Jones, long believed to be a first round-caliber player and a possible Eagles target, suffered an Achilles injury at his pro day in mid-March.
The injury dropped Jones from the first round to the second, but Howie Roseman and the Eagles’ war room believe, when he returns from his injury, the 20-year-old corner can be a playmaker for a defense in dire need of cornerback help.
“For us, it’s about what we believe this kid brings to our team going forward,” Roseman said Friday night. “We anticipate a full recovery for him. We don’t know that time table and, to be fair, we’re just going to make sure he’s healthy and ready to go, because we believe he could be an impact player for us for a long time.”
Roseman said the Eagles will not be rushing Jones back from his injury. The team’s doctors and medical staff studied Achilles injuries, recovery timetables, and careers post-Achilles injuries for months.
Not only did they look at previous CBs and NFLers who’d suffered Achilles injuries, Roseman said, they also talked to doctors and players from other sports in order to get as well-rounded a picture of what they’re dealing with as possible.
There is obvious inherent risk in taking a player who is currently dealing with an injury, and who won’t be ready for the start of the season. The Daily News’ Les Bowen reported Jones could be ready to play by the middle of the season. Roseman wouldn’t commit to whether Jones would play this season.
As our Dave Mangels examined back in February, taking a player who misses their first season in the league has worked out historically poorly for teams in the past few years.
Roseman, to his credit, didn’t shy away from the risk the Eagles took in selecting Jones, with players like Colorado cornerback Chidobe Awuzie still on the board.
“There’s no insurance for this,” Roseman said. “But we feel really confident that with our medical team, when he gets here, [Jones] is going to be able to be the same player he was before the injury.
“We’re just going to make sure we get 100 percent of Sidney going forward, because this is an extremely talented guy at an important, hard-to-find position.”
When weighing whether to take Jones, Roseman said the people in the Eagles’ draft room looked at it like this: if an Eagles player already on the roster, a player they liked a lot, were to suffer an injury next week and not be able to start the season, would they still view that player as an asset, and still be excited about that player’s future? Yes.
Did they feel the same way about Jones’s future? Yes.
“The draft is about the long-term interest of your football team, and if you go into it and say, ‘Hey, we have this open spot on our depth chart, we’ve got to fill it right now,’ we’re going to miss opportunities to get the best player,” Roseman said. “When we look at it, for us, whatever the timetable is for Sidney, when he gets back and he’s 100 percent, he’s a difference maker at the corner position. For us, that’s something we’ve been looking for. It’s hard to get that guy, period, let alone with the 43rd pick in the draft.”
Jones stands 6 feet tall, weighs 183 pounds, and was an absolute stud on a Washington team that made the College Football Playoff with a heaping dose of help from a shutdown defense.
For his part, Jones didn’t allow a single touchdown in coverage in 2016, and allowed just one since the beginning of 2015, a startling juxtaposition to the kinds of problems the Eagles’ corners have had against the NFL’s best passers in recent years.
Joe Douglas, who set the Eagles’ draft board and therefore influenced everything the Eagles are doing in this year’s draft, saw Jones and Washington play live when the Huskies faced Arizona State this past season. Obviously, Douglas liked what he saw.
“The thing that jumps out the most about Sidney is his length, his feet, he’s a very smooth mover,” Douglas said. “He can easily flip his hips, he can carry guys down the field. He’s very instinctive, very route-aware. He has a really good gauge on what the receiver’s going to do at the top of his routes. And I think he has ideal ball skills.”
It would seem the Eagles, at least according to Roseman, managed to snag two players they had rated in their top 15 of the entire draft in Derek Barnett and, now, Jones. Whether Jones pans out after the extended time off remains to be seen. But, on paper, the Eagles’ defense has a bright future after the team’s first two draft picks.