Eagles Defensive Coordinator Talks CB Competition: ‘Time Starting to Run Short’

Sidney Jones

Getty Eagles CB Sidney Jones was a second-round pick in 2017.

The Eagles’ major training camp battle was supposed to be at outside cornerback. It appears over quicker than an old Mike Tyson fight.

Avonte Maddox started running with the first-team defense on the very first day of padded practices and never looked back. He’s been competing hard in drills, blanketing bigger and faster receivers, and winning praise from everyone around him.

That includes coaches and teammates like shutdown corner Darius Slay. It’s tough to see him losing the job at this point. His smallish frame — 5-foot-9, 183 pounds — hasn’t been an issue. Apparently it never was, according to the only man who really matters.

“What I’d say about Avonte is the only time he looks short is when he’s in the lunch line,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz told reporters on Monday. “When he gets on the field, he’s never, in my mind, played small. He’s a physical player. He’s got great timing and ability to jump and there’s been a lot of guys who have that kind of skillset. He’s got great quickness and change of direction ability.”

Schwartz also pointed out his incredible strength, specifically pointing to his ability to match more physical receivers. Maddox’s versatility from playing a “million different positions” (safety, outside corner, nickel corner) has been another feather in his cap.

“Let’s not confuse small with little with him. Or short with small,” Schwartz said. “Because he’s physical … he’s strong, he’s matched up with bigger receivers his whole career. He brings some things to the table that maybe some of the taller guys don’t have. He can get up to speed super quick which allows him to play a better technique on the outside.”

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Sidney Jones Running Out of Time in CB Competition

Not shockingly, time is officially running out on Sidney Jones. The Eagles travel to Washington in three weeks for the season opener and the former second-round pick can’t even get on the field. Jones has been dealing with an undisclosed “lower body” injury since Aug. 20.

“Our time is starting to run short,” said Schwartz, “and the only thing we can do as coaches is coach the guys that are available to practice.”

Jones knew this year was a make-or-break season for him in Philly. The oft-injured cornerback even admitted all the criticism about him being a bust had “pissed him off” and motivated him. Jones began camp running with the second-team defense and couldn’t move up the depth chart. Now he’s hurt and presumably out of luck. There has been quieter chatter about the Eagles cutting him or trading him.

“Sid’s into it. He’s done a good job of staying up and everything else,” said Schwartz. “And, just, unfortunately, he hasn’t been there for this last week or so. There’s still time but time is starting to creep in on us. We’re less than three weeks from our opener right now.”

Marquand Manuel Compares Maddox & Jones

New defensive backs coach Marquand Manuel also chimed in on the skillsets between Maddox and Jones. Reading between the lines, it is another sign that the competition for the starting outside cornerback spot is over.

Manuel credited Maddox for being the “ultimate competitor” and reiterated that his 5-foot-9 frame shouldn’t hinder him in any way. Like Schwartz, Maddox’s position coach liked his versatility and thought it made the former fourth-round pick a more “complete player.”

“People talk about size and all of that,” Manuel said. “I always look at the complete position, meaning a guy that can play the slot, a guy that can play outside. Because we’re technically one motion from being an in or an out player. He has gravitated toward that.”

Meanwhile, his conversations with Jones have centered more on how to improve and build up confidence. That doesn’t sound like a good thing for a guy in line to start in three weeks on a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

“I told him the three things that I needed him to do and we had that dialogue on how he needed to do it,” Manuel said of Jones. “On when he needed to do it and how consistent he needs to be at it. I think, from that standpoint, the competitive edge and understanding of how you play in this league … what you need to do in this league to be successful and things of that nature, and how confidence plays in everything else.”

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