It’s been a week like no other in Philadelphia sports and not for the right reasons. The brightest star in the sky was ripped from the night as MVP candidate Carson Wentz suffered a torn ACL, plunging a dagger into the heart of the team’s Super Bowl dreams. However, every cloud has a silver lining.
Doug Pederson cleared the Eagles second-round selection from this year, Sidney Jones to return to practice. As the future of Carson Wentz’s career was thrust into uncertainty, another player was returning from a torn Achilles injury. The Eagles secondary has been ruptured with injuries all year long, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
“He’s worked really, really hard at putting himself in this position.” Schwartz said of the former Washington standout. “He’s had a big injury. He’s been diligent. He’s been consistent. He’s kept a great attitude and all that will serve him. But we’ll just have to see how it is on the field because we can’t judge him based on any other rookie or any other veteran player. He’s at a completely different spot.”
Patience has been preached from the moment Jones stepped inside the facility. With a year to process the game inside the film room and learn from the likes of Ronald Darby and Malcolm Jenkins, a somewhat ‘redshirt’ campaign should serve him well. But with three games remaining, is there a chance we could see the coveted rookie take to the field?
“I think we’ll see pretty quickly that he has a good grasp of what he’s expected to do and that’s really working on his rehab and keeping his ears open and his eyes open has been his No. 1 job description over these last six months, I don’t even know how long it’s been.” The Eagles defensive coordinator said when asked what we should expect to see from Jones at practice. “I’ve been really proud of what he’s done there. I would be very surprised if he can’t go in and execute what we’re asking him to do. It’s just going to be physical. I mean, there’s certainly a lot of rust that goes into, — all due respect to our trainers, they are not a challenge to cover, and he’s only been working with those guys. So we’ve got to take each step along the way. It’s almost like the first week of OTAs for him. It’s not even really a first week of training camp. It’s more like first week of OTAs for him.”
“So technique-wise, conditioning-wise, all those things are going to come into it. And he’s got a little bit of time. He’s been up to every challenge we’ve given him so far, so we look forward to seeing him on the field.”
It’s a complete reset for Jones. The Eagles cornerback corps has been shuffled around several times already this season, with Rasul Douglas stepping up to the plate when Ronald Darby fell injured in week one. Jalen Mills has been the lone corner to start in every game this season but with the unit now at full strength, there would be no reason to hurry him back.
Playoffs are a certainty and the race for the #1 seed begins. Unless the Eagles can win and the Vikings lose, cementing their number one spot which would then create two “empty” matchups, there would be no chance for Jones to come in without heavy responsibility…and pulling Jalen Mills or Patrick Robinson in a crucial moment at the end of the season would simply go down like a cup of cold coffee.
Sure, they could move Mills inside, but that leaves an unsettled Patrick Robinson, who has been exceptional all year long. The easiest thing to do, is just wait.
“Sidney Jones, when we started this process, was one of the guys that we were talking about with the 14th pick in the draft in our first stack of players.” Howie Roseman told the media after making the pick. “As we looked at it, great character, great player. Obviously, the injury is a factor here. That’s the reason that he was available. We spent a lot of time with our doctors — Dr. DeLuca [Eagles head team physician Dr. Peter DeLuca] and Chris Peduzzi, our head trainer — talking about this situation.”
The Eagles have not put a foot wrong yet in this process, keeping the health and recovery of Jones a priority. His potential is sky-high, but the Birds have all the time in the world to capitalize on that.
In his sophomore season, Jones led the pac-12 in pass breakups with 12, intercepting 4 and showing his strength as a tackler, forcing three fumbles. One year later, he would pick off another three passes as well as breaking up a further six..being named first-team All-Pac 12 in the process.Jones has a firm punch at the line of scrimmage when initiating bump-and-run coverage and has incredible spatial awareness. Those numbers certainly jump off the screen..and it’s something that wasn’t lost on Roseman or the rest of the Eagles front office.
The Eagles secondary is looking stronger than ever, but there is no need to risk forcing Jones into a game prematurely, especially with a week or two of practicing before being dropped into NFL action. His first taste of which would also be his first game since Washington’s loss to Alabama, almost 12 months ago.
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Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports