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Defensive Front Has Masked Eagles’ Slot Problem


Photo Credit by John McMullen/JAKIB Sports

KP Logo1PHILADELPHIA – After Avonte Maddox was likely lost for the season in Week 2 with a torn pectoral muscle, the Philadelphia Eagles have seemingly rotated a cast of thousands while trying to lock down the slot cornerback position.

Presumptive backup Zech McPhearson was already off the table for defensive coordinator Sean Desai because the third-year player had already torn his Achilles’ in the preseason.

First up to replace Maddox was second-year hopeful Mario Goodrich, a surprise initial 53-man roster player after a strong summer but the Clemson product struggled as the in-game replacement for Maddox against Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson, perhaps the best receiver in football.

The Eagles weren’t grading on a curve, however, and with Tampa Bay, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin looming next Philadelphia’s stop-gap plan was to piecemeal the work between outside cornerback James Bradberry and rookie safety Sydney Brown.

The Bucs tried to exploit the issue for a few minutes at the start of what was an easy and stifling 25-11 win for Philadelphia until Bucs quarterback Baker Mayfield lost the plot white running for his football life against the best defensive front in the NFL.

Next up was Washington and a talented group of receivers but it had to be Bradberry alone because Brown tweaked his hamstring against the Bucs. Second-year CB Josh Jobe rotated in for Bradberry when the veteran kicked inside.

The defensive effort wasn’t as impressive against the Commanders but the Eagles again persevered with pressure, moving to 4-0.

Next up was the Los Angeles Rams and if anyone could exploit the troubles, it was going to be Cooper Kupp, the best inside WR in football. With Kupp looming and Jobe struggling, the Eagles wisely put Bradberry back where he belonged and threw the kitchen skin at Kupp, who ate up and spit Goodrich out.

Undrafted 6-foot-2 rookie Eli Ricks, a prototypical outside corner from a size and length perspective, was also tried before the Eagles finally defaulted to veteran Bradley Roby, who had just arrived that week off the mercenary market and was on a pitch count.

Roby did settle things down a bit but the real shift in the game was the pass rush speeding up Matthew Stafford as the Eagles went on to win 23-14.

Roby was the guy in the lone loss to the New York Jets but injured his shoulder/pec and the law firm of Goodrich and Ricks had to finish things up as the Eagles offense imploded with a late Jalen Hurts pick-six ruining another string defensive effort, albeit against Zach Wilson.

By Week 7 against the No. 1 offense of Miami and Tyreek Hill, the Eagles had brought back Josiah Scott from the Pittsburgh practice squad to take Goodrich’s role and used Scott and Ricks to get by.

It’s trending like Roby will miss at least one more game at Washington this week and Brown, who started at safety against the Dolphins, is back in the conversation for slot work after the Eagles acquired Kevin Byard from Tennessee to solidify the back end.

That means Curtis Samuel and Co. could see Scott, Ricks, Brown, or a combination of all three as the Eagles try to improve to 7-1.

“It’s all about where I can add value,” Brown said Wednesday. “With (Byard) coming in, and Reed (Blankenship) coming back (from a rib injury) as well, I think it’s going to be more at the nickel position. I’ll be doing a lot more nickel.

“It’s all about getting your best players on the field, and coming in. You gotta move pieces around. As a rookie, I’m willing to go and move and play anywhere, and do whatever this team needs to win games. And if that’s at nickel, then that’s what I need to do.”

Lost in the sauce of all those moving parts (Maddox, McPhearson, Goodrich, Bradberry, Brown, Ricks, Roby, and Scott to date) is the defensive front that has masked the deficiency for all but a few moments in specific games.

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