PHILADELPHIA -- The way the Philadelphia Eagles coaching staff mixes up personnel, it’s a mistake to read too much into an apparent lineup change.
That said, one of the key areas to track during this training camp is the competition at cornerback. Starters Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher return from last year. But the Eagles were the worst defense in the NFL in passing yards allowed, and they did bring in free agent Nolan Carroll from Miami. Carroll made a good showing during the June camps.
“I think everybody has a legitimate chance at the starting jobs,” defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “That’s one thing about the offseason and training camp that we pride ourselves on. It’s open competition at all spots. Anything’s possible.”
Late in Sunday’s practice, Carroll was with the first team at the right cornerback spot. Williams was lined up on the left side during that particular session. It might have been a matter of the coaches just getting a look at Carroll, or it might have been the first sign of movement in the competition.
“He’s a very well-rounded talent,” Davis said. “He’s got size, he’s got length, he’s got speed. He’s a real tenacious competitor. I love his attitude out there, the way he pressed and competes and puts his hands on people, and he’s got a good knack for the ball. I think he’s a good asset to us, he’s a great addition and we look forward to seeing him in camp and how he fits into our system.”
Carroll is a gunner on special teams and also returns kickoffs. So he can contribute even if he isn’t starting on defense. His presence also serves as a nudge to Fletcher and Williams, who both improved as they became more familiar with the defensive scheme last season.
The Eagles did draft a cornerback, but they list Jaylen Watkins as a defensive back on their roster (every other player is either a cornerback or a safety). Davis said Watkins is working at cornerback and at nickel corner now, but could move to safety later.
“He’s got a very high football IQ,” Davis said. “As he digests those two positions (corner and nickelback), I think we can grow him to where he could play safety if we needed him to and depending how the roster plays out. We love the versatility in his skill set.”