Whenever we toss around all the scenarios, there’s one that’s so unlikely we generally just dismiss it outright.
What if Sidney Jones can play?
The Eagles currently seem to have Avonte Maddox penciled in at outside corner opposite Darius Slay, the three-time Pro Bowler they acquired in March from the Lions. That would leave Cre’Von LeBlanc and Nickell Roby-Coleman competing for the slot.
It’s hard not to like what Maddox brings to the defense. He’s tough, physical, smart, instinctive and active.
He’s also probably best suited to the slot and only projected as an outside corner because Jones has been injured and ineffective, Rasul Douglas has been inconsistent and prone to allowing big plays, Jalen Mills is now penciled in at safety and LeBlanc is also probably best as an inside corner as well.
It’s not ideal.
But what if Jones figures it all out in Year 4? What if it all comes together mentally and physically for the former second-round pick out of Washington.
It’s hard to imagine because Jones’ first three NFL seasons have been so disappointing.
The first year he rehabbed the Achilles, blown out before the draft at his pro day. The second year he started the first six games of the season in the slot before hamstring injuries ruined the rest of his season. And last year he was again in and out of the lineup with more hamstring injuries and eventually as a healthy scratch.
It’s not much of a resume.
But here’s the thing about Sidney.
We’ve seen some flashes. Enough that we can at least pose the question: Can Sidney Jones be a viable starting cornerback for the Eagles in 2020?
Let’s look at those first six games of 2018, before he got hurt. The Eagles only allowed eight TDs in those six games — sixth-best in the league at that point — and were fourth in the NFL allowing just 18.3 points per game. That was with Jones playing about 40 snaps per game.
And there were moments last year where he showed up.
He picked off Matt Ryan with the Eagles down 10-3 in Atlanta to set up a field goal. He batted down Dak Prescott’s 4th-down pass to Michael Gallup in the final moments of a huge over the Cowboys. He had that INT off Daniel Jones at the Eagles’ 6-yard-line at the Meadowlands on the final day a week later to seal a win and get the Eagles into the playoffs.
It’s not a lot to go on. And certainly the disappointing moments have outnumbered the encouraging ones by a long shot.
Getting benched against the Vikings. Hamstring injury after hamstring injury. Dropping below Craig James and even Orlando Scandrick at one point on the depth chart. A healthy scratch in last year’s playoff loss to the Seahawks.
But here’s the thing. Jones just turned 24 last week. He’s younger than Andre Dillard, who’s only in his second season. At one point before his 2017 pro day he was seen as a mid-first-round talent.
We’ve seen him make a few plays that make you think, “Maybe?”
If he can ever get his hamstrings healthy enough to run, can he be a viable starter?
Heck, as CB2 he wouldn’t even have to match up with the best receivers the Eagles face. Slay would handle that, and Jones would only have to contend with the other team’s WR2.
This is Jones’ last chance with the Eagles. He’s going into the final year of his four-year rookie deal, and if he doesn’t figure this thing out this summer, his next opportunity will be somewhere else.
Sometimes last chances have a way of getting a player’s attention. Maybe something will click, he’ll find a way to get physically stronger and more durable and get his speed back to the 4.47 he ran at the combine.
Is any of this likely? Honestly? No.
The odds are against Jones. He’s a longshot at this point.
But when you’ve seen a guy make plays here and there, it’s hard not to wonder whether he can make them consistently.
In this strangest of NFL offseasons, maybe we all have one more giant surprise in store for us.
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.