November 07, 2017
The Philadelphia Eagles have repeatedly said that they have no intentions of rushing rookie cornerback Sidney Jones back into action. And given the play of their secondary so far this season, plus the anticipated return of Ronald Darby following the bye week, that’s a much easier pill for Birds fans to swallow then it was, say, in mid-August.
The Eagles have been noncommittal on whether or not Jones, who has been out with a torn Achilles’ tendon suffered at Washington’s pro day back in March, will even play this year. No longer on Injured Reserve, the second-round pick is eligible to return to practice, still hasn’t gotten the OK from team doctors.
That, however, doesn’t mean Jones hasn’t been busy. Even though he can’t be out on the field, it very much seems like the Birds want their second-round pick mentally ready to go once he’s medically cleared to play, whenever that may be.
And according to secondary coach Cory Undlin, Jones already “knows the defense,” meaning the only thing holding him back is his injured Achilles.
“He has not changed since he got here,” Undlin said Tuesday when asked about Jones. “Every meeting – hasn’t missed one meeting. Hasn’t missed a practice. I mean, he's missed practice because he’s not [healthy], but he’s out there every single day. He stands right next to us. He gets every call in every period. I call on him in the meetings as if he was playing – he’s obviously not. He knows the defense.”
Knowing something, in theory, is much different than applying it in practice. And Undlin understands that the meeting room and the playing field are hardly the same.
“Now, it’s a lot different being in the meeting room and calling it out than it is when you’re standing out there and somebody shifts or motions. So we’ll get to that point when we get to it. I don’t know when that’s going to be, but I’ve been very impressed with how he’s approached this entire situation he’s been in; it’s not easy.”
So aside from watching practice, studying his playbook, and attending every meeting, what has helped the 21-year-old adjust to life in the NFL?
Part of it comes from Doug Pederson’s decision to have Jones travel with the team, even before he was eligible to return to practice, something that should help him understand to the day-to-day schedule of being a professional athlete – something that rookies typically have to learn on the fly.
“Again, he hasn’t missed anything,” Undlin said. “So, any time you can be in it like you’re playing the game, whenever that time comes [for him to return], whether that’s this year or next year or whenever it is, he’s already been through that entire process: traveling, being in meetings at the hotel, those days are long sometimes, especially when you play at night. There’s a lot of sitting around and waiting … but I think the more comfortable he gets and is invert situation he can be in, the better the transition will be when he’s ready to play.”
The other part comes from the players he’s surrounded by on a daily basis.
“I think, especially right now, it’s fortunate that he’s in a room like that with Malcolm [Jenkins] and Rodney [McLeod] and Pat Robinson, even Jalen Mills to this point, to see how it goes,” Undlin said. “Obviously, when you’re playing like we are right now and you’re winning games, it obviously helps that situation as well. [I’ve been] very, very impressed with him and his ability to stay locked in. When he gets out there – I have no idea when that is, but we’ll find out – then we’ll talk about [if he’s going to be plugged right in] once he gets out there, whether its this year or next year.”
With all the mental preparation for Jones, it should be a smooth transition for sideline to defensive backfield once he’s 100 percent healthy, right?
“I won’t know that until he’s out there,” Undlin added with a shrug.
Luckily, he doesn’t really have to worry much about that, at least not yet. But with an NFL-best 8-1 record, the Eagles seem to be doing just fine without Jones.
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