Eagles

Eagles 2019 breakout candidate: Avonte Maddox ready to build on unlikely rookie season

Eagles 2019 breakout candidate: Avonte Maddox ready to build on unlikely rookie season

This week, I’ll be taking a closer look at five young Eagles who have a chance to enjoy a “breakout season” in 2019. We have already looked at Derek Barnett and Dallas Goedert

Up today: Avonte Maddox 

Age: 23

How acquired: 2018 fourth-round pick 

Entering: Year 2

That was a pretty crazy rookie season for Maddox in 2018. After not playing a single defensive snap in the first three weeks of the season, Maddox grew into one of the most important pieces of a secondary that was completely decimated by injuries. 

By the time his rookie season ended, Maddox had played slot corner, outside corner and safety and played all three well. While he came back to Earth a little bit in the playoffs, he far exceeded every expectation set for him as a rookie. 

Then Maddox came back this spring looking great. 

“I think Avonte Maddox has picked up where he left off,” said Doug Pederson, who mentioned Maddox first among defensive players when he was asked for some spring standouts. 

The weird thing here is that Maddox isn’t even guaranteed a starting spot. This spring, the Eagles used him as a starting corner, playing him inside and outside, but Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills are still recovering. Only three players from the group of Darby, Mills, Rasul Douglas, Sidney Jones, Maddox and Cre’Von LeBlanc are going to start. After paying Darby, you can go ahead and pencil him in as one of the starters. After that, Maddox will have a chance to compete for a starting gig. If he plays as well as he did as a rookie, he’ll win a job. 

Despite how well he played at outside corner and even safety last season, the Eagles still seem to like Maddox in the nickel corner role, one that suits his 5-foot-9 frame. Perhaps the Eagles are getting him ready for a role in which he’d start outside and then slide inside in the nickel package. But this team has a ton of depth at corner and no one really knows how it will shake out. And the Eagles used higher draft picks on Jones and Douglas and Jim Schwartz seems to love Jalen Mills. But you just can't ignore what Maddox was able to do in Year 1. 

As long as Maddox can get on the field, he’ll have a chance to continue his success from what was a tremendous rookie season. The Eagles might really have something with him. 

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Could Super Bowl hero Jay Ajayi be returning to the Eagles?

Could Super Bowl hero Jay Ajayi be returning to the Eagles?

Jay Ajayi, who hasn’t played football in more than a year, will be at the NovaCare Complex Friday for a workout with the Eagles, NFL Network reported Thursday.

Ajayi, who was huge for the Eagles down the stretch during the 2017 Super Bowl run, has been out of football since his rookie contract that he originally signed with the Dolphins in 2015 lapsed following last season.

He's battled injuries most of his career but he's only 26 and when healthy has been terrific. He has a 4.5 career average, 5th-best in the NFL since 2015 among running backs with at least 500 carries (behind Mark Ingram, Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry).

The Eagles acquired Ajayi from the Dolphins on Oct. 31, 2017, in exchange for a 4th-round draft pick. He ran 70 times for 408 yards and a TD with a 5.8 average in seven regular-season games in 2017, then ran 42 times for 184 yards (4.4 average) in the three playoff games, including 9-for-57 in the Super Bowl win over the Patriots.

AJayi was 45-for-184 with three TDs in four games last year before going onto season-ending Injured Reserve on Oct. 8 with the latest in a series of knee injuries.

Ajayi's 5.15 rushing average in an Eagles uniform is fifth-highest in franchise history, behind quarterbacks Michael Vick (6.7), Randall Cunningham (6.6) and Donovan McNabb (5.7) and 1940s running back Ernie Steele (5.18)

Ajayi made the Pro Bowl in 2016 for the Dolphins with 1,272 rushing yards and eight touchdowns but has played in only 18 games since.

He hasn’t played since getting hurt against the Vikings on Oct. 7 of last year.

Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard have been terrific, but Howard and Darren Sproles are both dealing with injuries going into the Patriots game Sunday.

Sproles missed practice Thursday with a quad injury, and Howard has been limited in both practices this week with a shoulder injury. 

Sproles missed the Vikings, Cowboys and Bills games with a quad injury. He played against the Bears -- 10 snaps on offense, 8 on special teams -- but apparently seemingly aggravated the injury at some point.

Sproles, 36, has played in only 15 of a possible 46 games over the past three years because of a series of injuries.

The Eagles already lost Super Bowl star Corey Clement, who’s on Injured Reserve with a shoulder injury of his own.

Because of his oft-injured knees, Ajayi probably can't handle a huge workload these days. But in a limited role a healthy Ajayi could could definitely help the newly run-heavy Eagles.

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Alshon Jeffery misses 2nd straight day of Eagles practice

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Alshon Jeffery misses 2nd straight day of Eagles practice

Alshon Jeffery missed practice for the second straight day with an ankle injury on Thursday, putting his status for Sunday’s game against the Patriots very much in question. 

It’s rare for an Eagles player to miss the first two days of practice in a week and play that weekend. 

On Wednesday, head coach Doug Pederson said Jeffery was “day to day” with the ankle injury he suffered in the Bears game before the bye week. He left that game early, but then had an extra week to rest. 

Earlier in the season, Jeffery suffered a calf injury early in the game against Atlanta. It’s possible he’s been playing through injury for most of the season, which would help to explain his drop in production. 

In eight games this season, the 29-year-old receiver has just 34 catches for 353 yards and three touchdowns. He’s on pace for his worst statistical season since his rookie year in 2012. 

On Wednesday, I asked Pederson about Jeffery’s dip in production. 

“Well, I think with having Dallas [Goedert] a little more involved in the offense, the ball gets spread around a little bit more. The times we have gone to Alshon, he's made plays,” Pederson said. 

It’s worth noting that Jeffery is tied for the team lead in drops with three. He’s one of five Eagles with three drops this season. 

“His value to the offense has been very good,” Pederson continued. “The ball's going to find the open guy. Sometimes he's the primary, sometimes he's not. He might be the secondary or the third guy in the progression. He's a guy that gives of himself to the team. That's who Alshon is. He doesn't gripe or complain. He does battle through injury. He's battled through it his whole career. He's battled through it here. He's a tough kid.

“We continue to game plan. We game plan for him every week. Again, it's my job to try to dial up as many plays as I can for him.”

If Jeffery doesn't play on Sunday, look for J.J. Arcega-Whiteside or Jordan Matthews to have a big role. 

The only other notable player missing at Thursday’s practice was Nigel Bradham, who will likely miss his fourth straight game this Sunday with an ankle injury of his own. 

Jason Peters (knee) and Jordan Howard (shoulder) were both practicing Thursday after being listed as limited on Wednesday. 

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