Philadelphia Eagles News and Rumors: Has Sean Desai Found His New Slot CB?

The Philadelphia Eagles made strides in the secondary in their 23-14 victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Week 5.

The Philadelphia Eagles (5-0) are one of just two remaining undefeated teams, but they had continued coverage issues on the back end of their defense leading up to Sunday’s 23-14 victory over the host Los Angeles Rams.

And with the way things started in the secondary against the Rams, giving up several chunk plays to veteran WR Cooper Kupp, who returned from injured reserve for the game, it appeared their issues with passes inside the numbers were going to continue. Kupp posted six receptions for 95 yards just in the first half of the game.

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Help for Philadelphia Eagles’ Secondary

The real issues on the back end of Sean Desai’s defense started once slot/nickel CB Avonte Maddox (torn pectoral-IR) suffered his significant injury during the team’s Week 2 victory over the visiting Minnesota Vikings. Since then, opponents have found success against their secondary, but especially when throwing inside.

Philadelphia could not find a suitable backup to Maddox in training camp, so starting CB James Bradberry got snaps inside. But no one really thought he would wind up moving inside for a majority of his snaps during the regular season.

During their games in Weeks 3 and 4, Bradberry saw well over half of his defensive snaps as the team’s nickel defender. And while he had some quality snaps, it was clear to at least one personnel source who graded the Eagles’ defensive tape that Bradberry was not a “natural” slot defender, as most of his snaps in his career have come on the outside prior to this season.

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Playing inside is not easy, and Maddox, who is widely regarded in personnel circles as one of the top-10 slot defenders in the NFL, is also one of the fastest at his position. He’s known for his ability to not only cover but also as a good tackler for his size (5’9”, 185).

However, Maddox has missed significant playing time in his career due to injuries suffered over his six-year career (torn pectoral, toe surgery, ankle, knee, hamstring in particular).

Maddox is signed through 2024 and carries a non-guaranteed base salary of $6.8 million to go along with a salary cap number of just over $10 million for next season.

And Bradberry, who re-signed with the team for three years, $38 million back in March, revived his career with the Eagles in 2022 after the New York Giants released him in May of last year.

The Eagles clearly realized that they had to address the nickel position, so they wound up signing veteran CB Bradley Roby to a practice squad contract last week.

Roby was the only player they worked out last Tuesday, a source confirmed, and they agreed to contract terms after the workout. Tuesday is typically the biggest day for NFL free agent workouts during the regular season. Teams want that player practicing by Wednesday if he’s going to play on that Sunday.

The ninth-year pro was elevated from the practice squad on Saturday after just two full practices and a few walk-throughs, which would indicate that the coaching staff believed Roby was in good enough physical and football shape to play a role against the Rams.

Roby, a former first-round pick of the Denver Broncos in 2014 (No. 31 overall), transitioned to more of a nickel role with the New Orleans Saints over the past two seasons. The Saints, however, are very deep overall at cornerback, and decided to release Roby in late August and go with second-year CB Alontae Taylor as their nickel defender.

Roby wound up playing much more than expected against Los Angeles, and he contributed to help slow down the Rams’ offense after their hot start to the game. The early word from a league source is he moved well enough in the game, even when targeted by Matthew Stafford.

A personnel source said Roby, when he was at his best over the years, was a physical, tough, and savvy defender and could play multiple positions, but there were questions as to whether he could line up on the outside at this point of his career.

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Roby turned 31 years old in May and is now with his fourth NFL team. Even so, the Eagles clearly thought he could handle a role with their defense — even after being with them just for a few days. And on Sunday, he made an immediate contribution, which was badly needed considering the lack of established alternatives within the secondary.

With the Eagles facing some of the NFL’s best offenses coming up in their schedule — Miami Dolphins (Week 7), Dallas Cowboys (Weeks 9, 14), Kansas City Chiefs (Week 11), Buffalo Bills (Week 12) — Philadelphia will get a pretty good idea if Roby can sustain his very early success.

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