Avonte Maddox Has Been Among Eagles Most Valuable and Versatile Defenders
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - A month into his professional career Avonte Maddox was thrown into the deep end of the pool and told to swim.
The rookie defensive back who played outside cornerback at the University of Pittsburgh was a surprise starter in Nashville at free safety in place of the injured Rodney McLeod during Week 4. More so, Maddox had to play more than expected when veteran Corey Graham went down early with a hamstring injury against the Titans.
Maddox was a full-time safety against Minnesota and less than two weeks after being inserted in the starting lineup the speedy Maddox was in the slot against Eli Manning and the New York Giants when Sidney Jones was forced to the sideline with his own hamstring injury.
So here's the scorecard for the 5-foot-9, 184-pound Detroit native since he relocated to the city of Brotherly Love: with his size limitations in mind, the first goal was the nickel where Maddox settled in as the backup to Jones after lapping De'Vante Bausby late in training camp, then it was off to the back end in place of the underrated McLeod and Graham, where Maddox was tasked with some serious communication responsibilities despite having never played the position, and now it was back inside at the line of scrimmage once Jones was banged up.
The only thing Maddox hasn't done is what put him on the NFL's radar as a prospect to begin with, his acumen as an outside corner in college.
But, that's what the NFL is -- a war of attrition from week-to-week where the only goal is to use your healthy pieces to get a win.
With Jones labeled as "week-to-week" by Doug Pederson moving forward, a designation that surely means the second-year corner will be missing some time in the coach's parlance, the plan used to get through the rain in East Rutherford -- start Maddox at free safety and move him into the slot in the nickel defense with Rasul Douglas, typically an outside corner, rotating into free safety, may remain the short-term plan moving forward.
By no means is that a given, however, because Jim Schwartz could have Graham back and will have a little extra time to get the defense ready for Carolina in Week 7. The defensive coordinator also has traditional safeties like Deiondre' Hall and Tre Sullivan at his disposal and the Panthers' offense also relies heavily on the talents of bruising dual-threat QB Cam Newton as well as Christian McCaffrey, meaning tackling will be on the forefront of Schwartz's mind all week.
Whatever the DC comes up with, though, you can be sure Maddox will be in the middle of it.
"[Maddox] brought some energy to us. Shows great range," Schwartz said when discussing the rookie earlier in the week. "He picked things up extremely quick, but I said that last week. When you play the nickel position you basically play a safety position for us."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen