Eagles CB Avonte Maddox faces his toughest test yet on the outside

Eagles avonte maddox
PHILADELPHIA, PA – MAY 21: Philadelphia Eagles free safety Avonte Maddox (29) during the Philadelphia Eagles OTA on May 21, 2019 at the Novacare Training Complex in Philadelphia, PA (Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire)

Avonte Maddox has only been in the league since 2018, but his career has taken many twists and turns. Before being drafted in the fourth round, he had never played an outside corner spot or at Safety. By the end of his rookie year he had succeeded at both. But now, coming back from an injury, he’ll face his toughest task yet.

Maddox picked up an ankle injury against the Bengals in week 3 and was sidelined until a few snaps against the Giants to go with some special teams action. Without the Pitt product in the lineup, the Eagles had experimented with Jalen Mills and Nickell Robey-Coleman outside, with both bringing different reasons to be underwhelmed.

It’s clear Darius Slay can’t single-handedly save the secondary. As great as he’s been, it doesn’t stop opposing QB’s simply throwing to the other side of the field where there is a night-and-day comparison in terms of matchup potential. Making matters worse is that even though the Cowboys are down to their third-string QB, their receiving corps is unbelievable.

If Darius Slay matches up against Amari Cooper, it’s going to leave Avonte Maddox on CeeDee Lamb and Robey-Coleman on Michael Gallup. Rotate the trio how you want, but somebody is always going to be at risk of giving up the big play.

Dallas rank first in the NFL when it comes to passing yards, averaging 316 per game. In their last 3 games, that number has sunk to a measly 194 but with good reason. However, it shouldn’t mean that the Eagles overlook the fact that Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb have combined for 1,080 yards and 8 touchdowns in 4 weeks.

It’s going to be a heavy workload for Maddox. The last time he faced an outside receiver of this caliber was arguably the matchup against Green Bay last year, where Davante Adams ran rampant.

However, he played outside against the Giants in the final game of last season, playing in 26% of defensive snaps while registering one pass deflection. This gave the Eagles enough confidence to ride that wave going into the 2020 season and even after a bumpy start, the plan remains the same.

Jim Schwartz doubled down on 5’9 corner Avonte Maddox, who will likely try to keep the 6’2 CeeDee Lamb at bay this weekend before diving into his role against the Giants.

“Oh, yeah, he’s our starting corner outside when he is healthy. He was just coming back.” Schwartz told reporters on Tuesday.” It was a difficult week. We started his return to play and we didn’t have any practice, so it was really hard to gauge where he was. He wasn’t 100 percent sure. We weren’t 100 percent sure.”

“He was active sort of as an emergency player. He got pressed into service on some punt return stuff, and he was doing a good job staying warm in case we needed him. Because of some of the zones that we were playing at the end of the game we put him in at corner. We knew he wasn’t going to have to run 80 yards down the field to cover somebody, but we wanted him in there and he had felt good enough on those special teams snaps and kept himself warm.

“He was trending the right way. Looks like he’s definitely trending to being able to get back in there. I thought Robey did a good job subbing in there, but Avonte is an outside corner for us and it will be good to get him back out there.”

Avonte Maddox has 20 tackles, a pair of passes defensed, and a PFF grade of just 48 on the season so far. His first start back from an ankle injury will come against an offense that contains a three-headed monster at the wide receiver position. With his height working against him more than ever, Maddox will have to lean on his explosive speed and firm tackling to not only stay alive in the game, but prove to the Eagles that he can still be a long-term option at CB2 and is ready to lock down that position.

Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire