After a season-ending to JaCorey Shepherd, the leading candidate to start at slot cornerback (in place of the recently traded Brandon Boykin), the Eagles are left with a wide open competition at nickel back.
But had they not traded Boykin to the Steelers the night before training camp began, they wouldn’t be in this mess. Would they?
“For what we wereoffered,” Chip Kelly said, “they brought it up to a fourth, we didn’t feel like we could pass that opportunity.”
The conditional pick becomes a fifth rounder if Boykin does not appear on the field for 60 percent of Pittsburgh’s snaps. But even still, can Jaylen Watkins, E.J. Biggersor Denzel Rice, among others, play into a starting role?
Instead of a set player being named to the role of nickel, expect the Billy Davis defense to instead be a revolving door of different, multi-faceted defensive backs. Nolan Carroll III, Eric Rowe, and even Malcolm Jenkins could see time lining up at cornerback in the slot this season.
“If those guys aren’t going to start they have to be versatile,” Kelly said.”They have to be able to play everywhere.”
The open competition in the secondary extends past just the slot corner position. Aside from Jenkins at safety and Byron Maxwell at cornerback, nothing has yet been determined on Kelly’s depth chart.
And perhaps that’s why Kelly has revamped this team in such dramatic fashion. The coach emphasizes flexibility in his players, teaching them and expecting them to be able to doa bevy of different things on the football field. It’s true on offense as it is true on defense. And in the secondary, perhaps Kelly finally has the personnel he desires.
“We just felt like we had really good depth in the secondary,” the coach said. “It’sbetter than we’ve ever had since we’ve been here.”