The Eagles secondary is in agony right now, which is the last thing it needs ahead of a clash with Drew Brees and the high-flying Saints. Without Ronald Darby or Jalen Mills, the idea of somehow stopping an offense that’s averaging close to 40 points per game is a little terrifying. But the Eagles could have an ace up their sleeve in the way of former second-round pick, Sidney Jones.
Having missed the last three games with a hamstring injury, all signs are pointing towards Jones making his return inside the Mercedes Benz Superdome. Prior to his injury, it’s fair to say that Jones experienced the expected ups and downs of a player who had missed his entire rookie season due to an Achilles injury suffered prior to the Draft.
From allowing over 50 yards of offense against the Vikings in his sloppiest performance to date, to the shutdown tendencies displayed in his opening two games where he allowed just 4 receptions and 18 yards through 59 snaps, Jones showed plenty of promise and it’s going to take all of that and more to have an impact against his next opponent.
The borderline-unstoppable Michael Thomas has 78 receptions for 950 yards and 7 touchdowns already this season, averaging over 100 receiving yards per game and catching passes at a near 90% clip. That’s who Sidney Jones will likely be tasked with silencing if he does make his return on Sunday evening.
Not much else really needs to be said about Thomas, but if you ever need an example of just how ridiculous he is, here you go.
Marcus Williams picks of Dalton and takes it from his own five-yard line deep into Bengals territory. By the time the big safety had been stopped, there was just eight seconds left with the Saints inside the red zone. Surely, this would scream a field goal attempt…right?
Not when Drew Brees has completed 77% of his passes in the last two games. Instead, with a sizable lead, sent Michael Thomas as the knife that would plunge into the heart of the Cincy secondary to catch a predictable touchdown. You almost knew the ball was going to find Thomas and I’m sure the defense did too, but there was nothing they could do to stop him.
Many have tried and ultimately failed to stop Michael Thomas this season, but if the Eagles have any hope of this game being anything other than a shootout or a Saints blowout, their defense has to be at its best and that means limiting those explosive plays that Thomas has become renowned for this season.
For Jones, this game goes beyond just holding Michael Thomas to a colder game. The future of Ronald Darby is now wildly up in the air after his contract year was cut short and Jalen Mills will be entering his contract year next season. Jones spent most of his rookie year playing inside and this would be his first real test on an island since week 17 last season. If he can prove that he’s ready and willing to go toe-to-toe with one of the best in the game, it could provide a huge sense of relief moving forward as well as being crucial for his development.
It’s not yet known just how much of the field Sidney Jones will see in this crucial matchup, but you can expect a red-hot Drew Brees to be targeting Thomas early and often. If Jones doesn’t play outside, it’s going to leave Rasul Douglas or potentially someone like the recently signed Cre’Von LeBlanc to hold up strong. The pressure is well and truly on and if the Eagles can find a way to disrupt the route-running of Thomas or force Brees to look the other way for a fraction of a second, that could be the difference between a dominant defensive outing with the veteran on his back for a lot of the game, or an offensive rump.
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