Is Nolan Carroll III the frontrunner to start at cornerback for Eagles?

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Statistics aren’t even necessary. The Eagles secondary was bad last year.

And the Eagles knew it–dumping nearly their entire starting unit this offseason and bringing in high-priced free agent Byron Maxwell and a slew of draft picks to join Malcolm Jenkins in what appears to be a much improved unit.

“I think we like the group, overall,” Kelly said prior to Thursday’s team activities at the Novacare Complex.”We’ve added some depth to that position. There are a lot of guys out there competing real hard.It’s still very early, but we’re excited. I think our depth is better than it’s ever been in the three years. Now we just have to figure out who exactly those guys are that will complement the two guys that are our starters [in] Malcolm and Byron right now. The other guys are really competing.

One of those guys who may crack the starting lineup is Nolan Carroll III, a cornerback who Kelly said “has done an unbelievable job in the offseason. He’s a guy that stands out in terms of what he’s done in the weight room and some of those other things.”

Carroll had 32 tackles in limited playing time last year, but he has five career interceptions from his days with the Dolphins, and the 28-year-old could be the favorite to start opposite Maxwell at corner in 2015.

“It was just my mental preparation this year,” Carroll said.”I didn’t take a lot of time off like normal. Usually it’s a month and half off, this year it was just a couple of weeks… I didn’t take long off and it carried over to this season.”

To get reps at the No. 2 cornerback spot, aside from the rookies, Carroll will need to beat out Brandon Boykin, Jaylen Watkins and E.J. Biggers, among others. Walter Thurmondplayed safety Thursday.

Entering his sixth NFL season, the Maryland alum is one of the more experienced veterans in camp, and he has enjoyed his leadership role early in spring practices.

“It’s always nice to get new guys in,” Carroll said of Eagles draftees Eric Rowe, JaCorey Shepherd, Randall Evans and other newcomers.”To be able to teach, and see them grasp and learn, we were in that situation back in the day. You are just trying to learn things one step at a time and it gets hard and frustrating. You have to learn and get on the field. We tell those guys to be calm and patient and to study a bit each day. If you panic you will forget things.”

If nothing else, the secondary members who were around last year, playing for a unit that arguably cost the 10-6 Birds a spot in the playoffs, are playing with a chip on their shoulders.

“We feel like, coming in and having a new coach (former Broncos defensive backs coach John Lovett)his mindset has been we have to be the strongest link on that defense. We gave up about 33[big] plays last year, the most in the league and we take offense to that, everybody saying we aren’t good, we can’t do this we can’t do that. This year our attitude is not to give up any [big] plays, to play with good technique and demand greatness from everybody.”

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