The draft is done, the free agents have been signed, the coaches have met their players. Now there’s not much to do but wait for training camp. While we wait, it seemed like it might be fun to evaluate and rank the NFC East position-by-position.
Last off-season, Hogs Haven published articles that focused on ranking position groups and head coaches in an effort to identify what the division would look like in 2018. This year, we’re going to look at the division again, but we’re gonna try to ramp things up a bit by adding some film review to some of the position group reviews.
Click here to read previous Ranking the NFC East articles
The NFC East has a good mix of youth and veteran leadership at the cornerback position, and it may be the position group with the most even talent level across the four teams in the division. Every NFC East team can boast CB talent, yet no team in the division really dominates with a pair of shutdown corners.
This is a division that has relied heavily on offensive and defensive line play, and strong offensive running games. Still, the four teams have each done a good job of building additional strength into their respective defenses. The Cowboys have put together an impressive linebacking group; the Redskins and Eagles have strong pass rushers; the Giants have been remaking the roster, and, this offseason, focused heavily on the defensive backfield — a move that may provide more long term dividends than immediate return on investment.
The Giants looked to the 2019 draft for cornerbacks, taking Deandre Baker in the fist round, Julian Love in the fourth, and Corey Ballentine in the sixth. While 2019 might see some uneven play among this young group of defensive backs, their progress could potentially mirror that of the young group of DBs drafted by Dallas in 2017.
The Cowboys are now beginning to reap rewards from that 2017 draft, in which they selected Chidobe Awuzie in the 2nd round, Jourdan Lewis in the 3rd, and safety Xavier Woods in the 5th round. When you count 2015 first round pick, CB Byron Jones, the Cowboys have put together a young, talented, home-grown defensive backfield that is just coming into its own.
The Redskins defensive backfield, of course, is built around two high profile and high priced veteran free agents — CB Josh Norman, signed by the ‘Skins in 2016, and Safety Landon Collins, signed this off-season — but the team has focused on developing a stream of young talent at the CB position, bringing in UDFA Quinton Dunbar in 2015, Fabian Moreau in ‘17, Greg Stroman and Adonis Alexander in ‘18, and Jimmy Moreland in 2019.
The Eagles defensive backfield features a veteran cornerback in Ronald Darby, who came to Philly from Buffalo, but the Eagles, too, have looked to the draft, selecting Jalen Mills in 2016, Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas in ‘17, and Avonte Maddox in ‘18.
Let’s get a closer lookat some of the cornerbacks of the NFC East.
The film room: Andrew’s analysis
In this section, we’ll offer a look at a few of the top players in the division, with an analysis of their styles, skills and limitations written by Andrew York, who has volunteered to help me with this series.
Andrew is a self-taught film analyst with a pretty impressive resume. He has a PhD in Experimental Particle Physics and has spent several years doing research with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, and now does R&D work as a US government contractor. He will put that analytical brain to work this off-season helping to analyze some of the top players in the NFC East.
He will break down film from 7 NFC East cornerbacks, in order:
- Janoris Jenkins
- Josh Norman
- Quinton Dunbar
- Byron Jones
- Chidobe Awuzie
- Jalen Mills
- Ronald Darby
Janoris Jenkins, New York Giants
Janoris Jenkins (Giants #20) is a natural cover corner with the speed, fluidity, and instincts to stick to most WRs like glue and lock them down in the passing game. He was projected by some to be a top-15 pick in the 2012 NFL draft, but fell into the 2nd round due to character concerns (multiple run-ins with the law) and concerns about his size and physicality (Jenkins measured 5’10” and 193 lbs at the combine). Although drafted by the Rams, Jenkins was allowed to hit free agency and was signed by the Giants to be one of the NFL’s highest-paid CBs in 2016.
After watching tape of Jenkins in 2018, I agree with the description of him as a natural cover corner. He excels when asked to cover an NFL WR in man coverage. However, his weaknesses appear outside of this role. TEs and physical WRs can beat him with strength in 1-on-1 matchups. Additionally, WRs with 4.3 speed can beat him deep. Neither of these are huge criticisms, but worth noting as he is one of the NFL’s highest-paid CBs.
