Sidney Jones eager to show Eagles fans he's a playmaker

AP Images

Sidney Jones eager to show Eagles fans he's a playmaker

Just a glimpse. 

That’s all Eagles fans got of Sidney Jones last season as the second-round pick recovered from an Achilles injury that dropped him out of the first round and into the Eagles’ lap at No. 43 last spring. 

After spending most of his rookie season on the NFL’s non-football injury list, Jones began practicing late in the season and played exactly 29 defensive snaps in the Eagles’ regular-season finale against the Cowboys. 

Like we said, just a glimpse. 

But now Jones is over a year removed from the injury. And he’s entering his second NFL season ready to prove he’s the kind of player most Eagles fans are praying he can be. 

For those fans who haven’t seen him at his best, what should they expect? 

“Playmaker,” Jones said. “Ballplayer.” 

So buckle your seats, Eagles fans. We might find out pretty soon if the Eagles pulled the biggest coup of the 2017 NFL draft. Because there was a time when Jones was considered one of the best corners in a draft class stocked with good ones. 

There are plenty of folks doubting whether Jones will ever become a great player. There were plenty more who didn’t think the risk was worth it when they drafted him. But that’s not where his motivation starts. 

“Proving it to myself, first of all,” Jones said. “I have high expectations for myself. Proving it to everybody else too. I was rated highly last year and didn’t get to show that. So I’m back.” 

It’s possible Jones’ journey to becoming that player took a step forward Tuesday. The newly-turned 22-year-old was on the practice field with the Eagles in his new expanded role. While Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby took their starter spots on the outside, Jones became the Eagles’ nickel corner (see observations)

About an hour before the first practice, head coach Doug Pederson said Jones is “definitely in the mix” to be a starter. 

While it’s technically not a starter position, the Eagles spent about 3/4 of their snaps in their nickel package, so if Jones seals that slot corner job, he’ll be playing a ton in 2018. That’s probably enough to make fans smile. 

Jones said the Eagles brought him the idea of playing in the slot a while ago, so he knew there was a good possibility. It’s a new position for him, though; he didn’t play much in the slot in college. Jones said the biggest differences are leverage, knowing where his help is, being blitz ready and basic communication. After one day, he was feeling pretty good about the switch. 

“As far as coverage goes, everybody knows that Sid can cover,” Mills said. “He was projected first round coming out. That is not an issue in our minds. As far as going from outside to inside, just knowing his scheme and knowing your role.”

Like everyone, Mills is pretty excited to see what Jones looks like at 100 percent. Even if he’s just been able to see a glimpse. 

While Howie Roseman said the organization viewed Jones as a part of the 2018 draft class, after a year in the classroom, Jones certainly doesn’t feel like a rookie. He knows the defense and was just waiting for his body to catch up to his mind. 

Now that it has, there’s a chance he could be special. 

“I didn’t really get to show myself too much last year,” Jones said. “I played at the end of the season and it happened so quick. This year is totally different.”

Eagles mailbag: Moving Rasul Douglas, keeping Donnel Pumphrey

USA Today Images

Eagles mailbag: Moving Rasul Douglas, keeping Donnel Pumphrey

We split up your questions, so Part I of the mailbag ran yesterday (see story).

Just a reminder: training camp starts on July 25 and the first practice will be July 26. 

Let’s not waste anymore time. 

I’ve heard this a ton from people and it makes sense. Douglas seems to have what you’d look for in a safety and the Eagles value coverage skills in that position, something Douglas clearly has. So I see that as a possibility, but the Eagles have seemed hesitant to move him or even to really cross-train him. For me, the time to do it would have been during the OTAs and minicamp. Why not slide him back there for a few days to see how he handles it? That’s how I would have handled it. Without any extended time at safety in the spring, it’s hard for me to envision real cross-training in the summer. Eventually, though, you’re right; this makes sense. 

I don’t think so. Pumphrey looked a little better this spring, but he better have a great training camp. Right now, I have the Eagles keeping four running backs: Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, Matt Jones. If they keep five, Pump has a real chance; he’d just need to beat out Wendell Smallwood for that final spot. I think he has a decent chance, but I haven’t seen enough to give him a roster spot. He’s a player I’ll be watching extremely close at training camp. 

I’ll preface this by saying I’m no punter expert, but Cameron Johnston looks pretty solid to me. He was a really good punter at Ohio State and seemed to boot the ball pretty well this spring. The Eagles were comfortable enough with him to move on from Donnie Jones. 

To answer the second part, he will be the holder for Jake Elliott. The two have been working together this spring. While Johnston held last summer, Elliott was still in Cincinnati. They have to gel. 

In my latest 53-man roster projection, I actually don’t have Tre Sullivan in there. Instead, I went with Corey Graham, who is still on the street. I agree with you that in most situations going with the younger guy is the move, but not with this team. Not this year. Graham was such an important part of last year’s team. And because the Eagles have a legitimate shot to repeat, I’d try to bring him back. The Eagles have about $6 million in cap space. Get it done. 

Hi, John. Mango. Always mango. 

Eagles Mailbag: Biggest concern on 2018 roster

USA Today Images

Eagles Mailbag: Biggest concern on 2018 roster

We’ve officially reached the only sort of dead period on the NFL calendar. The Eagles are through their spring practices and won’t be back at the NovaCare Complex until July 25 for the start of training camp. 

That sounds far away, but it’ll be here before you know it. 

You guys were great and gave me a ton of questions, so I’ll answer half today and half Sunday. Let’s go: 

I’m tempted to say defensive tackle just for health concerns surrounding Tim Jernigan, but I have to answer linebacker. Jordan Hicks appears to be healthy after tearing his Achilles last year, but as good as he is when healthy, it’s just tough to count on him. Two years ago, he was able to play a full season and things were looking good, but then he suffered another serious injury. If Hicks and Bradham stay healthy, linebackers aren’t a concern. The Eagles will have either Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry or Corey Nelson take the weakside spot on base downs and they’ll be OK. 

But without Mychal Kendricks, it’s fair to be concerned about their depth at the position, especially after veteran pickup Paul Worrilow was already lost for the year. Kendricks came up huge last year as a fill-in; not sure the Eagles have that kind of depth this year. 

Not sure yet. What I can tell you about De’Vante Bausby is that he was impressive this spring and the coaching staff seems to love him. I remain very, very skeptical that he’s good enough to keep Sidney Jones off the field. With that said, I do think he’s talented enough to make the 53-man roster. We’ll get a better sense at camp when the pads go on, but I have him penciled in to make the team. 

Yes on both. The Nate Sudfeld hype is real. In our first extended looks at the young quarterback, he’s been incredibly impressive. It’s starting to make sense why the Eagles snatched him from Washington and then blocked the Colts from signing him last season. They kept him on the 53 in the second half of last year, so they’re completely prepared to keep three QBs on this year’s roster if Foles is still on the team. 

This is going to be the summer of Nate Sudfeld. We’re going to see him play a ton in those preseason games and that will let us know if he’s ready to be QB2 behind Carson Wentz. But the fact that the Eagles didn’t bring in a more experienced veteran after Wentz went down last year pretty much tells you all you need to know about what the Eagles think of him. 

We tried that. Didn’t work out well. We’re up for suggestions. 

You have no idea how out of water this fish is. This is like taking a fish from the ocean and dropping it in Kansas. 

How about Portugal? I’ll go with them because of Ronaldo.