Avonte Maddox is the last cornerback remaining of drafts past and for a pretty big reason. From the trio involving Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones, Avonte was the only one who flashed his potential consistently in his rookie season and beyond.
He showed the ability to be a positionless player in a defense that demanded versatility, despite the fact that he only played in the nickel during his time at Pitt. However, over the past two years, injuries and some lacklustre play have held him back.
For his career, Maddox has allowed 98 completions out of 166 targets for a completion percentage of 59%, which isn’t bad at all. He’s also only allowed 4 touchdowns, but he’s actually been regressing since his sophomore season.
Quarterbacks averaged a passer rating of 52 when throwing his way as a rookie but that spiked over the next two years. In 2019 it rose to 85.1 and in 2020 it jumped to 108. Those aren’t telling signs of a player getting better in anyone’s book, nor does it provide the new coaching staff any type of comfort going forward. He’s also only had 2 interceptions in his entire career with both of them coming from his rookie season.
So how does a new coaching staff evaluate a player like Maddox – someone who thrived at Safety and has struggled to hold his own as an outside CB due to his smaller 5-9 frame?
Avonte Maddox does have an intriguing skillset. His change-of-direction is scary and this aids him when breaking on balls and closing down hill to play the run. In a new scheme, we may see him find a new lease of life. The problem is working out exactly where he’ll find it.
It’s all about how much he wants it. Now in his contract year, Maddox needs to buckle down this season and treat it as if it’s his first due to the amount of competition that the cornerback room currently has. As things stand, we can assume Maddox will probably shift back inside and battle with Zech McPhearson for the starting role. Normally, this would be a pretty straightforward battle, but Howie Roseman tossed a wildcard into the mix by trading for another slot corner in Josiah Scott.
The Eagles could double-down on his experience outside given the lack of real CB2 contenders on the roster, but it’s not like he was shutdown worthy when afforded a starting opportunity last year. His frame haunted him in every matchup and despite his impressive speed, he simply struggled to compete against much taller and more physical wideouts. The sample size of CB2 play in 2019 wasn’t convincing and what we saw in 2020 only further proved that he should probably stick to a nickel role.
On top of that, we’ve seen players like Nate Meadors and Shakial Taylor coming in, who are familiar with new defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon and will only intensify competition on the outside. Without a real salary obligation to Maddox anymore, it seems as if it could be an uphill battle for the 4th year corner to find a stable home if he struggles during the Summer.
Gone are the days of lackadaisical effort and finger-wagging for unaccomplished plays. It’s the dawn of a new era, one that could benefit Maddox if he can showcase the potential he’s flashed on numerous occasions so far in his short career, but one that could also have him fighting for every single snap of playing time with nothing being guaranteed.
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire