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Young Talent and Less Experience Will Haunt the Eagles Secondary

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When the Eagles begin their regular season on Sept. 10 at the Washington Redskins, there will be much excitement for all those who “bleed green.”

All the anticipation and enthusiasm leading up to the season opener is very much expected. Carson Wentz is entering his second-year and the signal-caller now has more weapons at his disposal, like the addition of Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and LeGarrette Blount.

The offense is something to watch for this season and, as long as the majority can stay healthy, it’ll give fans plenty to cheer about.

But what about the defense?

The front seven has the potential to be a top unit in the NFL. With players such as Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, Brandon Graham, Jordan Hicks, and first-round draft pick Derek Barnett, the pass/ rush attack will, on paper, be a destructive force this season.

That just leaves the secondary… gulp…

The Eagles No.1 cornerback, right now, will most likely be Jalen Mills, who is entering his second year in the league. Mills covered some big names last year, like Odell Beckham Jr., Dez Bryant, Julio Jones, Antonio Brown and the former Chicago Bear, and now the Eagles newest receiver, Jeffery.

But, is that enough? It was good experience for the then rookie cornerback, however, he’s not ready to take on the role of being a No. 1 corner. Also, Mills made his share of mistakes last season. There were some plays when he had great coverage, but there were also plays where he was beat. Overall, though, Mills didn’t have an awful rookie outing. The one thing about Mills that was promising is that if the catch was made, he was usually there to make the tackle. And, don’t forget, he was thrown into the fire after a few injuries. So, not all his shortcomings last season were his fault.

Sure, Mills will probably have a decent second season and the added playing time will surely aid in his development. Mills has the potential to be a great player, but he will not be a superstar this season. Again, he wasn’t that bad last year, and having another year of NFL experience under his belt will result in a better season for Mills. The 2016 seventh-round pick, though, is just not No. 1 cornerback material yet.

There is also a lot of young talent among this group of defensive backs, like Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas.

Jones was set to be one of the first cornerbacks selected in the 2017 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, Jones injured his achilles during the final drill of Washington’s pro day. It was that injury that stripped Jones of his likely first-round pick status, but fortunately for the Eagles, he was able to slip to Philadelphia in the second round. If 100 percent healthy by the regular season, expect Jones to start alongside Mills.

Then there’s Douglas, the Eagles’ third-round selection. In addition to Millls and Jones, there could possible be a strong trio of cornerbacks in the NFL emerging in the next few seasons. Given the fact that the Eagles parted with both starting corners from last year (Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin), Douglas could have a legitimate shot at competing for a significant role in Jim Schwartz’s defense.

Before the draft, the corner position was in serious trouble, but with the addition of Jones and Douglas, this could be a turning point for Philadelphia…. but not this year. The younger talent needs experience and time to jell. There is too much young talent to expect shutdown corners this coming season.

Now, there are veteran corners such as journeyman Patrick Robinson, but most likely he’s just passing through. This is still a very young corp of defensive backs. Even Ron Brooks, who is actually entering his sixth NFL season, has only eight career starts. There’s just not enough experience with this unit.

Basically, young talent and less experience will haunt the Eagles’ secondary this year. But this young group of players have promise and will most likely become a force to be reckoned within a few years.

Then, at the safety position, there is Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. Jenkins had a dominant outing in 2015 and, even though he wasn’t equally as successful last season, he managed a career high three interceptions, two of which he returned for six points. McLeod also had three interceptions, including 1.0 sacks and 83 tackles, all of which were personal bests.

The Eagles have lacked a stud safety since the Brian Dawkins era, but the duo of Jenkins and McLeod is better than the team has seen in the past. Either player has the potential to have a great season. At the very least, the safety position is in better shape than the cornerbacks.

This year, the changes may not be easily noticeable, but in time they will be. The Eagles have definitely taken a step in the right direction- in terms of the defensive backs. Overall, the secondary is better than last year. With even more additions next offseason, it’ll continue to improve. Right now, the Eagles made right moves to start their reshuffling of the secondary. There should be a slight improvement from last season, but, again, don’t expect too much out of the defensive backs.

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