More problematic is his lack of contribution in run defense, poor tackling ability, and what I think looks like a desire to take himself out of tackling plays. I could be wrong about this, but it looked to me like he avoided tackling plays he could have helped with if he thought another Giants player was ready to make the tackle too. Jenkins just seemed a bit contact-averse to me.
Giants @ Panthers, Week 5 highlights | NFL 2018 on YouTube
[0:30] This play is very typical of Jenkins in coverage. He shows great awareness (keeps eyes on the QB and mirrors the WR) and lateral agility to stick with Devin Funchess on a crossing route, and he allows so little separation that he is able to break up the pass. This is what can be expected of Jenkins in coverage against pass catchers who aren’t especially fast or physical. Although I am quite critical of Jenkins in the following plays, keep in mind that this positive coverage play is typical of 80% of what he is asked to do as a CB.
[1:43] Jenkins is easily blocked by Devin Funchess on a slant to Curtis Samuel; he doesn’t show a lot of hustle working his way back to Samuel, and does such a poor job of tackling the receiver that Samuel breaks free of the tackle for a TD. This play showcases Jenkins lack of physicality and poor tackling ability.
[8:29] This is what a “business decision” looks like. Jenkins is in position to make a tackle, but pulls up at the last second because he thinks his teammates have it — Jenkins does not seem to enjoy contact. I saw numerous examples of Jenkins seeming to shy away from contact and dropping out of a play early if he thought his teammates had it. He’s not lazy (displays good hustle at the beginning of plays), but he doesn’t display the constant hustle to the ball and physicality that I expect to see out of the NFL’s highest-paid defenders.
Giants @ Falcons, Week 7 highlights | NFL 2018 on YouTube
[2:54] Jenkins finds himself matched up with TE Austin Hooper 1-on-1. Although Jenkins is fast and agile enough to stick to Hooper, he is knocked to the ground by the much stronger TE to give up a big play. Jenkins is a poor matchup to physical pass catchers (especially TEs) and players with 4.3 speed. [3:10] of this video shows him getting beat by speed on another play.
Josh Norman, Washington Redskins
Josh Norman was a 5th round pick from a small school (Coastal Carolina) who lacked the speed that NFL teams desire (running a 4.66 40), but possessing desirable height, length, strength, and college production. He was drafted by the hometown Carolina Panthers and thrived in their zone coverage scheme, where he could rely on excellent LB and safety play to lock down the middle and back end of the field respectively, allowing him to focus on learning to defend the outside zone. This maximized his positive attributes by leveraging his intelligence, strength, and length to defend plays within a defined zone, while minimizing his weaknesses by allowing him to pass off fast WRs to a supporting safety, or bracketing them with a LB. After then-Panthers GM David Gettleman rescinded a franchise tag, Norman was surprisingly allowed to enter FA late in the 2016 offseason, and he signed with the Redskins.
Norman has since played in another primarily zone coverage defense with the Redskins. However, unlike his time at Carolina, he will often travel with star WRs to whatever side of the field they are on. Paid like a star himself (the highest paid CB in 2017 and 2018), Norman has played well, but not quite well enough for many fans who feel he doen’t justify his cap hit.
Watching 2018 tape on Norman was actually very difficult because very few plays went his way. In fact, the more I watched, the more I realized opposing teams seemed to be passing and breaking running plays away from Norman, regardless of which side of the field he played.
I doubted this could be coincidence, and, when I looked it up, sure enough, I found that he had a 17.7% target rate, 3rd lowest in the NFL among CBs in 2018.
Norman is a very smart, aware corner who excels at reading the QB’s eyes, diagnosing plays, and breaking them up. As a result, he is often used to bracket outside a WR so that he can keep the play (and QB) in front of him, and break on it to bust up a pass.
Sometimes he is used close to the line of scrimmage, and in those cases, he often jams his WR to disrupt his route and give himself some slack to keep up with them.
Regardless of his starting position, he has the intelligence to diagnose most plays quickly, the fluidity and cover ability to keep most pass catchers locked down, and the strength and physicality to defeat blockers and make good tackles. His only real deficiency is speed, and that is usually compensated for by scheme (with another player to bracket or pass off responsibility) or physicality (jamming at the line).
Many of the times I saw him get beat, it looked like he was expecting LB or safety help that didn’t arrive in time to bracket a WR. I think it’s no coincidence that he performed at an All Pro level in Carolina. where he was playing alongside some of the best coverage LBs in the NFL. He is also a sure tackler in run defense and has a special knack for punching out the ball and forcing fumbles.
Redskins @ Giants, Week 8 highlights | NFL 2018 on YouTube
[4:27] Playing very far off in zone, Norman keeps his eyes on Eli Manning and breaks hard to break up the pass to OBJ as soon as it is made. Norman is elite at reading a QB’s eyes to determine where the ball will go, so the Redskins frequently have him dropping back like this to keep the field in front of him and to be in a position to make the play.
Redskins vs Falcons, Week 9 highlights | NFL 2018 on YouTube
[2:03] Norman jams Julio Jones at the line to disrupt his route, though Julio is big and strong enough to fight through it and get past him to get open and make the catch. Still, it slows Julio down enough that Norman could have been in position to make a diving tackle if necessary. I include this play because I frequently saw Norman jamming top WRs at the line to throw off their routes and give him an advantage in keeping pace with them. When he had to play close to the line, he used his physicality to compensate for his lack of speed.
[6:35] Norman again plays off the WR (Julio Jones), keeping the play in front of him so that he can use his quick read of the play to break hard and tackle the pass catcher for little gain, in this case, forcing a punt after 3rd down.
[7:13] When Norman gets beat, it is usually by speed, as happens here. The Redskins frequently play zone coverage, where there is usually a DB deep to take responsibility for the back end. Not on this play. Norman actually does a pretty decent job trying to keep pace with Julio Jones, but, realizing he is beat, takes a flag on pass interference to prevent Julio from catching the ball and taking it to the house for a TD. This play shows his lack of elite speed in coverage, but also his intelligence and grit in refusing to get beat for a TD.
Quinton Dunbar, Washington Redskins
Quinton Dunbar is quite the Redskins underdog story. Playing WR in college, Dunbar went undrafted, but signed with the Redskins in 2015 and converted to CB. His pre-draft measurables indicate he has prototypical size for the position at 6’1” and 201 lbs, and plenty of speed, running a 4.44 40-yard dash. After spending some time on the practice squad, he was promoted to the active roster in late September 2015, and remained a backup until he emerged as a starter in 2018 following the departure of Bashaud Breeland.
After watching him on tape, I think Dunbar looks like a natural cover corner, and it’s amazing how quickly he has learned the position. He has good play recognition, good instincts in coverage, and I think his experience as a WR helps him to read routes quickly and get in position to make plays. He has the speed and fluidity to flip his hips and stick to most WRs like glue in man coverage, but also has the intelligence and recognition to play well in zone.
The biggest weakness I saw is that he is not the most physical corner, was not a great tackler, and regularly got pushed back by blockers or failed to make plays in run defense. He is not terrible as a tackler and run defender, but I would rate him at slightly below average in those aspects of his game. I suspect his time as a WR did not help him in these areas, and it might be something that he improves with more experience at CB.
Redskins @ Cardinals, Week 1 highlights | NFL 2018 on YouTube
[4:11] Dunbar sets back deep, keeping the play in front of him. He diagnoses the play and reads the QB’s eyes to recognize a pass to Larry Fitzgerald, and breaks hard on the play to bust up the pass. This is one of several plays that look like the product of extensive film study and preparation that allow him to diagnose and react to the play so quickly. This is also a play where I think he benefited from being a WR in college, as he seems to have a quick recognition of routes.
[7:06] Guarding the slot, Dunbar does a good job flipping his hips and running with Christian Kirk, boxing him out in the corner of the endzone to prevent the 2 pt conversion. Dunbar really showcases his ability in man coverage on this play, displaying good speed and mirroring ability to stay with Kirk throughout the route. His height and length are also visible at the end, as there’s no way Kirk can get around him.
Redskins vs Colts, Week 2 highlights | NFL 2018 on YouTube
[1:56] Dunbar gets blocked to the ground by Colts WR Deon Cain. I included this play to highlight that Dunbar is not the most physical CB, and can get pushed around by TEs and more physical WRs. Dunbar is also not the best or most physical tackler, though he isn’t a total liability in that regard.
Redskins vs Falcons, Week 9 highlights | NFL 2018 on YouTube
Ignore this postPosted by Bill Horgan on Friday, July 5, 2019
[4:45] Dunbar is in man against Calvin Ridley. He seems to bite on Ridley’s subtle fake outside, allowing Ridley to break loose inside on a crossing route for a reception, though Dunbar is able to recover quickly enough to make the tackle. I include this play because I thought there were instances like this where Dunbar still looks a bit raw as a CB, biting on fakes a little too quickly.
Byron Jones, Dallas Cowboys
Byron Jones was a late 1st round pick by the Cowboys in the 2015 draft. A tremendous athlete who tested very well at the combine with a 44.5” vertical jump, 4.43s 40 yard dash, and measuring at 6’1” and 199 lbs, he was projected by some to be a top-15 selection, but likely fell due to medical concerns (shoulder surgery) and concerns about what position he would play. He started out playing safety in college before converting to play corner his final two years.
After drafting him, the Cowboys converted Jones back to safety. He struggled in his first 3 years in the NFL, playing well enough to start, but not living up to the expectations that come with being a 1st round pick.
That all changed in 2018 with the hiring of Kris Richard (former Seahawks DB coach and DC). Richard was hired by the Cowboys as a passing defense coordinator, and quickly decided to move Jones back to CB, where he thrived in his new role, locking down the left WR on most plays. Although Jones didn’t record a single interception in 2018, he had the 2nd most pass breakups among CBs in the NFL.
I ended up watching a lot more tape of Jones than I intended because he’s a difficult player to understand. He is a good cover corner who has the speed and acceleration to keep pace with most WRs in man coverage. In addition to that, he is a good tackler and is particularly good at punching the ball during a catch to force an incompletion.
However, he lacks the vision and field awareness to read a QB’s eyes and go to where a play will develop. Instead, he is a reactionary CB who is best suited to sticking to a WR and taking his queues from what is going on right in front of him. He is best used close to the line of scrimmage, and struggles more the further back from the line he gets. I suspect both his college and NFL teams tried playing him at safety first because of his range, but finally realized his lack of field awareness was uncoachable, making him much better suited to play boundary CB.
In addition, he is willing to make physical plays, but isn’t strong enough to consistently jam WRs and frequently gets blocked out of running plays. I also noticed a strange weakness in that he gets burned a lot by deep crossing routes (but not shallow crossing routes). I think he has trouble redirecting himself once he’s got momentum built up.
Cowboys @ Seahawks, Week 3 highlights | NFL 2018 on YouTube
[0:14] Jones does a very good job sticking with a WR like glue on a very shallow crossing route. Although he doesn’t have the awareness to see the pass coming and deflect it, he’s in position to knock the ball away once it has been caught.
[1:32] Jones attempts to jam the WR at the line, but it looks like the WR wins that fight and Jones backpedals to stay ahead of him. Although he’s looking downfield, Jones doesn’t see the pass in time to deflect it, though he is able to hit the ball hard enough after it’s caught to knock it loose and force the incompletion. This play shows several aspects of his play that I saw in other plays. As with the failed jam, Jones is willing to attempt physical plays, but he isn’t strong enough to win many of those matchups, and I frequently saw him get blocked out of plays. His failure to see the pass coming his way is representative of what I think is his general poor vision and ability to see what is going on away from his part of the field. His strong tackle and ability to punch out the ball is something I saw frequently as well.
Cowboys @ Texans, Week 5 highlights | NFL 2018 on YouTube
[1:06] Jones matches up with DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins runs a deep crossing route, and Jones can’t change direction and accelerate fast enough to keep him covered, instead, trailing him after he breaks inwards. I noticed Byron Jones get beat fairly regularly on deep crossing routes like this, but not on shallow crossing routes. I think he has good enough acceleration and speed to stay with most WRs in a footrace. But when he’s already running in one direction, he has a lot of difficulty transitioning to a different direction, either because he lacks the agility or balance to redirect.
[7:32] Hopkins sells a subtle fake inside, then runs outside and gives Jones a shove to blow past him. However, Jones does a good job turning and accelerating to keep pace. Although Jones never sees the pass coming his way, he reads Hopkins to jump at the right time and break up the pass with his back turned to the QB. Jones is much better when playing off the WR right in front of him rather than having to read and react to the QB’s eyes or the development of the play down the field. This play also showcases his leaping ability and athleticism.
Chidobe Awuzie, Dallas Cowboys
Chidobe Awuzie (pronounced: ah-wooz-yeh) was a 2nd round pick by the Cowboys in the 2017 draft. At 6’0” and 202 lbs, and running a 4.43s 40 yard dash, he has all the measurables of a prototypical cover CB. His rookie year in the NFL was plagued by injury, causing him to see limited playing time, and producing at less than 100% when on the field. However, he came into 2018 healthy and only missed one game due to injury.
From watching video of Awuzie, I think he’s a developing cover corner who has the potential to be extremely good with continued development. I watched plays from 4 of his games for this review, and he improved very noticeably throughout the course of the season. He plays even faster than his 4.43 speed, and had no trouble keeping pace with speedsters like Marvin Jones Jr or Julio Jones. Unlike Byron Jones, he has good field awareness and play recognition and is an asset, whether hanging back in zone or moving close to the line in man coverage. He’s more physical than I expected, given his size, and is able to effectively jam WRs at the line and hand fight with them while running. He’s an effective tackler and slightly above average in run defense.
Playing opposite Byron Jones, it seemed like teams choose to pick on Awuzie early and often at the beginning of the season, and he frequently got beat. But when he got beat, it was usually because he recognized the play or saw the ball just a fraction of a second too late — things that he was able to improve upon as he got more experience under his belt. As the season wore on, it seemed like teams shifted their strategy away from picking on Awuzie to picking on Jones, or just avoiding both of them altogether. As evidence of this development, here are Awuzie’s stats over the beginning and end of the season:
First 8 games: 2 pass defenses, 0 interceptions
Last 8 games: 9 pass defenses, 1 interception
Cowboys vs Lions, Week 4 highlights | NFL 2018 on YouTube
[3:39] Awuzie actually does a very good job of running with speedster WR Marvin Jones Jr., reading his body language and then looking back in time to make a play, but he just seems a hair late locating the ball in the air. The Lions picked on Awuzie numerous times in this game, and he always seemed in good position, but slightly late in his reaction.
[7:28] Awuzie is draped all over WR Kenny Golladay on this play, and indeed the announcer initially thought he had broken up the pass. It’s only because of perfect ball placement and a very acrobatic catch by Golladay that he made the reception. Awuzie was again a bit late turning back and locating the ball though, which shows how thin the margin for error is in the NFL.
Cowboys @ Falcons, Week 11 highlights | NFL 2018 on YouTube
[3:47] This play is a little hard to interpret from the highlight film because the camera doesn’t stay on Awuzie, but I’ll walk through it with some All-22 screen shots. Awuzie originally runs with Calvin Ridley from the line of scrimmage. As the play develops, he turns back and realizes the pass is going to Mohammed Sanu, who is running a crossing route from the other side of the field. He breaks off of Ridley and races to Sanu, almost getting there in time to break up the pass, but getting the tackle instead. I think this play (in week 11) shows an improved level of reaction time and field awareness compared to week 4 against the Lions. It also shows a level of field awareness and ability to help elsewhere on the field that Byron Jones lacks.
[5:33] Awuzie gets a slight jam on Julio Jones at the line, then does an excellent job running with him on a deep route. Unlike the earlier similar play against Marvin Jones Jr, this time Awuzie doesn’t bother turning to locate the ball, focusing instead on reading Julio’s body language to time the pass, and tying up Julio’s hands moments before it gets there. This was an excellent defense by Awuzie. Not many CBs can keep pace with Julio Jones and beat him in a hand fight. Awuzie showed a lot of growth over the course of the season.
Jim Schwartz, Defensive Coordinator, Philadelphia Eagles
Before I talk about the Eagles CBs, I think it’s important to talk about the defense they play in, which made it somewhat difficult to assess the CBs.
Without going into a deep discussion, Eagles DC Jim Schwartz seems to believe in a simple, aggressive playstyle that wins through bringing pressure on the QB.
Like Greg Manusky, Schwartz played as a linebacker and was a linebacker coach in the NFL before graduating to DC. Also like Manusky, I think this results in a defense that is very strong up front, but has poor scheming in the secondary.
Where Manusky has very complex zone schemes, Schwartz has the opposite. Schwartz often just leaves his boundary CBs on an island. He always plays his CBs several yards away from the line of scrimmage, denying them the ability to jam WRs and sometimes starting them so far back that opposing WRs have a running start by the time they reach the CB’s position. On a practical note, playing the CBs so far back often made it hard to assess them because they were off camera in the TV footage I use for the film breakdowns.
In addition to that, he loves to blitz and and play in aggressive formations (like Cover 3 Robber) that leave his CBs with no safety help if they get beat. As a result, I think his boundary CBs will always look worse on film than they would in a different defensive scheme.
Jalen Mills, Philadelphia Eagles
Jalen Mills was a promising college prospect who fell to the 7th round in the 2016 draft due to injury and maturity concerns. He has good length (6’0”), was a little light (191 lbs), and had a slow combine 40 time (4.61s), but had a better pro day (4.48s). Originally projected to play a slot CB or safety, Mills has instead played boundary CB for the Eagles.
Based on video review of Mills, I think he is a below average starting NFL CB with good (not great) speed and mirroring ability, great effort, and slightly below-average field awareness. He is below average in run support and tackling ability. His biggest weakness is his over-aggression, which may be partly due to the lack of help on offer in Schwartz’s scheme. He bites hard on fakes and often gets beaten for big plays. As a result, he often seems like a very up-and-down player; good against the more limited WRs he can match 1-on-1, but not nearly as good against the NFL’s better WRs, against whom he receives little to no support.
Eagles vs Falcons, Week 1 highlights | NFL 2018 on YouTube
[4:46] I love the camera angle we get on this play. The Eagles seem to be playing Cover 3 or Cover 3 Robber. Mills is matched up 1-on-1 with Julio Jones (not a good idea). If you watch Julio throughout his route, he seems to fake outside early, causing Mills to bite hard outside and allowing Julio to redirect inside and blow past Mills to get open. Julio juggles the catch, but was in position to make a big play here. Mills frequently bites hard on fakes, and this is a weakness I saw opposing WRs exploit in numerous matchups.
[9:30] First, let’s note that Mills starts 7 yards back from the line of scrimmage. Julio Jones has 8 yards to accelerate to full speed while Mills is still figuring out how to position himself. Mills starts running back, expecting a deep route, and is too far back when Julio breaks inside for a crossing route. Still, Mills redirects himself reasonably well and is in position to make a tackle, but whiffs on the tackle attempt. Note that right afterwards, Ronald Darby also whiffs on a much lower-effort tackle attempt. The only thing I would blame Mills for on this play is the missed tackle. My opinion is that Mills is a below-average tackler, based on all the plays I saw.
Eagles @Buccaneers, Week 2 highlights | NFL 2018 on YouTube
[0:04] The Eagles are going Cover 3 with a CB blitz (Darby) on this play. Mills is 1-on-1 with DeSean Jackson (again, not a good idea), and has to start 7-8 yards off the line of scrimmage, allowing DJax to get a running start before even crossing Mills. The young cornerback has to backpedal so much that he gives up a deep crossing route to DJax, but notice that Mills is able to keep pace with DJax, where Malcolm Jenkins (the safety who came up too early) is not. Mills ultimately gives up a big play, but how much of this is really his fault? Some of it, but he was not put in a position to succeed. Also, to Mills’ credit, he never gives up on the play.
[9:45] Mills gets bowled over by Mike Evans on this play and, despite committing a holding penalty, is brushed aside by the much larger WR for a first down. Mills does not have the strength and physicality to win in matchups against more physical WRs and TEs.
Ronald Darby, Philadelphia Eagles
Ronald Darby is a former high school track star with the athletic traits to be an elite NFL corner. He blew up the combine with a 4.38s 40 yard dash and 41.5” vertical, despite being a bit undersized at 5’11” and 193 lbs.
Despite questions about his toughness and ability in run support, Darby was drafted by the Bills in the 2nd round of the 2015 draft. Although he has played well since then, Darby has missed time with injury in every NFL season he has played. He ended 2015 with a groin injury, missed time in 2016 with a concussion, dislocated his ankle and tore several ligaments in 2017, and ended his 2018 season with a torn ACL. Playing on the final year of his rookie contract in 2018, Darby has since signed a 1 year, $8.5M contract to return to the Eagles in 2019.
On tape, Darby’s speed is evident. He is frequently so fast that he’s able to assist other players in the Eagles secondary that get beat on their own matchups. His vision and play recognition is good, he’s fluid and good at mirroring opposing WRs, and he is a high effort player, never quitting on a play.
However, that effort doesn’t seem to extend to tackling. Darby is a minus in run defense, and often gets blocked out of plays and whiffs on tackles, showing poor tackling form when making tackles in space. Overall though, I think Darby could be a much better player than he’s allowed to be in Jim Schwartz’s scheme. I think Darby would benefit from playing closer to the line, and being allowed to mirror and run with WRs from the line, similar to Chidobe Awuzie in the Cowboys scheme.
Eagles vs Falcons, Week 1 highlights | NFL 2018 on YouTube
[0:37] Darby is originally covering Calvin Ridley, but recognizes the play is going elsewhere, and sprints to tackle Julio Jones. Darby shows good field awareness on this play and really shows his speed, covering ground quickly to get into position to tackle a player much further downfield. Darby really has elite speed, and it often shows up in games, with his ability to assist other DBs who lost their matchups.
[4:38] Despite playing very far back, Darby is able to read the play quickly and rush in to break up the pass to Julio Jones. Darby shows very good play recognition on this play, and again showcases his speed in covering so much ground in time to make this play on the ball.
Eagles @ Buccaneers, Week 2 highlights | NFL 2018 on YouTube
[3:16] I think the Eagles are again playing cover 3, which leaves a big hole in the middle of the field. OJ Howard wins his matchup and exploits that hole, with no Eagles players nearby to defend him. Darby whiffs on his initial tackle, but shows incredible makeup speed and effort to get to Howard in the red zone, though not in time to prevent the TD. The Eagles really seem to rely on Darby’s speed and reaction ability to make up for schematic weaknesses elsewhere, but that puts a lot of pressure on Darby to not miss tackles like this.
[4:25] Darby is 1-on-1 against Mike Evans. That’s fine, but he’s playing 6 yards off of the line of scrimmage on 2nd &1! If you’re going to leave your CB on an island, why play him so far back when the offense only needs 1 yard for the first down? The Bucs predictably call a short comeback route and get the first down. Assuming Darby was in his correct starting position, this seems like more of a problem with the defensive playcaller than Darby as a player. If I were an OC playing the Eagles, I’d be dialing up short passes to the outside all day long.
A look at the top of the depth chart for each team
Of course, no position group consists of just one or two players. In a sport that is as physically demanding as football, one in which player injuries are common, the unit depth is as important a factor as the skill of the star players.
Here, we’ll take a look at the top of the depth chart for each team — the pool of players from which the ones on the final 53 seem likely to be chosen. Not all the players listed will make the team, and I might easily miss — especially for the Redskins’ division rivals — players who will make the Week 1 roster, but this list should give some idea of the relative depth of the four positional groups.
- Janoris Jenkins
- Sam Beal
- Deandre Baker
- Julian Love
- Corey Ballentine
- Josh Norman
- Quinton Dunbar
- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
- Fabian Moreau
- Greg Stroman
- Jimmy Moreland
- Adonis Alexander
- Jalen Mills
- Ronald Darby
- Sidney Jones
- Rasul Douglas
- Avonte Maddox
- Byron Jones
- Chidobe Awuzie
- Jourdan Lewis
- Anthony Brown
- Michael Jackson
Who is the best cornerback in the NFC East?
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Which NFC East team has the BEST cornerback group in the division?
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Which NFC East team has the WEAKEST cornerback group in the division?
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Which of these current Redskins players is LEAST LIKELY to be on the 53-man roster this season?
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