“Next man up” is a timeworn cliché in today’s NFL. But for the Eagles, this cliché has become a necessity for success.
Coming into this season, the undoubted Achilles’ heel for Philadelphia was the secondary. The Eagles addressed their biggest need by drafting Sidney Jones in the second round of the draft and trading for Ronald Darby just before week one. Jones was already injured when drafted (which allowed him to drop to round two), and Darby was hurt during his first game in midnight green. Six weeks and five wins later, the team’s lack of a starting Cornerback has gone unnoticed.
One player who has stepped up immensely is Patrick Robinson. Robinson was signed by the Eagles in March of this year to provide veteran experience, but wasn’t expected to see time as a starter. Forced into the lineup due to injuries, Robinson has recorded two interceptions in over five games played. Shaky play during the pre-season drew concerns from the former first round pick, but Robinson has silenced his critics by becoming Philly’s most consistent Cornerback this season. The secondary has also benefited from rookie Rasul Douglass. Like Robinson, Douglass has overachieved so far this season. Last year’s NCAA leader in interceptions, Douglass is tied for the team lead in picks. His interception late in Thursday night’s sealed the win over the Panthers.
Fletcher Cox and Darren Sproles are two pro-bowl caliber players for the Eagles. When both were sidelined with injuries (Sproles’ injury costing him the season), the backups filled those positions quite admirably. Beau Allen picked up the slack at Defensive Tackle, whereas Corey Clement and Kenjon Barner have both been utilized in the run game. Barner was even named NFC Special Teams player of the week. Depth is vital in the NFL, and the Eagles are showing they have it in spades.
Then there is everyone’s favorite replacement Kicker; Jake Elliot. Elliot was signed after Starting Kicker Caleb Sturgis was injured. Elliot, who was cut from the Bengal’s roster earlier this season, got the call from the Eagles to resume kicking duties. Elliot proceeded to kick a 61 yard field goal in the closing seconds against the Giants to win a game, and a spot in every Eagles fan’s heart.
Injuries happen in the NFL; every team will lose players who get hurt. How teams deal with the injuries ultimately decide the amount of W’s by seasons end. If not for the stellar play of the backups, the Eagles would have less than the five notches currently in the W column. Constancy is what makes teams good in the NFL.
Consistency and Depth can make a team great. The Eagles, due in large to the backups, are playing like a great football team.