Eagles' defense still has some holes to fill - pressofAtlanticCity.com: Sports

Eagles' defense still has some holes to fill - pressofAtlanticCity.com: Sports

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Eagles' defense still has some holes to fill

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Posted: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 10:30 pm

PHILADELPHIA - Now that Michael Vick has been named the starting quarterback, the Eagles' offensive starting lineup is pretty much set.

Barring injuries, Vick will be joined by running back LeSean McCoy, tight ends James Casey and Brent Celek, wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper, tackles Jason Peters and Lane Johnson, guards Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans, and center Jason Kelce in the regular-season opener at Washington on Sept. 9.

The defense, however, still has some holes to fill entering Saturday's preseason game at Jacksonville (7:30 p.m. ABC). Defensive coordinator Billy Davis still needs to pick starters at defensive end, cornerback and safety.

"This preseason game will be kind of a finishing-touches situation on who we probably settle in as starters," Davis said Wednesday.

Rookie Bennie Logan and second-year player Vinny Curry are still battling with Cedric Thornton for the right to start at one defensive end spot along with Fletcher Cox.

Davis still has two spots to decide in the secondary.

Despite his nagging injuries and antics, Cary Williams appears to have locked down one of the cornerback positions, leaving Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin and possibly Brandon Hughes to fight it out for the other starting job.

Hughes started in place of Williams in the first preseason game, but has since fallen behind the others. Fletcher has started both preseason games, but Boykin is also making a push. Curtis Marsh is sidelined indefinitely after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured right hand. Rookie Jordan Poyer hasn't shown much.

It's sort of a no-lose situation for Fletcher and Boykin. Whoever loses that duel will be the starting nickel corner and line up in the slot.

"That nickel position is like a starting corner," Davis said. "That is a huge job that gets a lot of attention and requires a really unique skill set."

Boykin, a third-round draft pick in 2012, seems to be better suited to play inside.

The 5-foot-10, 185-pounder has a physical, aggressive playing style that fits better in the slot, but he also has the speed to run with wide receivers.

"I'd like to think I'm versatile enough to play inside or outside," Boykin said Wednesday. "But it's every corner's dream to be an every-down corner (on the outside). That's always been my mindset."

Fletcher and Williams were signed as free agents in an effort to upgrade the secondary. Nnamdi Asomugha was cut after two disappointing seasons and is now with San Francisco. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie signed with Denver as an unrestricted free agent.

Much of the preseason attention was focused on Williams, who helped Baltimore win a Super Bowl last season. But Fletcher, who spent the previous four seasons with St. Louis, has been the Eagles' steadiest corner since training camp began in late July.

"It's about paying attention to detail, knowing your assignment and playing the ball," Fletcher said Wednesday. "This is a competition and you always have to have that competitive mindset and try to put your best foot forward out there. I'm always going to tackle for you and I'm always going to be around the football. That's what I bring to the table."

Patrick Chung (New England) and Kenny Phillips (New York Giants) were signed as free agents to provide experience at safety. Phillips has been hampered by knee and quadriceps injuries, however, and has spent more time in the trainer's room than on the field this preseason. He missed practice again Wednesday.

Nate Allen, the Eagles' second-round draft pick in 2010, has taken advantage of Phillips' absence and is expected to be the starter against the Redskins. Rookie Earl Wolff is also a possible contender in the secondary.

"We have a lot of new faces and personalities in the secondary," Allen said Wednesday. "Everything is still evolving, but I think we're making strides as far as gelling back there and developing a chemistry."

Contact David Weinberg:

609-272-7186

DWeinberg@pressofac.com

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