The curious case of Byron Maxwell

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Byron Maxwell has had a rollercoaster season so far, leaving fans and analysts a little sceptical on if he was worth the $63 million. From a disastrous opening week which saw him torched by Julio Jones to his first pick (as we predicted) a few weeks back, Maxwell has seen it all this season..but has largely been overlooked due to the fantastic play of Walter Thurmond and Malcolm Jenkins at Safety, not to mention Nolan just how much does Maxwell bring to this Secondary?

It’s a tough question to answer but there are some interesting stats to take into account when evaluating his performance so far. The first is looking at how poor he was in the opening weeks in comparison to how good he has been in recent games. It’s fair to say that in weeks 1-3, he was shocking. Perhaps it was the Man-to-man coverage or perhaps it was something else..but he was leaving far too much space between himself and his receiver and often ended up behind the wideout off the line of scrimmage.

But since week 4, Maxwell has allowed only 107 total receiving yards, picked up an Interception and hasn’t allowed a single touchdown. Even more impressive is that when you look at how he played against Julio and Brandon Marshall and compare it to how he’s lined up against Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham Jr, things get interesting.

Odell Beckham Jr -2 targets, 2 catches, 17 yards, 0TD’s

Dez Bryant- 2 targets, 1 catch, 12 yards, 0TD’s

Against the Cowboys in week 2, he seemed lost at times. Against the Cowboys last night, he finally showed flashes of becoming a true shutdown corner. He was only targeted five times throughout the entire game and was absolutely excellent. Glued to his receiver, he let up very little in the way of yardage. But there were two things proving to be a dark cloud over this shutdown performance.

  1. The two insane PI calls.
  2. His inability to tackle.

Maxwell was the victim of two absurd pass interference calls right at the end of the fourth quarter in the Eagles’ emphatic Defensive stand that left fans up in arms and utterly bewildered. It got to the point where I was expecting Maxwell to be flagged for holding on the coin toss in Overtime! The penalties should not have been called and they did pour a metaphorical jug of cold water over a red hot Byron Maxwell.

Maxwell is a great corner..but his tackling is somewhat to be desired. He doesn’t appear to have that much in the way of strength and is often knocked flying by blockers or pushed out of the way if he is attempting to shut off a route. Regardless of this, it does not take away from his ability to shut of routes or deflect passes.

The thing is, Maxwell arrived at the team with a world of expectation on his shoulders. A former Legion of Boom member and a Superbowl Champion. If the Secondary wasn’t so dire the season before perhaps there wouldn’t have been so much pressure. But it was the equivalent of having a terrible Quarterback and signing someone like Andrew Luck the year after..the pressure would be insurmountable. So when he suffers a bad game or a flurry of bad form, the world is quick to jump on his back. Not only that, but Maxwell had only played in 17 games prior to his move to the Linc and had never played in a scheme so diverse.

A large part of his recent success has to come down to familiarity. After half a season playing under Bill Davis, Maxwell no longer looks like a lost puppy before snaps and seems much more confident in his playing style, going out of his way before the game to say that he doesn’t need to shadow Dez Bryant…and being correct.

If you had asked the question is Byron Maxwell worth $63 million? a few weeks back then the general consensus would have been absolutely not..but things have changed and the corner is evolving all the time. It’s still unclear if he is worth every last nickel, but the signs of improvement are most definitely there. Maxwell has been a key part in the success of the Eagles Secondary, especially in divisional games. With Dez, Odell and guys like DeSean Jackson all in the NFC East, the Eagles needed a dominant cornerback and it seems that after a tough break..the ceiling might be increasingly high for Byron Maxwell.