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McDougle In Mix At Crucial Nickel CB Spot

Posted Aug 29, 2017

The concepts are similar, as least as far as Dexter McDougle knows, between the coverage scheme of the New York Jets, his team for the last three seasons, and the Eagles, his team for the last three days. So McDougle is going to head into Thursday’s preseason finale against – who else? – the Jets with a roster spot on the line ...

The concepts are similar, as least as far as Dexter McDougle knows, between the coverage scheme of the New York Jets, his team for the last three seasons, and the Eagles, his team for the last three days. So McDougle is going to head into Thursday’s preseason finale against – who else? – the Jets with a roster spot on the line knowing he has only one way to approach things.

“I’m going in full speed,” he said after Tuesday's practice. “I’m just going to play as hard as I can and see what happens. I’m confident in my abilities. I just have to go out there and show what I can do. They brought me here for a reason and I appreciate that.

“So I’m going to show them what I can do.”

McDougle’s selling points are his speed and his short-area quickness and as the Eagles look at their schedule and see receivers who line up in the slot like Washington’s Jamison Crowder, Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill, New York Giants' Sterling Shepard and Cole Beasley of the Cowboys, they see shorter, extremely quick players.

That isn’t uniform throughout 16 games, but in the division with Crowder and Shepard and Beasley, the threat is very real. So the Eagles have to match up. They’ve overhauled the cornerback position since the 2016 season ended. And, still, not a whole lot is settled.

Ronald Darby is one starter after the Eagles acquired him in the trade with Buffalo. Jalen Mills is in line to be the other starter and has played well in the preseason games. Rasul Douglas is a third-round draft pick in the developmental stage of his career. Sidney Jones is on the mend after his Achilles tendon surgery in March and is ticketed for a reserve list of some kind when the rosters are reduced to 53 players on Saturday by 4 p.m. The Eagles will try to keep their options open with Jones for 2017, but there is absolutely no reason to rush him into action.

After that? It’s open, baby.

The Eagles are encouraging competition. They signed Patrick Robinson in free agency and, after starting him on the outside with Mills early in the summer, moved him to nickel when the Darby trade was made. Ron Brooks played the nickel spot and played it well last season until a torn quadriceps muscle ended his season. He has hardly been healthy this summer and his picture for the 53-man roster is uncertain. C.J. Smith has been up and down in his second season in the Jim Schwartz defense. Aaron Grymes, who had such a strong preseason in 2016 before a shoulder injury sidelined him, has yet to stand out. Jomal Wiltz and Mitchell White have not distinguished themselves. They are expected to play a bunch on Thursday night.

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Stay tuned, because the Eagles haven’t settled on the roster breakdown at cornerback. They’re going to hope someone – perhaps McDougle, who is here for a reason – steps up and wins a job on Thursday night.

“I know what’s at stake, so all I can do is learn as much about the defense as I can this week and then go out against my old team and play my best game,” McDougle said. “I don’t know what they have planned for me. I am ready to play outside or play in the nickel. Whatever they want. I think I’ll be OK as far as knowing what to do and what the calls are, so it’s a matter of just relaxing and playing my game.

“I’m healthy and I’m going to focus on that, not on what has happened to me in the past. I think I’m playing my best football right now. I just want to keep doing that, improving every day. I know we’re going against the Jets, so that is going to be unusual, but I have to focus on what I’m doing, on my job. I have to go out there and give the coaches chances to trust me, that I can do the job they want.”

A strong showing from McDougle could very well earn him a roster spot. Robinson thinks he has played “good football” since moving into the slot, but the Eagles want to increase competition there and that’s why they went out and traded for McDougle.

Cornerback, as it has been the entire preseason, is a position to watch on Thursday night.  If you don’t think there are jobs on the line, think again. The preseason finale means something.

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