One of the early stars of Eagles training camp has been Sidney Jones, the third-year cornerback whose first two NFL seasons have been plagued by injuries.
So far, Jones has done something every day that really makes you take notice.
It’s only a start, but it’s a positive start for the 23-year-old Jones, who missed virtually all his rookie year because of that Achilles injury he suffered at his Pro Day in May of 2018 and then missed a good chunk of last year with a hamstring injury that just wouldn't go away.
I feel better physically, spiritually, health-wise,” Jones said. “I feel really good about everything. It’s been pretty good. A lot of positives, still a lot to get better at … It’s good for me just to be able to realize if something (bad) happens, know what happened and know how to not have it happen again.
Eagles fans have yet to see what kind of player Jones really is.
“For sure,” he said. “For sure.”
He was healthy early last year before initially hurting his hamstring on Oct. 11 against the Giants in East Rutherford. He missed three games, came back and tried to play for three games, then shut down for the rest of the season.
I wanted to recover as fast as possible but obviously didn’t have a bunch of weeks to just baby it,” he said. “The week that I came back (against the Saints) it was kind of like we were already down (several corners) so personally I was in a spot where I was probably not ready but just being in that football environment growing up, trying to push through stuff, that’s what football is. But you can’t do that with some injuries. Ankle sprains maybe but not hamstrings. I was like, ‘It’s go time, I’m playing corner, my team needs me,’ so I didn’t think twice about it. All it was was putting the team first. But it hurt me in the long run. It is what it is and you learn from it.
The low point was that Saints game, the regular-season 48-7 loss at the Superdome.
It was Jones' first career start at outside corner, and he simply couldn’t function.
The Saints knew he was hobbled and as NBC Sports’ Peter King revealed later, their gameplan was to go after him as much as possible.
“Good game plan for them,” he says now. “They were smart about it.”
He's a different guy now.
In the early days of camp, Rasul Douglas has been working exclusively outside, with Avonte Maddox and Jones taking turns inside and outside.
Jones has never played in the slot before but said he’s embraced it and understands the value of versatility.
"It’s huge,” he said. “It’s one of the more unappreciated things that I’ve dealt with. I’m an outside corner. So going to play inside, it’s something new. … I’m going to contribute to this team, I’m going to play for this team, but if somebody goes down I have the confidence of going in there, wherever it is."
Good luck trying to figure out this Eagles cornerback picture.
There are injured guys (Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, Cre’Von LeBlanc). There are new guys (Orlando Scandrick, Alex Brown). There are young guys (Douglas, Maddox, Jones). And there are camp legs (Josh Hawkins, Jeremiah McKinnon, Jay Liggins).
There are a bunch of guys who can make a claim for a starting spot.
Jones is certainly at the top of that list.
"All I can do is come out here and get 1 percent better every day, make sure I’m trying to reach perfection in terms of every day coming off the field and being assignment sound and having the coaches have the trust in me going forward," he said. "You can’t worry about it."
The kid is a former second-round pick who would have been a first-round pick if he was healthy.
At some point he's going to be a big-time contributor. At some point he's going to be a starter.
Don't be surprised if that point is sooner than later.
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