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Cornerback Will Look Much Different In 2017


Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin combined to make 28 starts in 2016.

Carroll is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March, and McKelvin was released by the team on Wednesday after one season in midnight green.

The pass defense, which was a top-five unit through the first half of the season, eroded as the team lost seven out of eight games during one stretch to put the Eagles out of playoff contention. The Eagles allowed 57 pass plays of 20 yards or more (sixth worst in the league) and nine touchdowns of 20 yards or more last season.

Both Carroll and McKelvin were signed to short-term deals in 2016. Cornerback is a position where the Eagles have been in search of long-term stability. When head coach Doug Pederson was the starting quarterback for the Eagles in 1999, the team had Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor. The Eagles spent two high draft picks in 2002 to net Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown. In 2008, Asante Samuel was the crown jewel of free agency, and went on to earn Pro Bowl honors for the Eagles in each of the next three seasons.

"I think you look at the cornerback position and what we've done at the cornerback position is put Band-Aids on things," Howie Roseman said at the end of the season.

McKelvin was signed to a two-year contract last offseason after eight seasons with the Buffalo Bills. He came to Philadelphia to reunite with Jim Schwartz, who coordinated the Bills' defense in 2014. The 31-year-old McKelvin suffered a hamstring injury in the season opener against the Browns and missed three of the next four contests. His play was erratic the remainder of the year, but he still led the Eagles with 20 pass breakups and recorded two interceptions.

The Eagles lost slot cornerback Ron Brooks, another 2016 addition who also played for Schwartz in Buffalo, for the remainder of the year in the Week 7 win over Minnesota with a quad injury which greatly impacted the secondary. Malcolm Jenkins was moved from safety to play in the slot most of the time when the Eagles went to their nickel defense.

Jalen Mills, the team's seventh-round pick a year ago, will have a prime opportunity in 2017 with Carroll's status up in the air and McKelvin out of the picture. He played in all 16 games (65 percent of the defensive snaps) and started twice as a rookie. He had 67 tackles and never lost confidence battling some of the league's best wideouts from Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown to New York's Odell Beckham Jr. to Dallas' Dez Bryant among many others.

The only other experienced corner currently on the roster is Dwayne Gratz, who was signed late in the season.

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