- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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Football Outsiders is doing a series of posts called "Red Flags," which take a look at the biggest remaining issue facing each team with the draft behind us and minicamps getting underway. Today's post is on the NFC East teams, and I'm breaking it up into four smaller posts to examine the red flags team-by-team. This one looks at the Philadelphia Eagles, for whom Sean McCormick feels cornerback is the top remaining red flag.
Sean agrees with the Eagles that they needed to move on from 2012 starters Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. He just doesn't think the cornerbacks the Eagles signed to replace them have enough upside:
Bradley Fletcher finished out the year as St. Louis' fourth corner thanks to his penchant for drawing flags. He might be a more natural slot defender, but Brandon Boykin is entrenched as the Eagles' nickelback, so Fletcher will play on the outside. Cary Williams started for the Super Bowl champion Ravens, but he gave up a ton of completions by playing soft on any kind of comeback route. The one thing Williams does exceptionally well, though, is tackle -- he missed a grand total of three tackles in the past two years. And, as noted before, that's a talent that was sorely missing from the Eagles' secondary.
So there's that. But while it's certainly nice to have corners who tackle better than Asomugha does, the corner's primary job is to make plays that prevent him or anyone else from having to make a tackle. I find it hard to believe that the Eagles' defense under new head coach Chip Kelly and coordinator Billy Davis will want to be the kind of defense that allows big pass plays because it can make tackles downfield. But Fletcher and Williams are two guys the Eagles targeted. With their money and cap room, they could have signed anyone they wanted to sign. Their priority was to find younger guys who fit the profiles of players they believed could develop within their system.
The question for 2013 is whether the corners (and the new safeties, who are also addressed here) will be good enough to support a front seven that's transitioning to some sort of hybrid front and will be full of players learning a new system with new terminology taught by new coaches. The defense could be a major work in progress in Philadelphia this year, which would require a lot of patience with the new coach and his new cornerbacks.