Back to the Slot for Sidney
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Lost in the wash of multiple issues engulfing the Eagles was the out-of-sight, out-of-mind reality that Sidney Jones was benched, a stunning development for a player who was once regarded as the best press-coverage corner in the 2017 NFL Draft until a torn Achilles suffered at his pro day took the Golden State native down a path of uncertainty.
Jones ultimately went from top-15 hopeful to second-round pick of the Eagles after Philadelphia's original plan -- drafting Dalvin Cook -- was derailed by Minnesota trading up for the star running back. A redshirt season in which Jones played only the regular-season finale during the organization's Super Bowl run has turned into a year and a half of stops and starts due to multiple hamstring issues -- four to be exact -- and shattered confidence.
By Sunday night in North Texas Jones was a DNP-CD as the Eagles laid a 37-10 egg with first place on the line in the NFC East.
Part of it had to do with Jalen Mills, a proven commodity and Jim Schwartz favorite, returning from a year-long foot problem but when Mills was removed late it was the lightly-regarded Craig James subbing in, not Jones.
“Why didn’t Sidney Jones play? Well, we had Jalen Mills back this week, so it was great to see him out there," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said during his Monday afternoon news conference. “We had Rasul [Douglas] on the other side, so that was the game plan we went with.”
When pressed why James, a practice-squad graduate, was next in line, however, Pederson played better defense than Jones ever has.
“That was the plan this week,” Pederson said. “Sidney’s fine. He’s OK."
Schwartz expanded on that plan Tuesday by confirming that Jones was serving as the backup to Orlando Scandrick in the slot.
The fact that Jones is completely healthy from his latest hamstring issue suffered in Green Bay is actually another warning signal as to just how far gone the Eagles believe he is, though. His latest poor performance was in Minnesota when one of the NFL's best route-runners, Adam Thielen, badly beat the struggling CB with a slick double move in the end zone.
Despite the fact Jones has played some slot CB in the past Schwartz felt Scandrick was the better option against his former team in Dallas but the veteran was released on Monday, likely giving Jones one more opportunity in Buffalo to salvage his Philadelphia career.
Avonte Maddox is still out with multiple issues (neck/concussion) and Cre'Von LeBlanc is not eligible to get back into the mix until after Week 8 at the earliest so Schwartz will likely have to mix and match between his four top outside corners against the Bills with Mills, Rasul Douglas and Ronald Darby, who dressed in Dallas only in case of emergency as he nears a return from his own hamstring issue, doing the heavy lifting outside the numbers and Jones having to work where he is less comfortable.
"We’ll see," Schwartz said. “[Sidney] can play that position. Obviously, Malcolm (Jenkins) can play that position … and then sometime we will get Cre’Von and Avonte back too, so we’ve got a lot of different players who can play in that position, but Sid started last year in that position and was able to hold that position, so we have confidence that whoever we put in there will be able to accomplish that role."
Pederson has benched players before -- most notably Nelson Agholor after a poor performance in Seattle in 2016 and Isaac Seumalo after a terrible outing in Kansas City the next season. In both cases, a step back and a moment to breathe helped both players to recover, at least somewhat.
The Eagles are hoping for the same when it comes to Jones but the leash is getting very short.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen