Across from Byron Maxwell will likely be second-round pick Eric Rowe (above), who played safety early in his career at Utah before moving to corner as a senior. At 6-foot-1, he has the body type the Eagles coaches are looking for on the outside, and in him and Maxwell, Bill Davis will have the length he covets at his corner spots.
By Jack Ryan
No area of the Eagles’ defense — in fact no area of the whole team — gave Eagles coach Chip Kelly more agita last season than the secondary.
Every time you looked up some stud wide receiver would be whizzing past Nate Allen or Bradley Fletcher — who weren’t looking up!
Si it was gratifying to Eagles Nation that Kelly addressed the secondary in this past free agency and NFL draft.
Here’s a summary of what was and what is:
2014 starters: Bradley Fletcher (LCB), Nate Allen (S), Cary Williams (RCB), Malcolm Jenkins (S)
2015 starters: Eric Rowe (LCB), Byron Maxwell (RCB), Earl Wolff (S), Malcolm Jenkins (S), Walter Thurmond (S)
With most of these groups, the concept of a “starter” is fluid. The reason there had to be any turnover at all is that inconsistency and inability to find a consistent answer meant change.
That’s not the case with the Eagles, who had four players in their secondary see more than 1,000 snaps last year — a defined starting group that played together nearly the entire season. And now, three of those players — Fletcher, Williams, and Allen — are gone.
Allen got a sweet deal to play safety for the Raiders, but both Fletcher and Williams were signed as depth options, albeit for the two teams that played in the Super Bowl. Fletcher was sort of a nightmare down the stretch, getting torched on national TV by Dez Bryant two weeks after Jordy Nelson cooked him for an afternoon at Lambeau. By the end of the season, the meat was falling off the bone. Williams’s tenure in Philly, which involved a sizable deal after helping the Ravens in their Super Bowl run, will be remembered mostly for sconces and practice fights.
Replacing Williams on the right side is the handsomely compensated Byron Maxwell, who turned his time with the Legion of Boom into a six-year, $63 million deal with $25 million guaranteed.
It’s a familiar scenario for a former no. 2: getting paid like — and being expected to play like — the top guy. Across from him will likely be second-round pick Eric Rowe, who played safety early in his career at Utah before moving to corner as a senior. At 6-foot-1, he has the body type the Eagles coaches are looking for on the outside, and in him and Maxwell, Bill Davis will have the length he covets at his corner spots.
Defensively, better play from the secondary is really the last piece the Eagles are waiting for. They finished seventh in run-defense DVOA last year behind one of the deepest lines in football, and their pass rush was among the best in the league. If Maxwell and Rowe provide a significant upgrade, the Eagles defense has a chance to be among the best in football.