Over the next three weeks leading up to training camp, we’ll be counting down the top 20 most important Eagles for the 2021 season.
16. Avonte Maddox
The Eagles last season played Avonte Maddox as their CB2 opposite Darius Slay and it didn’t work very well.
Maddox ended up ranked as the worst cornerback in the NFL last season, according to ProFootballFocus. He was No. 121 out of 121. (By the way, he was No. 19 on our most important Eagles list last year.)
But the Eagles still haven’t done much to improve the position.
This offseason, the Eagles made some minor moves at the cornerback position. They signed Shakial Taylor, traded for Josiah Scott and drafted Zech McPhearson in the fourth round. It’s just that none of those moves should bump Maddox from his position at CB2.
So unless the Eagles make another move before the start of the season — it’s possible — it looks like Maddox will be a starter yet again.
Even if the Eagles add another player or even if they decide that someone else on the roster should be their CB2, Maddox is still going to have a big role for the Eagles’ defense in Jonathan Gannon’s first year as defensive coordinator. During spring practices, Maddox spent some time working inside as the Eagles’ nickel back. Perhaps he’ll have some sort of versatile role in 2021.
Maddox, 25, is entering the fourth season of his NFL career and after hitting a playing time escalator in the first three seasons, Maddox is set to have a base salary of over $2 million in 2021.
While Maddox has played a lot in his first three seasons, he has also dealt with several injuries and was clearly playing out of position as an outside cornerback in 2020. Maddox’s best season came as a rookie fourth-round pick back in 2018, when he played most of his time as a nickel cornerback and as a deep safety, replacing the injured Rodney McLeod. In that rookie season, Maddox had the only two interceptions of his career.
Last season, Maddox played in 10 games and started eight. Of his 550 defensive snaps last season, 400 of them (72.7%) came as an outside corner. Maddox was targeted 47 times last season and gave up 29 catches for 395 yards.
Of course, having Slay on one side is a huge boost for the Eagles. While he didn’t play at a Pro Bowl level last season, Slay was very good and often traveled with the other team’s best receiver. The problem with that is if teams decide to stay away from Slay, it leaves the Eagles open to teams’ attacking their second corner. For most of last season, that meant that Maddox was exposed.
Maybe the presence of Gannon will help Maddox or whoever takes that CB2 job this season. While the Eagles were a heavy man coverage team under Jim Schwartz, the Eagles will likely use more Cover 2 under Gannon, which might take some pressure off their cornerbacks.
It’s not that Maddox is a bad player. He struggled in 2020 but you can easily argue that he was playing out of position. The big problem is that it seems relatively likely the Eagles will ask him to do it again in 2021. That makes him hugely important for this season.
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