Avonte Maddox to the Rescue
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Avonte Maddox was drafted to be a nickel cornerback and his football IQ turned out to be so impressive that Jim Schwartz felt most comfortable with him at free safety when Rodney McLeod and Corey Graham were both out with injuries.
On Sunday night, with Sidney Jones nursing his latest hamstring issue, starting corners Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby already done for the year, and Maddox ready to return after missing time with knee and ankle issues, it was time to get back to what put the Pitt product on the NFL's radar in the first place, outside cornerback.
Maddox was a star at Pitt but marked down because of his size -- 5-foot-9 and 183 pounds. After all, how is someone like that supposed to deal with all the lengthy NFL receivers on the outside?
That was Sean McVay's thought during the waning seconds of Sunday's game in Los Angeles. The Rams had one last opportunity to potentially tie the game when the coach told Jared Goff to target the 6-3 Josh Reynolds. Maddox was tasked with defending Reynolds despite giving up a half-foot to his counterpart.
Maddox stuck to Reynolds and shielded the inside as Goff, who was terribly inaccurate on the night, sailed the ball past everybody as the Eagles escaped the left coast with a 30-23 victory despite being a two-touchdown underdog.
“I played the goal line, looking at [Goff] the whole time,” Maddox explained. “I saw [Goff] loading up to throw and I just got back there to make a play.”
And it was hardly the biggest play of the night for Maddox, who broke on a poorly thrown Goff ball earlier in the night for his second career interception.
Despite ping-ponging all over Schwartz's defense as a rookie, Maddox arguably played the most complete game of any CB on the Eagles' roster this season and his reward is an opportunity to do it all over again against Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins after Doug Pederson continued to label Jones as week-to-week at his Monday press conference, a designation that generally means the player will not be in the mix for the week.
Maddox himself only got clearance on Friday of last week and was immediately thrown into the deep end of the pool against trio pf playmakers, Reynolds along with 1,000-yard receivers Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks.
It wasn't perfect but there was far more good than bad with the INT and two other pass breakups.
“He’s a smart guy, he can play multiple positions,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “To do the things that he’s been capable of doing is just a credit to him. He trusts his coaches, he trusts the scheme on defense and puts himself in a position to make plays.”
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen