There’s no denying that the Eagles secondary has undergone a makeover this offseason. Darius Slay is now the star of the show and Nickell Robey-Coleman may hold a slight edge over Cre’Von LeBlanc in the battle for slot duty. What happens opposite Darius Slay however, is anyone’s guess.
For Sidney Jones, this year is a vital one. It’s a career season for the former second-round pick and up to this point, his tenure has been mired with injuries and inconsistency. A breakout at this stage would be crucial for his career, but given the Eagles’ cap situation in 2021, it’s hard to imagine them keeping him around on any deal with substantial guaranteed money.
This only heightens the opportunity for Avonte Maddox, who was taken in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft and finds himself in a weird spot. At just 5’9, 184 lbs, Maddox spent his entire career at Pittsburgh working in the nickel, and that’s understandably where he started making his impact with the Eagles after being chucked into live-action. But when injuries tore through the secondary in the heart of the 2019 campaign, the rookie who had never played Safety before, threw himself into the deep end.
Maddox shined when filling in for Rodney McLeod as a secure tackler that seemed to have a nose for the ball. A stunning performance against the Jags highlighted that strength in week 8, but the best was yet to come. In just 13 games played (9 starts), Maddox recorded 2 interceptions and 9 pass breakup with a completion percentage allowed of 45%. He surrendered only one touchdown all year, with a passer rating of 52.0.
Big things were expected in his sophomore campaign, but it was to be a year of hardship. What obviously stands out is the chilling collision with teammate Andrew Sendejo against the Packers, which saw Maddox stretchered off the field in a scary scene that silenced all at Lambeau field. He shockingly returned to football just a few weeks later, but the young corner struggled a little more than he did in the year beforehand.
Maddox allowed 27 more completions despite one less appearance. He also allowed a completion percentage of 61% while allowed receivers to run for 221 yards after the catch. In his rookie season, he only allowed 60 YAC.
The question now becomes one of rebounding. We’ve seen a good year, and a slightly disappointing year. Will Maddox be able to rekindle his rookie fire in 2020, a year without OTA’s and limited training camp? That’s a big question, but not the biggest.
Where will he play?
The Pitt product shined at Safety as a rookie, but that room is now brimming with rapid playmakers after the additions of Will Parks and K’Von Wallace. Inside, LeBlanc and Robey-Coleman hold the fort. Outside, Sidney Jones, Trevor Williams, and Rasul Douglas could all be considered candidates in the battle for CB2. Maddox is a shorter corner as we know and can struggle against taller receivers outside.
Marquand Manuel, the team’s new DB coach who helped players like Damontae Kazee shine in Atlanta, will undoubtedly have a hand in getting him in the best position possible. It is very likely that with Jones, Douglas, and Williams all out of contract next year, that they’d want to pave the way for Maddox to earn that CB2 role, maybe even giving him an inside track. But with a slightly disappointing second year and no room at the inn at Safety or in the nickel, the one thing Maddox cannot afford to do is get lost in the shuffle.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports