Size Comes With a Chip on its Shoulder for Maddox
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Whether he knows it or not Eagles rookie cornerback Avonte Maddox is intimately familiar with the writings of Mark Twain.
It was Samuel Clemens after all -- using his more famous pen name -- who coined the phrase "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog."
At just 5-foot-9 and listed at 184 pounds Maddox played and excelled outside the numbers at the University of Pittsburgh, so much so that he was selected in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the reigning Super Bowl champions despite those significant size limitations.
Remember it was former Eagles coach Chip Kelly who perhaps best explained the NFL mentality back in 2013.
"We want taller, longer people because bigger people beat up little people," Kelly said.
Maddox, however, embraces the idea that many stereotype him as a player because of his frame and often uses it against his opponents.
“I like it," the Detroit native admitted after the Eagles' rookie camp practice on Friday. "They think they will win off the bat so I get up there and give it my all. I like to play smart and watch film. Depending on what the receiver does, I will use it against him. I always attack the ball, I am tough. If you’re bigger than me, I don’t care. You gotta have that dog mentality.”
No matter how tough the dog is, size is going to win out more often than not when a Julio Jones or a Mike Evens is lined up against you.
The list of undersized outside corners in today's NFL who've had some success is shorter than they are, led by Denver star Chris Harris and veteran Tampa Bay corner and Philadelphia native Brent Grimes.
So, despite spending most of his time outside the numbers at Pitt, the Eagles are projecting Maddox inside to the slot as a complement to a host of outside CBs on the roster like Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas.
The goal is to ultimately replace Patrick Robinson, arguably the best slot corner in football last season who signed with New Orleans in free agency.
Maddox's rookie orientation wasn't exactly "go replace Robinson" but it would be a nice luxury if somehow he hits the ground running in the NFL.
Jim Schwartz will have alternatives ready, though, with Mills starting outside and moving inside when the defense shifts into the nickel with either Jones or Douglas entering on the outside. Meanwhile, old reliable himself, Malcolm Jenkins, is also always on call for slot work.
Generally, however, the less moving parts you have, the better, and that's where Maddox fits in.
“I like the pressure on me,” Maddox said when asked about getting on the field “I like to learn and compete. The first thing I did was get in the playbook. I will just go out and work. ... The faster you learn, the faster you get out on the field. You just have to learn your technique."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Want more NFL? Check out John's piece on Ben Roethlisberger being petty in Pittsburgh over at GetMoreSports.com.