I loved the move when the Eagles drafted Sidney Jones.
First-round talent in the second round? At a position where the Eagles desperately needed youth and playmaking after years of patching things together with veterans like Cary Williams, Nolan Carroll, Bradley Fletcher, Byron Maxwell and Leodis McKelvin?
I could live with a redshirt season in 2017 as that Achilles healed in exchange for years of steady play.
Here we are two years later and we’re still waiting for that steady play.
Forget 2017, since that Achilles tear at his pro day was part of the deal when the Eagles drafted him.
Since last year began, the Eagles have played 22 games.
Jones has finished nine of them.
He’s gotten hurt in four of them.
He’s missed nine of them.
So he’s been available from start to finish of less than half the Eagles' games since last year began, and that doesn’t even include playing just one game as a rookie or the games last year when he tried to play but clearly wasn't right.
Jones has never played more than five consecutive games without getting hurt. He’s played just three healthy games since Week 6 of last year.
He's hurt again. His status for the Jets is unknown.
• Jones left the Giants game last October at the Meadowlands with a hamstring injury and missed the next three games.
• He left the Saints nightmare last November at the Superdome with a hamstring injury and missed another game.
• He left the Cowboys game a few weeks later with a hamstring injury and missed the rest of the season — the last three regular-season games and the postseason.
• And on Thursday night he left the Packers game with a hamstring injury.
It’s been a two-year loop of hamstring injuries followed by a few healthy games followed by either a new hamstring injury or aggravating the original one.
And let’s be honest. When he’s been healthy, he’s been a disappointment.
You can see flashes of the ability. You can see bits and pieces. There are moments you see exactly what the Eagles liked about Jones when they scouted him. The athleticism. The playmaking. The instincts.
But for a guy in his third year in the program, he’s been way too inconsistent, even when healthy.
Eagles secondary coach Cory Undlin was asked earlier this week about Jones’ performance so far:
“I can show you 10 plays where the kid’s outstanding,” he said. “I can show you obviously a handful of other plays where we’d like better. No different than anybody else.”
But it is different because the Eagles took Jones with the 43rd pick in the 2017 draft. The only other corners they've drafted that high in the last half century are Roynell Young, Eric Allen and Lito Sheppard.
They invested a lot in the kid and so far the payoff has been nine healthy games and four hamstring injuries.
And if Jones were giving the Eagles the type of steady, productive, healthy cornerback play you’d expect from a third-year second-round pick, I guarantee you wouldn't be hearing about Jalen Ramsey every second of the day.
I asked Doug Pederson on Wednesday if he’s concerned with Jones’ inability to stay healthy.
His answer was a non-answer:
Well, the No. 1 thing is making sure he is healthy before we put him out there. I trust our medical team, I trust our doctors, I trust Sidney. You have to listen to your body, obviously. Everybody's different. We'll put him out there when it’s time.
My takeaway from that comment after four years around Pederson is that if he weren’t concerned about Jones, he would have said so.
But he didn’t.
And it’s understandable if the Eagles privately are starting to wonder about Jones.
His big thing in college was his speed. He ran a 4.47 40-yard dash before he got hurt.
I don’t know what that figure would be now, but he sure hasn’t played like a 4.47 guy when he's been healthy.
I worry that there’s a cumulative effect of the injuries — a blown out Achilles and an endless series of hamstrings — that could prevent Jones from ever becoming the sort of consistent playmaking corner the Eagles need him to be.
Jones was limited at practice on Wednesday and hasn't been ruled out for the Jets game Sunday.
He was at his locker briefly after practice but declined an interview request and said he would talk Thursday.
The good news is that Jones is only 23 and doesn’t turn 24 until the spring. He’s got time to figure this out. He works hard. This clearly isn't a question about effort.
The bad news is that with Ronald Darby out indefinitely with his latest injury, Jalen Mills not eligible to practice for another two weeks and Cre’Von LeBlanc out for at least another four games, the Eagles desperately need a healthy, productive Jones.
They don’t have it. And the longer this cycle of injuries goes on, the more I wonder if they ever will.
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