Jackson Tears Achilles Tendon...Secondary In A Bind
By Lance Epstein
One of the key off-season signings for the Philadelphia Eagles was Colts defensive back Marlin Jackson. Unfortunately, it is very unlikely that Jackson will be able to contribute to the Eagles this season, as an MRI revealed that he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in his right leg.
While he has not been ruled out for the upcoming season by the team, this injury usually requires surgery and up to a year of rehab to fully recovery. Even if Jackson recovers, it does not mean he will ever be the same player.
On top of his ruptured Achilles tendon, Jackson was trying to comeback from two previously torn ACLs [both his right and left ACLs]. During the off-season, Jackson was rehabbing his torn left ACL at the Eagles team facility and looked to be returning to form. Sadly, this could be the last of Jackson in an Eagle uniform and possibly in the NFL.
The injury occurred as Jackson covered wide receiver Jeremy Maclin on a deep route. Jackson fell to the ground, sat on the turf and was in tears and visibly in pain. Eventually Jackson was helped up by teammates and then walked off the field under his own power. However, teammates and reporters could hear him yelling in frustration. Finally Jackson was carted from the practice bubble [practicing in there due to rain and thunderstorms] to the NovaCare facility.
Besides Jackson’s career being in jeopardy, the other horrifying aspect of this terrible situation is where this leaves the Eagles secondary. Earlier this off-season, head coach Andy Reid and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott discussed using Jackson all over the field. Jackson’s versatility to play all three positions in the secondary gave the Eagles to a ton of flexibility with their defense.
Now, the Eagles have lost their starting free safety and a player who certainly would have helped the Eagles replace cornerback Sheldon Brown. With Jackson likely gone for the season, South Florida rookie and second-round pick Nate Allen will be pressed into action. Certainly Allen has the skills to be a good and even great safety in this league, but he is still just a rookie. Last year, the Eagles defense struggled against the pass due to inserting rookie Macho Harris into the starting free safety role.
If the Eagles do not wish to start a rookie at free safety again, they could pursue Rams safety Oshiomogho Atogwe [who became an unrestricted free agent today]. However a source close to the Eagles said that the club has no interest in Atogwe.
Besides going the free agent route, the Eagles could give Quintin Demps a chance to redeem himself for his porous 2009 season. Demps was supposed to be the replacement for All-Pro Brian Dawkins, but he quickly found himself in Reid's doghouse.
Another option for the club is to move Macho Harris back to safety. The Eagles had planned on using Harris at his natural cornerback position, but this injury opens the door for his return to safety. While Harris struggled in his rookie season, his experience will certainly help him entering his second season. In addition, Reid talked about the strides that Harris has made from the end of last year.
On the other hand, the free safety position is not the only problem that the Eagles defense will endure due to Jackson's injury. At last week's OTAs, Ellis Hobbs was unable to a complete a single practice. There were thoughts in the organization that Jackson could be a viable replacement for Hobbs, if Hobbs struggled or failed to be an adequate starter.
Currently, the Eagles only have three corners with significant NFL playing [Joselio Hanson, Asante Samuel and Hobbs]. Do not be surprised if the Eagles look to the free agent market for a veteran cornerback or even the recently released Shawn Springs.
Springs (6-0, 205) is very similar to Jackson, but has a lot more wear an tear on his frame [entering 15th season]. Like Jackson, Springs can play both safety positions and cornerback. Additionally, the Eagles were interested in his services last year before he signed with the New England Patriots.
Moreover, the team thought Jackson was a perfect fit as a Dime and Nickel package corner. Springs could excel in that type of role.
The Eagles ended the season in Dallas with huge question marks in the secondary. They believed with the additions of Jackson and Allen that they were ready to go and vastly improved. With the loss of Jackson, the questions about the Eagles secondary have resurfaced and the Eagles' plan appears to be ruptured as well.