Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills are a mess.
In the fourth quarter yesterday, Darby gave a 10-yard cushion and was still badly beaten on a sluggo route for a touchdown by Devin Funchess. On the critical fourth-and-10 conversion that extended the game, Mills wasn’t able to sustain coverage on Torrey Smith and then failed to tackle him, turning a 12-yard completion into a 35-yard catch-and-run.
These are not isolated examples. Mills was the primary defender in coverage on three completions of 50 yards or more from Weeks 2-5. Darby missed a tackle on what became a 75-yard O.J. Howard touchdown and has been isolated for two touchdowns inside the 5-yard line.
The numbers are not pretty.
When opposing teams threw to their wide receivers last season, the Eagles allowed a Total QBR of 54.7 and a passer rating of 71.2, which respectively ranked third and fourth in the NFL.
This season, those same wideouts are generating a QBR of 79.8 and a passer rating of 99.4, which rank 15th and 16th. When the Eagles got pressure in 2017, their defensive backs held up and allowed a passer rating of just 35.1, which was second best in the NFL. That number is all the way up to 64.9 this season, which ranks 20th.
This is the way the Eagles have chosen to build their team. Improvement in the secondary might not be coming.
Rodney McLeod is on injured reserve. Malcolm Jenkins has been inconsistent. Corey Graham, 33, already has been benched for converted corner Avonte Maddox.
The team restructured Fletcher Cox’s contract to create cap space, but the market isn’t exactly teeming with star corners unless the Cardinals can be mind-controlled into trading Patrick Peterson.
More likely, the Eagles would have to take a flier on an out-of-favor prospect like Oakland’s Gareon Conley, which might not solve anything. The Eagles figured this out last season, and they very well might figure it out again. It’s also fair to wonder whether last season’s work at cornerback set expectations too high for 2018 and beyond: