EAGLES TRAINING CAMP 2017: VETERAN DEFENSIVE LINEMEN VOW TO TAKE PRESSURE OFF YOUNG CORNERS
All anyone is talking about at Eagles training camp are the question marks surrounding the cornerback position.
Right now the two starters are journeyman Patrick Robinson and second-year player Jalen Mills, a seventh round pick out of LSU, plus backups Rasul Douglas, a rookie third round pick out of West Virginia, in addition to Ron Brooks and Aaron Grymes, both coming back from season-ending injuries in 2016.
Add in C.J. Smith, an undrafted free agent in 2016 who, except for one game, could not get off the practice squad and you end up with defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz answering question after question about concerns for this unit and how it is the weakest link on this Eagles team.
But don’t tell that to the rest of the defense, in fact several veterans believe the Eagles defense has no ceiling for this season regardless of what people think of the corners.
“Yeah, our front (seven) has tremendous talent,” linebacker Nigel Bradham said after Wednesday’s training camp practice. “We feel like we’re going to be the best defense in the league. That’s what we’re out to prove. We’re just grinding for that. Just put that on our back. If our corners are young, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter who is out there, we’re still going to be the best on the field.”
Bradham talked about Douglas and Mills.
“They’re doing amazing,” the six-year veteran out of Florida State said. “They’ve been able to make plays on the ball. They’ve both been showing their range covering. Rasul has that long body frame, so he’s doing extremely well jamming and using his body frame. Mills was great for us last year and he’s just picked up and continues to get better every day. These corners have been knocking down balls every practice. It’s all about being accountable on each other.”
Eagles Pro bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said he welcomes the responsibility for getting this unit to have an impact this year. He said he knows how much putting pressure on the quarterback can make up for possible deficiencies in the secondary.
“The pass rush will be there,” said Cox, who acknowledged that the Birds must do better than 34 team sacks this season. “I think guys are doing a great job at rushing the edges, taking compliments off each other, rushing off each other, learning each other, getting the timing down and right now it’s a good time to get the timing down in the pass rush.”
Tim Jernigan has been well received since the Eagles acquired the defensive tackle from the Baltimore Ravens in the offseason.
Cox talked about building a chemistry and pushing each other.
“Absolutely, we push one another,” Cox said. “The good thing is we both understand the things we’re both good at. And we know what we have to work on. Then we go to practice and push each other.”
Cox said he is OK if the expectations are high and the team is depending on those two to be center of the Eagles defense, especially the front four.
“We have to,” Cox said. “Because as a group this is our team. There’s a lot of guys in that room who have been around for a while. We’re the four guys that’s going to be going after the quarterback. We have to stay focused and do our job which I know we will do. We’ll just go out and get better each day.”
Cox has been say since the spring that it was up to the front seven, almost all veterans, to take pressure off the young cornerback unit.
“We have to,” Cox said. “We have to get after the quarterback, make him move our spots, make him uncomfortable. We can’t give him those pockets and let him make those easy throws.”
Eagles fans hope Cox and Bradham are right. *