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December 22, 2023

The Eagles' loss of Avonte Maddox was kind of a big deal

When he's healthy, Avonte Maddox is one of the best slot corners in the NFL, and the Eagles have missed him badly over the last three months.

Eagles NFL
1361_09142023_Eagles_Vikings_Avonte-Maddox.jpg Kate Frese/For PhillyVoice

Avonte Maddox

The Eagles opened the 21-day practice window for Avonte Maddox on Thursday after he missed 12 games with a pectoral injury suffered Week 2 against the Vikings.

Maddox missed games at three different junctures during the season in 2022, and has missed a dozen games so far in 2023. He also missed three games in 2018, four games in 2019, and six games in 2020. Obviously, he has significant durability issues.

However, when he's healthy, he's one of the best slot corners in the NFL, and the Eagles have missed him badly over the last three months. They have tried to replace him with a half dozen different players — James Bradberry, Mario Goodrich, Bradley Roby, Josiah Scott, Sydney Brown, and Eli Ricks. All of those guys even started games in the slot, with the exception of Ricks. A look at the Eagles' slot corner starters, by game:

• Week 1, Patriots: Avonte Maddox
• Week 2, Vikings: Avonte Maddox
• Week 3, Buccaneers: James Bradberry
• Week 4, Commanders: James Bradberry
• Week 5, Rams: Mario Goodrich
• Week 6, Jets: Bradley Roby
• Week 7, Dolphins: Josiah Scott
• Week 8, Commanders: Sydney Brown
• Week 9, Cowboys: Sydney Brown
• Week 11, Chiefs: Bradley Roby
• Week 12, Bills: Bradley Roby
• Week 13, 49ers: Bradley Roby
• Week 14, Cowboys: Bradley Roby
• Week 15, Seahawks: Sydney Brown

Slot corners have to communicate with outside corners, safeties, and linebackers, so when you're playing six different guys in there it's difficult to achieve cohesiveness. The Eagles' biggest weakness this season has been pass defense, and opposing offenses have consistently and successfully attacked the middle of the field, oftentimes out of the slot. Those teams have gotten some big individual performances from receivers who often worked out of the slot:

• Terry McLaurin, Commanders: 8 catches, 86 yards
• Cooper Kupp, Rams: 8 catches, 118 yards
• Garrett Wilson, Jets: 8 catches, 90 yards
• Tyreek Hill, Dolphins: 11 catches, 88 yards, 1 TD (one wide-open TD, dropped)
• Terry McLaurin, Commanders: 5 catches, 63 yards, 1 TD
• CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys: 11 catches, 191 yards
• Stefon Diggs, Bills: 6 catches, 74 yards, 1 TD
• Deebo Samuel, 49ers: 4 catches, 116 yards, 2 TDs
• CeeDee Lamb: 6 catches, 71 yards, 1 TD

(Those guys didn't necessarily work out of the slot exclusively, but they all did at least some notable damage from the slot.)

Maddox's return to the lineup, whenever that happens, won't magically fix the Eagles' pass defense, but he could help make a notable difference.

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