Last year at this time, Sidney Jones wasn’t even able to physically attend Philadelphia Eagles OTA practices, let alone participate in them.
The 2017 second-round pick was stuck back at the University of Washington as he was rehabbing from a torn Achilles.
Jones’ injury is long behind him now, though. The 22-year-old showed no lingering effects as he received first team reps on the first OTA practice of the 2018 offseason.
One might wonder if the Eagles would temper the expectations for Jones as he missed nearly his entire rookie season. Based on what Super Bowl winning head coach Doug Pederson had to say prior to Tuesday’s session, that’s clearly not the case.
Q. In CB Sidney Jones’ case, do you view him almost as a rookie or is he ready to be a starting caliber player in that mix at this point?
DOUG PEDERSON: Well, I think definitely in the mix. What he did towards the end of last season and had a chance to get in that last game there with Dallas really, I think, boosted his confidence going into this off-season. Now that he’s had a full off-season now with [defensive backs] coach [Cory] Undlin and [defensive coordinator Jim] Schwartz’s defense, he’s definitely going to be in the mix. It’s going to be good for him and a lot of our young players these next ten practices.
Jones lined up as the first team slot corner when the Eagles were utilizing their nickel package. That’s hardly an insignificant role. Consider that 2017 slot corner Patrick Robinson played 69% of the Eagles’ defensive snaps. Nickel is the new base, after all.
Jones made a good impression in the first practice of his NFL career that was open to the media. His size and length were apparent as he blanketed receivers in coverage. He leaped high in the air to pick off a Nick Foles pass that was underthrown.
It wasn’t all positive for Jones. He did surrendered a contested catch to Shelton Gibson before then also badly whiffing on the attempt to wrap him up.
But these struggles are to be expected. This is Jones’ first full real offseason and he’s a very young prospect.
Still, adding Jones to a Super Bowl caliber is very exciting. This is a player the Eagles hyped as a top 10 talent on their board last year prior to his injury. They’re eager to see if he can prove them right.
Jones’ opportunity as a starting boundary corner might have to wait. Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills, starters on last year’s championship team, are still in the lead for those jobs for now. Darby will be motivated not to lose his spot as he enters a contract season. Mills, meanwhile, is a favorite of the coaching staff for a reason.
Jones could prove to give those players a run for their money. At the very least, he could be a valuable contributor as Robinson’s replacement in the slot. Jones showed off quickness in practice that could allow him to excel in that role.
It goes without saying that it’ll be very interesting to monitor’s Jones’ progress this offseason. The year of waiting could be worth it.