Eagles

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

ap_jones.png
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: Faith in Nate Sudfeld, Vinny Curry signing, spreading it around

Eagles Mailbag: Faith in Nate Sudfeld, Vinny Curry signing, spreading it around

The offseason marches on with your questions. 

I already answered your first bunch, including questions on Sidney Jones, Jay Ajayi and running backs in the draft. Now, it’s time for Part 2 of 3. 

Let’s get to it: 

I got a few questions about Nate Sudfeld this week and I certainly understand why. He’s now the Eagles’ backup quarterback and Carson Wentz has finished the last two seasons on the shelf. I think there are legitimate reasons for concern. From the time the Eagles got Sudfeld, I thought he was a possible QB2. The problem here is that he is unproven; we haven’t seen much of him outside of summer practices and minimal game action. It’s somewhat of a gamble for a team with Super Bowl aspirations to go into a season with an unproven backup, especially because of Wentz’s injury history. 

But, to be clear, I like what I’ve seen from Sudfeld. He seems to be pretty athletic and has a big arm. The Eagles have shown how much they like him at every turn. This is one of those situations where I’m skeptical, but just kind of trust their evaluation. 

I don’t think the Curry signing affects Long’s decision as much as it tells us the Eagles are preparing for the possibility Long isn’t back. You have to remember, Curry can play inside and outside, so he might not take as many reps from Long as you think. We’ll see what happens soon with the draft. Long has said he doesn’t want to return as just a locker room guy and a high draft pick would take even more playing time away from him. The Eagles should hope he returns, though. Even at his age, he’s still a productive pass rusher. 

This is one of the big ideas I want to ask Doug Pederson about next week at the owners meetings. The Eagles now have a bunch of different pass catching options. They have a really talented trio of receivers to go along with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. Even though Goedert is a really impressive young player, it’s hard to imagine he would be left out at times. The Eagles didn’t trade for DeSean Jackson to sit him on the bench and they aren’t pay Nelson Agholor over $9 million this season to be a spectator. And Alshon Jeffery is going to play. 

It’s a good problem to have, but Pederson needs to figure out a way to get everyone involved. It might be a nightmare for fantasy football owners, though, because I think the game plan will change based on the matchups from week to week. Some weeks they’ll go heavy 11 personnel, but I wouldn’t rule out heavy 12 personnel with Ertz and Goedert on the field sometimes too. 

I don’t. I do agree that running back and linebacker are their two most pressing needs, but I just wouldn’t use a top pick on a linebacker. Maybe they’ll surprise me, but I think it’s much more likely they leave the first two days of the draft with a running back instead of a linebacker. I still believe the Eagles will use No. 25 on a lineman (offense or defense) and will then look at running back with one of their second-round picks. I think they use a Day 3 pick on a linebacker unless they really think they found tremendous value. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

Eagles are getting older, and that's a growing concern

Eagles are getting older, and that's a growing concern

Taken individually, all the Eagles’ moves so far this offseason make sense. 

Taken as a whole, they raise concern whether the Eagles are getting too old. More specifically, whether Howie Roseman is committing too many dollars to guys on the back end of their careers.

Jason Peters got another year. He’s 37. Jason Kelce got another year and is now signed through 2021. He’s 31. Brandon Graham got a pretty big three-year deal. He turns 31 in a couple weeks.

DeSean Jackson got a sizable contract for a guy who’s 32. Andrew Sendejo is 31. Vinny Curry turns 31 this summer. 

I’ve got no problem with any of the moves taken apart from the others. But the analytics make it pretty clear that older guys are more likely to get hurt or see their production diminish dramatically. 

We saw it last year with guys like Peters, Darren Sproles, Haloti Ngata and Mike Wallace. 

Now, young guys get hurt too, but the older you are as a team, the more you’re at risk. And when those older guys have high cap figures, it makes it tough to function when they start missing time.

According to pro sports salary cap tracker Spotrac, the Eagles had the 17th-oldest team in 2017, when they won the Super Bowl, and the ninth-oldest team last year, when they advanced a round deep in the playoffs. 

Today — and obviously rosters are nowhere near settled — the Eagles have the fifth-oldest team in the NFL.

The Eagles’ nucleus is guys in that 28-to-32 range. Alshon Jeffery, Malcolm Jenkins, Kelce, Nigel Bradham, Fletcher Cox, Zach Ertz, Jackson, Graham, Malik Jackson. 

Who are their best players under 28? Carson Wentz is 26, Nelson Agholor is 25, their promising young defensive backs like Avonte Maddox, Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones are all in their early 20s. Derek Barnett is only 22. 

But there are question marks about every one of them.

This is why Roseman, Joe Douglas and Co. have to nail this draft and the next couple drafts. This is a roster that really needs an infusion of young talent. 

When this current group of veteran stars moves on, who takes over?

Roseman has had only three drafts since being returned to power, and he’s taken only six guys in the first three rounds. Of that group, Wentz is a certified Pro Bowler and a star, although he still needs to show he can stay healthy. 

And Dallas Goedert certainly seems like a stud. 

But the others — Barnett, Jones, Isaac Seumalo and Douglas — are works in progress.

The Eagles have found one Pro Bowl defensive player in their last 13 drafts, and that was Cox in 2012. 

Their draft record has been better on offense, but the Lane Johnson/Ertz draft is now six years old.

The Eagles aren’t in the danger zone. Not yet. But things change quickly in the NFL and teams that can’t keep up in terms of young talent inevitably fall by the wayside.

The Eagles have three of the first 57 picks in next month’s draft, and as of now they have their own picks in the first four rounds of the 2020 draft, plus two 5’s in addition to the compensatory picks they’re stockpiling.

So the opportunity is there to get younger. To get faster and more durable. To find the talent to remain a perennial contender for a deep postseason run.

Right now, the Eagles have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. I see them as a legit Super Bowl contender.

But in the next few years, the face of the Eagles will change dramatically. 

To remain competitive, to remain elite, they need stars to emerge once guys like Peters, Graham, Jenkins, Jackson and Kelce either move on, retire or experience a downturn in their productiveness.

All they have to do is find them.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles