Eagles Defensive Backs Coach Evaluates Sidney Jones & Rasul Douglas

Sidney Jones

Getty Eagles CB Sidney Jones has been playing himself into a larger role, maybe even a starting one.

Avonte Maddox might be winning the cornerback competition right now, but two other guys are still being evaluated.

The three-ring circus to hold down the shaky trapeze opposite Darius Slay is a slow process, one not likely to be decided until the Eagles break camp. Maddox manned the starting spot on Wednesday and ran with the first-team defense for a third straight day. He has looked stellar early in padded practices while winning praise from everyone around him, including one big “yes sir!!!” from Slay. But don’t count out Sidney Jones or Rasul Douglas yet.

Eagles new defensive backs coach Marquand Manuel told reporters he’s been instructing Jones on how to improve his game. Manuel supplied a very specific list of things for the former second-round pick to work on: “Be accountable. Compete daily. And be willing to learn.” If Jones commits himself to those three areas, he could find himself starting opposite Slay in Week 1.

“If you consistently do those three things in this league, then you can have success,” Manuel said. “Everyone’s skill set is different. We all understand that. However, how can you implement now what you do great? We can’t be great at everything but we can work at things that we know we can get better at. Practice it until I get it wrong. Confidence goes a long way in this league in no matter what you do.”

Jones has been oft-injured and heavily criticized in his first three NFL seasons, something that “fueled him” and “pissed him off.” He spent the offseason working out with Chris Harris, one of the best corners in the business. Now it’s up to him to show it on the field, per Manuel.

“We had that dialogue on how he needed to do it,” Manuel said, “on when he needed to do it and on how consistent he needs to be at it.”

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All About Consistency & Technique for Douglas

Meanwhile, Douglas might have a tougher row to hoe when it comes to unseating Maddox. He was (maybe) benched for Jones in the second half of last year’s playoff loss after seeing his defensive snaps decrease down the stretch in 2019.

But he re-committed himself in the offseason by enlisting Slay’s footwork trainer while taking better care of his body. Douglas, a third-round pick in 2017, has been running with the second-team defense early in camp but he’s still in the conversation for a starting spot. In fact, the 24-year-old may get even more opportunities with Jones listed day-to-day with a lower-body injury. He’s another guy that Manuel handed a list of things to clean up.

“One of the things that we talked about is what is your level of commitment? Being diligent in what you’re being asked to do. Down in and down out,” Manuel said. “We just don’t make things up so you have to make sure you understand that. You have to be diligent as far as what I play in technique and how hard I play and so now I can go and look back and evaluate myself.”

Remember, Douglas was reportedly on the trading block in the offseason and then took a pay cut to come back to Philly. This could be his last shot to keep a roster spot, let alone earn a starting spot. He’s still in the Eagles’ cornerback competition, although he was captured a few times on video getting beat by rookie Quez Watkins.

“One of the things about Rasul is he wants to know why,” Manuel said. “As a coach, I like to mention that we have the why, but he is a good competitor.”

Manuel said he doesn’t expect any of his corners to not get beat, adding that even his one-time Hall-of-Fame teammates Champ Bailey and Charles Woodson got balls caught on them. The key is to bring a consistent effort and block it out on the next play.

“Consistency and technique. Consistency and effort, that’s what stands the test of time in this league,” Manuel said. “The ball is going to get caught on you. I haven’t seen a guy not get a ball caught on him. But consistently how can you go battle? What techniques are you using? Can you now understand what I need to apply? I need to see the application.”

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