Tied up 13-13 late in the third quarter, the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles needed a stop. Carson Wentz had just fumbled and Indianapolis Colts’ defensive linemen Margus Hunt recovered the ball at the Eagles 13-yard line. Backs against the wall again, the defense stood on it’s head.
On first down, the Colts came out in bunch right and tried to sneak tight end Eric Ebron up the seam. Before the play it looks like Jalen Mills’ recognizes the strength of the formation and potential trouble down that seam and motions to Malcolm Jenkins to favor his coverage that way. Jenkins is keyed in on TY Hilton, however, which is always a good idea against the Colts, and picks up his over route. That leaves Ebron streaking through the heart of the Eagles zone defense.
Once Ebron passes, the light bulb clicks on for Sidney Jones. There’s no threat in front of him, and a 6’4” 253 pound red zone threat behind him. He makes a snap decision and retreats just in time to make a play on the ball for an incompletion.
That’s one touchdown saved. The next save on second down would be otherworldly.
Can your nickel corner do this? pic.twitter.com/WNF3BQJfcM— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) September 25, 2018
No fancy breakdown needed here; this is a freakish play. It displays athleticism, balance, football IQ, tenacity and all the other things you want in your defensive backs. Jones defeats the cut block of Ryan Grant by turning into Wolverine and then grabs both tackle Denzelle Good and wide receiver Zach Pascal. This holds up both of them up to free up Mills to secure the tackle. The Colts would fail to convert on third down and settle for a field goal; it’s a big win for the defense considering the circumstances.
Is it a penalty for defensive holding? It depends on your interpretation of Rule 12, Section 1, Article 6 of the NFL Rule Book.
“A defensive player may not... tackle or hold an opponent other than a runner. Otherwise, he may use his hands, arms or body only to defend or protect himself against an obstructing opponent in an attempt to reach a runner...”
Regardless of what you think of the no-call, this play saves a touchdown flagged or not. If Jones is stoned by Grant’s cut block or if Jones doesn’t engage the cluster of Colts players, Good is given a free run at Mills. Bottom line, Jones prevents an easy six.
Recognizing the insane, acrobatic effort by Jones, this play was picked up by The Checkdown, the NFL Digital Media’s football culture brand.
And once official outlets start giving it love, players started chiming in. One of which was Malcolm Jenkins, who expressed his astonishment over the play.
Jones deserves the praise from us, the media, his teammates and others in the league. Not only for this individual effort on both first and second down as shown above, but his overall play. The second round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft is seeing his first meaningful action for the Eagles and he’s been lights out.
In three games, Pro Football Focus credited Jones with 96 coverage snaps, 14 targets, 8 receptions and 39 yards. That’s key for a defense that had to replace the contributions made by Patrick Robinson last year at nickel. The coaching staff has shown increasing trust in him by giving him his highest percentage of snaps (78%) against the Colts.
The Eagles have used a healthy amount of big nickel packages with third safety Corey Graham eating into Jones’ snaps. If plays like this continue to happen though, it’s going to be tough to justify not having Jones on the field more often. It’s happening folks; Sidney Jones is living up to the hype.