Free agency has been a whirlwind for the Philadelphia Eagles and the cornerback position has been at the epicenter of it all. From the signings of Trevor Williams and Nickell Robey-Coleman, to the Darius Slay trade, Howie Roseman has worked hard to remold his secondary. In fact, every corner seems to have enjoyed a slice of the pie.
Sidney Jones is now widely viewed as the team’s current CB2 alongside Slay, while Rasul Douglas has been subject to trade rumors and teams sniffing around his services. But through all the noise, one man who has remained blissfully away from it all is Avonte Maddox.
The Pittsburgh product has had a rollercoaster career so far. As a rookie, he recorded 2 interceptions while allowing a completion percentage of just 45% in 13 games played. He allowed only one touchdown with a passer rating of 52.0. He went from a nickel corner to someone who filled in at Safety in eyebrow-raising fashion in week 8 against the Jags and beyond, setting the bar extremely high for an impressive follow-up campaign.
That sophomore season didn’t go how he would’ve wanted. Maddox allowed 27 more completions this year in 1 game less played. He missed time with a spine-chilling injury after a collision with Andrew Sendejo in week 4, and his return was filled with highs and lows. He also allowed an increased completion percentage of 61%, while receivers ran for 221 yards after the catch. In his rookie season, that number stood at 60.
Maddox definitely flashed some of that same spicy potential we saw in 2018, but all of a sudden, things are just a little…murky?
The cornerback depth chart is brimming with nickel cornerbacks and it’s not like the addition of Robey-Coleman makes life any easier.
Although he’s mostly remembered for that no-call against the Saints two years ago, the 5’8, 180 lbs, cornerback has proven himself to be a reliable enough corner over the last few years with the Rams. With the Eagles, he’s likely going to be forced into that same nickel role and will likely compete head-on with Maddox and LeBlanc
In 2018 and 2019, quarterbacks averaged a rating of 87.9 and 86.9 when throwing his way respectively, allowing a completion rate below 66 percent in that timeframe. However, there’s a fairly worrying area of his game that the Eagles cannot afford to ignore.
What the Eagles will love is his durability. He’s missed one game in seven years, playing in 111 out of 112 possible matchups. In today’s NFL, that’s beyond impressive.
If nickel positions weren’t already hotly contested enough, the Eagles have reportedly spent resources on Amik Robertson, who is widely regarded as one of the best nickel corners in this upcoming draft class.
So, if there are too many chefs in the kitchen, what about moving him outside?
Howie Roseman spoke on this during a recent presser, saying the following:
This is a guy who has started on the outside for us in playoff games, he has the ability to have sticky coverage with receivers inside or out,” Roseman said. “Obviously, he’s also played in the back end. He’s got a great mentality, and he’s got a great physical skill set. He’s an explosive, twitched-up guy as well, so yeah, we feel like he’s a guy who can play all over the secondary and certainly feel comfortable with him outside as well.
Maddox can absolutely play outside. He had a tremendous pick against the Chicago Bears until it was ruled out of bounds. However, he did give up a big touchdown later that game by trying to be similarly instinctive. You live by the sword, you die by the sword.
Maddox is a shorter corner at 5’9, 184 lbs, and while size isn’t everything in this scheme, speed is…and that’s where the Pitt product shines. A 4.39 40-yard dash fits the mold perfectly and he ticks many of the same boxes that both Leodis McKelvin and Ronald Darby (free agent signings under Schwartz) once did…only he’s a far more reliable tackler.
Going head-to-head with Sidney Jones, who has one year less on his rookie contract, might be the best chance of success for Maddox, who may have been pushed out of his comfortable nickel role and into uncharted waters. It sounds like, at least according to Roseman, and knowing that he’s a true Schwarz corner, that the decision may have already been made.
After a bumpy 2019 season, it’s just time to find out whether or not he’ll be able to sink or swim with there being so much depth that carry the same skill set surrounding him.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
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