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.”