Sidney Jones

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

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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.”

Having Sidney Jones lessens blow of small Eagles draft class

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Having Sidney Jones lessens blow of small Eagles draft class

After the 2018 NFL draft was completely finished, Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman had one big takeaway from the whole event. 

“I think we don't want to be in the position where we have this few picks again,” Roseman said. 

After entering Thursday night with just six draft picks, the Eagles ended up with just five players thanks to a trade up to get tight end Dallas Goedert in the second round. 

It’s the second-smallest draft class in franchise history, following the four-man class of 1989. 

But if Roseman or any member of the Eagles’ front office gets bummed about getting just five players in the seven-round draft, all they have to do is look at the draft board in their fancy new war room for a pick-me-up. 

“Being able to get Sidney Jones last year and basically redshirting him and having him right now,” Roseman said, “we view that as a big part of our draft. In fact, in our draft room, on our draft board, we view Sidney Jones as part of this.”

The Eagles took Jones with the 43rd pick (second round) in the 2017 draft with the understanding that he either wouldn’t play at all or would play minimally. At the time, it was a risky pick given the Eagles’ predicament at cornerback, but things worked out. They drafted Rasul Douglas in the round after that, then traded for Ronald Darby and watched Patrick Robinson actually prove a ton on his prove-it deal. 

Jones played in just one game in his rookie season, but the Eagles think they’re heading into the 2018 season with a first-round talent. They simply had to wait a year. 

If looking at the draft board doesn’t do it, take a look at the Super Bowl banner. The Eagles entered the 2018 draft without a second-round pick thanks to the trade in 2016 to move up to No. 2 to take Carson Wentz. They entered without a third-round pick thanks to the Darby trade. And they had just two of their initial three fourth-round picks after trading one for Jay Ajayi. 

So instead of draft picks that might have worked out, they got Wentz, Darby and Ajayi, three contributors in the Super Bowl-winning season. 

But Roseman has a point about not wanting to have this few picks again entering a draft. The Eagles did have to give up one of their seventh-round picks when they moved up Saturday to get giant rugby player Jordan Mailata (see story), but they still have plenty in 2019. 

As it stands, the Eagles will have eight picks in next year’s draft and that’s before adding any possible compensatory picks. With them, it seems likely the Eagles will get into double-digits. If that happens, and if Jones works out, Roseman is going to be one happy football executive. 

Leftovers from breakfast with Doug Pederson

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Leftovers from breakfast with Doug Pederson

ORLANDO, Fla. — While several reporters gathered at the round table next to Doug Pederson and piled their plates full of eggs, fruit and breakfast meats, Pederson decided to go without. The questions were plenty filling. 

The Eagles' head coach arrived at his hour-long media session a tad before the 7:15 a.m. start time and after jokingly checking his watch a few times, agreed to begin. He even went a bit long. 

So an hour-long media session went to about 65 minutes and covered a huge range of topics from Michael Bennett, enjoying the afterglow of the Super Bowl, and, of course, the quarterback situation

Plenty of other topics too. Here are a few more: 

• The Eagles lost several pieces, including Vinny Curry, Patrick Robinson, Beau Allen and LeGarrette Blount. Then, they brought in players like Bennett, Haloti Ngata and Mike Wallace. Pederson was asked about trying to keep the chemistry from last year's Super Bowl run. 

"I don't know if you keep it as much as you rebuild it again," he said. "Our team will be different. It's just the nature."

• The process of rebuilding that chemistry will begin this spring at OTAs. During Pederson's two years, attendance at the "voluntary" training sessions has been nearly perfect, but this year the Eagles played into February. Pederson understands players' bodies might not have had a long time to recover, but he can be smart with the workload he puts on them in the spring. He hopes the attendance stays up. 

"When we left back in February, I encouraged everybody — that was gonna be a concern," he said. "And when I talk about the other side of success, that's what I talk about. Guys not showing up for OTAs. Guys not showing up for the offseason program, thinking they've arrived. I don't think that we have that kind of group. It is hard when you can't communicate with them in the offseason."

• Pederson was asked to name a player who could step up like Nelson Agholor did in 2017. He named Sidney Jones and Mack Hollins first before mentioning Derek Barnett and four young receivers (Greg Ward, Rashard Davis, Bryce Treggs, Shelton Gibson). 

• The Eagles have to find a new slot cornerback after Robinson left in free agency on a pricey deal from New Orleans. Pederson said Jalen Mills and Daryl Worley can both play inside and Mills has the ability to play outside in the base package and move inside on nickel, so that's an option. 

The slot corner spot is much different from playing outside; it takes a different kind of player. 

"One, you gotta have a good change of direction, your short-area quickness," Pederson said. "You don't necessarily have to have the long speed in there. You've got to be tough as nails, you know? You've got to be able to stick your nose in there and make a tackle." 

• At tight end, the Eagles lost Trey Burton in free agency and cut Brent Celek, so they have to replace them. Pederson wouldn't rule out bringing in a free agent or drafting a TE. He also mentioned Billy Brown and Adam Zaruba, two younger players already on the roster. Pederson also said he wouldn't rule out bringing back Celek on a cheaper deal (although that seems unlikely). 

• Cameron Johnston is the only punter on the roster. Pederson said there's a chance they bring in another to compete with him. 

• When asked if he could call the "Philly Special" again, Pederson said no. "There's no way you can call that again," he said. "It's out there."

He wouldn't say it's dead, though, just on the back burner: "[It] may retire and come back."