Our daily series examining the NFC East from a positional perspective with the help of league personnel sources moves to the back end on defense, specifically outside the numbers and cornerback.
Ok, slot cornerback is technically inside the numbers but you get the point.
The NFC East isn’t exactly a murderer’s row at the position but after two moves in the offseason, trading for former Pro Bowl CB Darius Slay and signing a cost-effective deal with a proven slot commodity Nickell Robey-Coleman, the Eagles have arguably gone from worst to first in the division at the position.
“They haven’t had anything like Slay in a long time,” a former NFC scout told SI.com. “He’s the real deal. He competes. He just makes it tough on receivers and the nickname (Big Play) fits.”
In truth this might be the toughest position to grade in the division with each team having the upside to excel and the potential to implode.
No. 4 - New York Giants - The recent off-the-field troubles of DeAndre Baker really complicate things for New York which has perhaps the most talented options outside after signing former Carolina starter James Bradberry in free agency.
It’s hard to imagine Baker, a 2019 first-round pick, being part of the Giants’ long-term future, never mind the short term. He’s currently out on a $200,000 bond after being arrested in South Florida on four counts of armed robbery and aggravated assault with a firearm.
“If he was a bottom-of-the-roster guy, he’d already be done there,” a former AFC personnel executive said.
The problem is depth and without Baker, the Giants would likely turn to the oft-injured Sam Beal at the other outside corner position with Grant Haley earmarked as the nickel option. Corey Ballentine, and rookies Darnay Holmes and Chris Williamson would also have to ramp us as contributors.
“There is nothing to hang your hat on outside Bradberry,” an NFC scout surmised.
No. 3 - Washington Redskins - The Redskins brought back Super Bowl hero Kendall Fuller from Kansas City and he will be expected to be the CB1, a solid and competent option.
From there it gets dicier as Fabian Moreau is penciled opposite Fuller with former Eagles corner and Maryland native Ronald Darby returning home to push for playing time. Inside is 2019 seventh-round pick Jimmy Moreland, who had a really solid rookie season and could have a nice future as a slot CB.
“There are pieces to work with. Fuller is a really nice player,” said a former AFC personnel executive. “If they can figure out the other side, things should be fine and Ron (Rivers) has done some nice things with zone corners so that makes it a little easier."
No. 2 - Dallas Cowboys - The Cowboys lost their best corner to big money in free agency when Byron Jones signed with Miami but still have solid starters outside in Chidobe Awuzie and Anthony Brown with Jourdan Lewis as the slot CB.
The potential big move was getting Trevon Diggs, the brother of star Buffalo WR Stefon Diggs, in the second round of the draft. Diggs has the length to be a really effective modern CB but like most rookies may be set back by the first virtual offseason.
“Even when Jones was there the corners didn’t make a ton of plays, but they’re solid guys,” said a former NFC scout. “Maybe the change in scheme (with Mick McCarthy the new head coach and Mike Nolan the defensive coordinator) helps.”
No. 1 Philadelphia Eagles - Slay is a top 10 CB coming off a down year in Detroit. If he regains his prior form, Eagles fans are in for a treat, and Philadelphia will go from worst to first in the division at the position.
Robey-Coleman is a part of that as well as a top-tier natural slot option and the domino effect of bringing in those two bodies will help everyone else under new secondary coach Marquand Manuel.
Avonte Maddox kicks outside and will have the first opportunity to play opposite Slay with GM Howie Roseman comparing him to Aaron Glenn. If Maddox falters, Sidney Jones will get a chance to change the narrative of his career.
Cre’Von LeBlanc is a really solid backup for Robey-Coleman and Rasul Douglas has been peddled but remains in-house and perhaps Manuel’s history in Seattle helps unlock Douglas’ natural traits as a potential physical zone corner.
“Slay will make everyone better,” said the NFC scout. “He can travel or lock down one side of the field depending on your game plan. He will give Jim (Schwartz) a lot of options.”
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Monday and Friday on SIRIUSXM’s Tony Bruno Show with Harry Mayes, and every Tuesday and Thursday with Eytan Shander on SBNation Radio. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen