With the Eagles mandatory training camp on the horizon, news broke out of Philly regarding defensive back Avonte Maddox. Reportedly, the talented sophomore player may be tasked with a position-switch depending on how the summer plays out:
At first glance, the news seems to cast a bit of doubt on the chances of the sticky defensive back remaining at the cornerback position. The report is also a bit perplexing considering the bevy of success Maddox enjoyed while manning the nickel cornerback slot last season.
As a fourth-round rookie out of Pittsburgh, Maddox received a much higher workload than the team anticipated so early in his career. After the Eagles defensive backfield was decimated one-by-one by injury, Maddox was thrust into action as a rookie and performed admirably in relief duty. Maddox absorbed all defensive schemes, tips, and tricks from Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and veteran S Malcolm Jenkins like a sponge and implemented the techniques flawlessly when called upon. His footwork was a constant bright spot and he often used his elite speed to close out on receivers and prevent big plays.
Maddox was hardly ever out of position and seemed to have a real nose for the ball- collecting two interceptions and four pass breakups in just nine starts during the regular season. The dynamic cornerback was also an integral part of why the Eagles defense was so successful in the playoffs.
In two highly-contested playoff battles against the NFC’s No.1 and 3 seed New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears, Maddox was outstanding- making plays all over the field. In a low-scoring wildcard round affair against the Bears, the rookie Maddox was a man on a mission as he piled up three pass breakups to go along with his five solo tackles. In the divisional round matchup on the road in New Orleans, it was more of the same for Maddox. Despite being a bit smaller than your everyday player, the gifted corner recorded eight total tackles (six solo) and tacked on another pass breakup for good measure. His rangy aerial coverage and blazing-speed helped slow the explosive Drew Brees-led passing offense. Maddox, along with the other defensive backs, were incredibly efficient down and around the red zone and kept the Saints from running up the score like they were accustomed to.
Now, the improving Maddox may be on the verge of a position switch- to no fault of his own. Locked in one of the deepest defensive backfields in the league, Maddox will have to outperform Eagles corners Ronald Darby, Sidney Jones, Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, and Cre’Von LeBlanc for a starter spot in order to avoid a transition to safety.
Maddox facing such an uphill climb to reach the field as a corner may seem a bit unfair considering how well he performed when called upon last year, but it’s not entirely surprising and shouldn’t discourage the Pitt product. For starters, Maddox is entering his second season in the NFL. Though he performed admirably for a stretch last season, he isn’t exactly a solidified veteran with a decorated resume. It makes perfect sense for him to be competing against other corners who, too, have performed well in stretches under DC Jim Schwartz.
The wildcard in all of this is Andrew Sendejo, who as we know, could well be cut in order for the Eagles to claim a compensatory pick in next year’s draft. If the team are comfortable with Maddox as their third safety, this may be the catalyst in said decision.
This report could simply be the Eagles publicly lighting a fire under Maddox- a player who’s potential clearly intrigues the team- in hopes that he brings his A-game once again this season. Or, the report could serve as a template for the intense training camp battles between the defensive backs moving forward- outplay the other corners or get moved to safety. With championship aspirations abound in Philly, it’s encouraging to see the Eagles aren’t settling for anything less than stellar play at each position. Hopefully, Maddox is once again able to rise to the occasion and secure a hefty amount of playing time this season.
Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports