quarterback Kevin Kolb was there and the Eagles decided that he wouldn’t be the guy moving forward. The Arizona Cardinals saw something in the young QB and decided to trade former first round cornerback Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2nd round pick for him. The trade seemed to be a steal at first, but Rodgers-Cromartie played the nickel corner back position in his first year on the Eagles and it didn’t work well.
And then after the Rodgers-Cromartie deal the Eagles went through, they signed cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha for a five-year $60 million contract. So in the span of a few days the Eagles had suddenly evolved and had three former Pro Bowl corner backs on the same roster. It was an incredible heap and a position that should have carried the team throughout the season. Only there was one problem. Asomugha was terrible.
Result: DRC ended up playing the nickel position in the scheme and the defense just didn’t seem to be able to put it together early in the season. They got better later in the year but ended up 10th in passing yards allowed. Those numbers were deceiving as they were 15th in the league in interceptions with 15 and allowed the 9th most touchdowns in the league with 27. Asomugha was supposed to be a shutdown corner and that clearly was not the case.
The Eagles decided to move on from cornerback Asante Samuel because they wanted DRC to become the outside corner along with Asomugha. Samuel ended up getting 5 interceptions that season with the Atlanta Falcons.
Results: DRC improved on his interception total, coming up with three in 2012 as opposed to the grand total of zero he had in 2011. On the other side Asomugha’s play was rapidly declining as he started getting beaten left and right…and up and down the field. Yards wise the Eagles remained a top 10 passing defense, which is the main reason this is not a stat to look at. The defense was quickly moving into the abyss. They allowed the most touchdowns in the league and had the second least interceptions in the league.
The Eagles decided to move on from DRC and Asomugha in the 2013 offseason. Rodgers-Cromartie went to Denver on a one-year five million dollar contract. Keep in mind that the Eagles didn’t have Samuel at this point and still needed corners. Alas, in 2016 Rodgers-Cromartie was still going strong getting six interceptions for the New York Giants. Asomugha on the other hand played for the 49ers the next season before retiring after the Eagles released him.
The Birds decided to elevate Brandon Boykin to a starting cornerback position and signed ex-Rams corner back Bradley Fletcher to try and fix the secondary. The Eagles went back to the free agent well and got ex-Ravens cornerback Cary Williams
Result: Well…The Eagles allowed the most yards in the NFL…but…they were tied for 14th in passing TD’s (allowing 25) and got 19 picks, which was tied for 8th in the league. Keep in mind that this was also the first year of Head Coach Chip Kelly and his fast paced offense, so all those numbers, good and bad, were inflated to some degree.
They kept Williams on one side and on the other the birds decided to upgrade by add ex-Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll and moving Boykin back to the slot.
Result: The Eagles still had the second most passing yards in the league mostly because of their style of play. The problem for the Birds was that they allowed the 4th most passing TDs in the league and they had only 12 interceptions, tying them for 7th lowest in the league. The Eagles were again taking steps back in their production and even though Williams had 5 picks, he was one of the main culprits.
The Eagles ended up releasing Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams and signing ex-Seahawks corners Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond III. It was a whole new look for the defense and Maxwell was the guy this time!! Promise…
Result: I mean…they allowed the 5th most passing yards in the league while also allowing the 2nd most passing touchdowns in the league (36) and being tied for 10th in interceptions with 15. So Maxwell and Thurmond didn’t really help much of anything and the third straight “cornerback savior” was out of the door.
2016: Maxwell was involved in a deal to get quarterback Carson Wentz onto the team so the Eagles wasted no time admitting that mistake. They kept corner back Nolan Carroll and drafted cornerback Jalen Mills, who had an impact as a rookie.
Result: The Eagles improved in most respects, ranking 13th in the league in yards while allowing the 15th most passing TDs (25), but getting the 9th most interceptions with 16.
The Eagles’ defense has been a continuing improvement over the years, and yet the need for a cornerback remains. They still need a good cornerback in the draft, but at least they haven’t made the same mistake in going out and trying to get a superstar free agent corner. In the end the necessity to get a corner is still there for the Birds as it has been for years.