McMullen on the Eagles: Give Byron a Chance
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — It didn't take Nostradamus whispering in your ear to see this one developing.
Philadelphia can be tough on its athletes and the scrutiny only grows when a big paycheck is involved. For weeks I've been concerned that Byron Maxwell's big-money contract will spawn unrealistic expectations and it took all of one week for that thesis to be rubber-stamped.
Maxwell predictably struggled in the Eagles' 26-24 loss at Atlanta on Monday night, being victimized time and time again by Falcons star receiver Julio Jones.
It was so bad that the $63 million-dollar man was rated the worst Philadelphia defender on the night by the analytics-based, player-rating website Pro Football Focus.
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A lot of coaches dislike PFF because it offers little context. For instance, in this case Jones is by far the best player on the Falcons, an All-Pro level contributor considered by most as one of the two or three best receivers in football so it makes some sense that those given the task of slowing No. 11 down are going to have a bad night.
And Maxwell sure did, being targeted 11 times on Monday and allowing 10 catches for 179 yards, the worst numbers of any NFL cornerback in Week 1. The former junior member of the "Legion of Boom" in Seattle was on Jones when the star caught a 22-yard TD pass from Matt Ryan and again when Jones snared a 44-yard, nine-route to set up Matt Bryant's game-winning field goal.
"What'd he have?" Maxwell asked a reporter after getting drubbed.
When told Jones finished with nine receptions for 141 yards and two TDs, Maxwell was almost in awe.
"Damn," he said. "... Julio's a great player. It's my first time going against him. He's a big, strong, fast dude."
That kind of tip-the-cap mentality is certainly not going to play well in Philly but watch Atlanta's next 15 opponents and you might see similar reactions.
As expected Maxwell didn't shadow Jones and perhaps the bigger issue was that the 33-year-old Roddy White, who caught four balls for 84 yards, also was able to victimize Maxwell at times.
"When you do that, it's not interchangeable where you can take a corner and then put him inside and say if it is a zone call now you're actually playing linebacker on this play," Eagles coach Chip Kelly explained Tuesday when discussing the game plan. "So that's where it becomes a difficult deal. (The Falcons) do a nice job scheming that so that you can't do that to (Jones)."
A day before Malcolm Jenkins also addressed the thought process.
"We don't want to be unsettled chasing a guy around all day," the veteran safety said. "And we felt comfortable with Nolan Carroll covering (Jones). I covered him a few times in the slot."
Actually no one really covered Jones but the good news is that a player like that is not lining up against you every week and one of the Alabama's products few peers on this planet, Dez Bryant, will not be able to go against the Eagles on Sunday due to a broken foot.
So the real question is can Maxwell survive being the big-money free agent in this market?
The Philadelphia fan base is very myopic and many have no idea really good players exist outside the NovaCare Complex.
Twitter was abuzz when Jones was torturing Maxwell with Bradley Fletcher comparisons flowing as the new kid on the block was getting burned in real time.
And that's unfair.
Good players, and that's what Maxwell is, get overpaid if they reach free agency and that's exactly what happened to the former Seattle corner. Maxwell is being paid like he's Richard Sherman or Darrelle Revis and he's not. What he is, however, is a significant upgrade over what was here last year and at some point that is going to show up.
"(It was) just inconsistencies in techniques," Kelly said. "I think Byron would be the first one to tell you that. When he was locked up in technique, he did a really good job. When he got beat, you can look at where he was from a technical standpoint and that's where he got beat."
The Eagles lost backup center David Molk for the year with a torn right biceps. He played in five special-teams snaps in the loss to the Falcons on Monday night and Josh Andrews, a second-year player out of Oregon State who was inactive in Atlanta, will likely now take over as Jason Kelce's caddy.
Philadelphia had not yet filled Molk's roster as of Tuesday night but Julian Vandervelde, who was released on Sept. 5 and can also play inside, seems like the most logical option, although if the team concerned about the play of new starting guards Allen Barbre and Andrew Gardner this could also be an opportunity to bring back John Moffitt, the former third-round pick who was attempting a comeback with the Eagles in the preseason after two years out of the game.
The Eagles also made a pair of moves on their practice squad, bringing back former Villanova runner back Kevin Monangai and defensive tackle Travis Raciti. Monangai was the replacement for Raheem Mostert, who was signed by the Miami Dolphins, and Philadelphia released rookie tight end Andrew Gleichert to make room for Raciti.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973ESPN.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen