Eagles’ Position Group Named NFL’s ‘Most Improved’


Getty Images Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni.

The Philadelphia Eagles made rebuilding the secondary a top organizational priority this offseason, and the strategy is shaping up to pay major dividends this upcoming season.

In the aftermath of losing five of six to close out the 2023 season and falling on the road to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Wild Card Game, general manager Howie Roseman and the Eagles chose two of the top two cornerbacks in a loaded draft class at the position after signing safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson to boost the talent and restore some swagger to a defense that collapsed down the stretch.

Following Gardner-Johnson’s return and the arrivals of incoming rookie cornerbacks Quinyon Mitchell and Cooper DeJean, Pro Football Focus suggests it’s mission accomplished for Roseman and the Eagles.

Analyst Trevor Sikkemma ranked the most improved secondaries across the NFL after the NFL Draft, with the Eagles topping the list.

“James Bradberry and Darius Slay fell off a bit last year,” Sikkemma writes for PFF. “They earned 77.1 and 77.3 coverage grades, respectively, in 2022 before posting 52.0 and 65.4 marks in 2023. The Eagles subsequently went out and hit not one, but two home runs in that area in drafting Mitchell and DeJean.

“Mitchell will likely start right away, while DeJean could be eased into things as he recovers from a foot injury suffered in 2023 that hampered his draft process. That doesn’t mean we won’t see DeJean at all in 2024, though. He should be good to go by training camp and is one of the more versatile secondary players from the 2024 class. He could get looks in the slot or at safety.”

What Quinyon Mitchell, Cooper DeJean Bring the Eagles

Bradberry’s play cratered over the final seven weeks, to the point that some believe the veteran could be cut before the season begins.

Such a bold move is especially possible if Mitchell or DeJean prove this spring and summer that they’re capable of getting on the field and playing at a high level immediately.

“He’s legit fast and quick,” an AFC Personnel Executive told Heavy after the Eagles chose Mitchell. “Excellent close from zone [coverage], can press, and run vertically. He could use some work on his ball skills, but he has hand-eye coordination at the catch point. He’s a universal fit for any scheme.”

Mitchell arrives in Philadelphia after logging 123 tackles and six interceptions across four seasons at Toledo.

Meanwhile, there was some belief inside the league ahead of the draft that DeJean was the premier cornerback available, and the Eagles managed to land him after trading up to the No. 40 overall selection.

Last season, before fracturing his fibula in November, DeJean held opponents to a meager 37.8 passer rating when targeting him.

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