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June 29, 2020

Eagles new player (or current player with new role) series: Sidney Jones edition

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230922_Eagles_Lions__Sidney_Jones_Kate_Frese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

2020 could be a "do or die" season for Sidney Jones as an Eagle.

During the offseason, we're taking a look at a handful of players who are either new to the Philadelphia Eagles, or are already with the team but we perhaps don't know a lot about them just yet.

Today we'll look at Sidney Jones, who will be headed into his fourth NFL season.


Previous "Eagles new player series" breakdowns

Matt Pryor | Genard Avery | Jatavis Brown
Andre Dillard | T.J. Edwards | Marquise Goodwin
Darius Slay | Avonte Maddox | Jalen Mills
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside


With Jalen Mills on the PUP list to start the season in 2019, Jones and Rasul Douglas sort of took turns playing on the outside opposite Ronald Darby. That configuration didn't last long, after (as always) the Eagles suffered injuries in the secondary, and the constant shuffle was on.

First, below is a look at all of Jones' targets on the season. My apologies for the shaky video quality. I accidentally saved the cutups as gifs, causing a mental breakdown in my house this morning, which I then had to convert into video files, hurting the quality of the videos. You can still see each play well enough, but again, sorry.

Let's do quick snapshots of each game: 

Washington: Shaky start to the season. Jones got lucky on 2 targets, the more egregious of which was a Case Keenum missed a throw on deep ball to Terry McLaurin in which Jones would have otherwise been posterized.

FalconsSolid game. Jones made a bunch of tackles in which he first had to fight through blockers, and he wasn’t culpable for the Falcons’ big plays in that game. He also had a pick.

Lions: Up and down. He gave up a TD to Marvin Jones on a crosser. He did make a nice play on a deep ball to force FG attempt (that was blocked by Malcolm Jenkins) late in that game.

Packers: Started on the outside, gave up a deep ball to Davante Adams, injured his hamstring after 10 snaps, and he was done for the night. He also missed the following week against the Jets.

Vikings: Worst game of the season, by far. Really, the entire Eagles secondary crapped the bed in this matchup, but Jones and Douglas were especially bad. Jones' day:

  1. Gave up a TD on a double move by Thielen inside the red zone. 
  2. Was way behind a receiver on a deep route, but Kirk Cousins threw to a similarly wide open receiver on the other side of the field. He had a TD with a decent throw either way. 
  3. Missed a tackle on Diggs that led to a good gain.
  4. Two penalties, one for DPI, one for defensive holding. 
  5. He took himself out for a series in the third quarter, and his replacement, Craig James, gave up a crucial TD after the Eagles had clawed their way back into the game. 

Bills: Played the slot, and covered Cole Beasley all game. Beasley did slip him once for an 18 yard gain (and he had a TD on which Jones wasn’t involved), but Jones otherwise blanketed him all day.

Giants: Jones played one snap. Giants ball, 3rd and 3 from their own 32, tie score, 1:35 to go in regulation, and Jones played a slant to Darius Slayton perfectly, forcing a punt.

Washington: Jones only played 3 snaps (the final 3 defensive snaps of the game), and Washington threw in his direction twice. He did a poor job tackling a running back in bounds, which would have forced Washington to call their final timeout.

Cowboys: Only played 19 snaps, and was only targeted twice. Those two targets were on the final two defensive snaps of the game, the second of which was a nice PBU on a deep ball to Michael Gallup, which all but clinched the win.

Giants: Overall a nice game. 3 PBUs and a pick, though one of the PBUs came on a play in which he was beaten deep, but the ball was underthrown and hit him in the back.

Notes:

• Barring injury, Avonte Maddox is going to begin the 2020 season as a starter on the outside opposite Darius Slay. Maddox started on the outside in the playoff game against the Seahawks, while Jones was healthy, and didn't play a single snap. It's clear that Jim Schwartz favors Maddox, even if Jones does possess some intriguing talent.

Why? The first half of the 2019 season really tells the story on that. Against the Packers, Jones injured his hamstring, causing him to leave the game after just 10 snaps. He then missed the following week against the Jets. 

Way back in May of 2019, Schwartz was asked about Jones' need to get stronger. It was pointed out to Schwartz that Jones is only around 180 pounds.

"I don't know that weight has a lot to do with it," he said. "I think there are a couple things with corners. It's a tough skillset to play corner when you have to be able to run with world-class athletes down the field.

"Then you also have to step up and take on a pulling guard that weighs 330 pounds or take down a running back that weighs 250. A lot of times those are mutually exclusive skillsets, and corners have to have those. The way that you handle those things is you really have to be – I don’t want to say just strong, but strong is a lot of different ways.

"No. 1, strong being able to take those plays on. No. 2 having the wherewithal to withstand those over the course of 16 games. I have had some really good corners in my history. A lot of them were 400- pound benchers. The 400 pound bench didn't show up in the way that they played, but it showed up in the fact that they were able to play 16 games and be on the field.

"As you're working to get stronger, you're working to be more consistent and be available more, so I think that goes into it."


10 REASONS WHY THE...

COWBOYS | GIANTS | REDSKINS | EAGLES

...WILL BE A DUMPSTER FIRE IN 2020


Jones obviously missed almost the entirety of the 2017 season while recovering from an Achilles tear. That was expected, of course, but he has also missed games both in 2018 and 2019 because of soft tissue injuries. He has not been able to do whatever has been necessary to stay on the field.

But what really likely got him in Schwartz's doghouse was the Vikings game, in which (as noted above) Jones took himself out of the game for a crucial series, and his replacement gave up a touchdown. By contrast, in the Packers game, Maddox was laying on the field after taking a shot from Andrew Sendejo that could have paralyzed him, and it's shown in "All or Nothing" that he was lobbying to trainers to let him continue playing. 

The week after the Vikings game, the starters in Dallas were Mills (returned from PUP), Douglas (who was destroyed worse than Jones in Minny), and Orlando Scandrick (signed off the street a few weeks prior).

Schwartz at times can live with poor play on the field, as we have seen, but he has shown that if he does not trust your mentality, you won't play, right or wrong.

• There aren't major concerns about Jones' tackling while on the field. The 2018 season was shaky in that area, but he was a willing and able tackler in 2019, at least relative to your typical NFL corner. 

• Jones has good ball skills. As you can see, he didn't face a ton of targets in 2019, and he had 2 INTs, and 8 PBUs. He actually tied for the team lead in INTs, and was tied for fourth in PBUs, despite playing fewer than 30 percent of the team's defensive snaps:

 PlayerSnaps PBU 
 Ronald Darby518 11 
 Avonte Maddox524 10 
 Rasul Douglas593 10 
 Sidney Jones301 8 
 Malcolm Jenkins1033 
 Jalen Mills507 


• He was clutch. As noted above, Jones came off the bench and made huge late-game plays against the Giants and Cowboys, helping the Eagles win the NFC East.

2020 outlook

While Jones' career has been disappointing given his second round draft position, he's still a potentially useful player going forward, likely as the primary backup corner on the outside, with some additional slot versatility. Because he has played both inside and outside for the Eagles, he fits in to some degree with the team's "positionless" mindset going forward.

The flashes of talent are there. However, it feels like a "do or die" season for Jones, who must be more consistent both with his play and his availability.


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