The Philadelphia Eagles secondary will be the first in a series focusing on a unit of the roster over the course of the weeks leading up to training camp.
- CB Ellis Hobbs via trade from New England
- SS Sean Jones via free agency—Cleveland
- CB Victor "Macho" Harris via draft
- FS Rashad Baker via free agency—Oakland
The Eagles' secondary has undergone a minor face lift in the offseason with the departures of Brian Dawkins and Lito Sheppard. Dawkins leaves behind a legacy that any player would be hard pressed to live up to.
On the current roster, the responsibility of leading the secondary will fall upon strong safety Quintin Mikell.
Mikell spent six years under the tutelage of Dawkins and has shown in that time to be the force on the field that Dawkins established himself to be in his time as an Eagle. Mikell is very athletic with an eye for making the big play.
Time will tell if he can fill Dawkins' shoes on the field and in the locker room.
Sheppard's departure, however, will not leave quite the impact of Dawkins'. Corner back Asante Samuel is certainly Pro-Bowl caliber with his ball hawk ability. Sheppard made his exit that much more easy to swallow with his public dispute over his contract, which resulted in his noticeable absence from the field of play in 2008.
Picking up the slack in the disgruntled defensive back category is Sheldon Brown. Brown has made waves over wanting a new deal, but as with Sheppard his requests have fallen on deaf ears.
Although Brown has made it clear that his displeasure will not be a distraction, it will be interesting to see how things shake out when the time comes to report to Lehigh in late July.
The acquisition of Ellis Hobbs from the New England Patriots and the new contract signed by corner back Joselio Hanson are no coincidences. Both are proven defensive backs who could very well step in when the need arises.
Hanson is currently listed second on the depth chart behind Samuel at the left corner back position, but figures to have the inside track on the right corner back spot if Brown's contract situation worsens.
Hobbs will slot in anywhere from third to fifth in the rotation of corners, but will provide another option due to his experience in the return game.
2008 fourth round selection Jack Ikegwuonu is an unknown commodity at corner back. Ikegwuonu was placed on injured reserve in 2008 due to a knee injury suffered at the NFL scouting combine.
The Eagles took a risk on the Wisconsin defensive back, who declared for the draft after his junior season. Ikegwuonu was excellent at getting a play on the ball during his collegiate career. He could prove to be a surprise out of the secondary if the risk pays off.
The free safety position vacated by Brian Dawkins provisionally belongs to second year safety Quintin Demps. However, Demps has a fair amount of growing to do to become a serviceable free safety in this league. He has the ability to become a good pass defending safety, but lacks the range to play one on one in coverage.
Rashad Baker will challenge Demps for the free safety spot. The journeyman will make the Eagles his fifth team in five years. Baker is most notable to Eagles fans for intercepting Buccaneers quarterback Jeff Garcia in week 17 that led to a Raiders win and a Eagles playoff berth.
Baker has the intelligence and speed to make a challenge for the position, and his knack for making a play on the ball will not be overlooked either.
An interesting prospect in this position battle is rookie Victor "Macho" Harris. The Virginia Tech product is tough and very physical with quickness and instincts to match. Harris is one of many defensive backs on this Eagles roster that has a history of above average ability at making his presence known by breaking up passes.
The 6'0" 194-pound Harris will make the transition from corner back to safety in the NFL. Harris is a long shot to start this year in place of Dawkins, but could be the future at this position in a few years.
Unit Grade: B+
Samuel, Brown, Hanson, and Mikell will make up for the inexperience of the rest of the defensive backfield. Demps will have to grow up quickly if he indeed is the starting free safety.
The play of the secondary will depend heavily on the pressure put upon the opposing offense by the defensive line; which by all indications should not be much of an issue.
There is so much potential waiting in the wings in this secondary that it will be interesting to see which players will have their time to reach it and which ones won't.