It is an appropriate way to open Training Camp, right? The Eagles made a move, a trade in this case, that tells us something about how they value what they've seen from their new-look cornerback group.
The trade: The Eagles dealt Brandon Boykin, the team's starting nickel cornerback the last three seasons, to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a conditional fifth-round draft pick in 2016. On the face of the facts -- that Boykin was in the last year of his contract and that he had been a starter -- the Eagles got some good value. Boykin is a good player who was valuable in the slot entering the final year of his contract. He did not show enough in games or in practice, from the Eagles' point of view, to earn playing time as an outside cornerback.
It is clear, then, that the Eagles viewed Boykin as a slot cornerback, and in that role he was really productive in 2013 (six interceptions) and not as much in 2014. That the Eagles then addressed so heavily the defensive secondary in free agency and the draft indicated, very clearly, an interest in challenging every cornerback position.
So the Eagles were impressed enough by the group from the spring training sessions that they felt good about the depth at the position, across the board. Having an opportunity to gain a conditional fifth-round draft pick in 2016 represents a good return.
Now we turn our attention to the candidates to play the nickel position. The Eagles are bigger and stronger physically there, and that's something they've outlined. Bigger, stronger. Long arms. The ability to press at the line of scrimmage.
Are they ready? Coaches Cory Undlin and Matthew Harper are the ones developing the young talent and they clearly feel the answer is yes. Only Byron Maxwell is "set in stone" (if that means anything in this day-to-day business) as a starter at corner after signing as an unrestricted free agent in March. Nolan Carroll emerged in the spring as the guy taking first-team reps opposite Maxwell, but that's a fluid situation. Everything is fluid, truthfully. Carroll can also play inside.
Second-round draft pick Eric Rowe will likely get some reps inside. Sixth-round draft pick JaCorey Shepherd is certainly going to see training time inside after an impressive spring. Ditto Randall Evans, the team's second sixth-round draft pick in May. E.J. Biggers, who has been a around-for-a-long time cornerback in this league, is likely to rotate into the mix. And don't forget about Jaylen Watkins, in his second season.
The Eagles are going to look at them all. Every player in the secondary. Know this, and this is from my perspective with a history of understanding deals: The Eagles didn't see Boykin as a long-term fit, and they feel good about what they have to compete for the position, and they were able to get what they think is good value in a trade.
On-field Training Camp begins on Sunday after head coach Chip Kelly addresses the media. Add slot cornerback to an ever-growing list of "must-watch" positions and players. Training Camp opens, as you kind of knew it would, with some news. Substantial news. The Eagles have a job opening at slot cornerback, and obviously always have since they addressed the secondary so heavily in the spring. Let's see who steps up to win the job.