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Is Sidney Jones primed for a breakout season?

According to training camp reports, the answer is... complicated.

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Pittsburgh Steelers v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

We all have our camp favorites and I’m no different. This year I’ve got a few, but I’m risking it all for a cornerback that has frustrated the Philadelphia faithful with a painfully slow start to his career. That camp crush is Sidney Jones and I’m officially leading the hype train.

Obviously I should be using the qualifier “if healthy”, but forget all that. I can predict injuries with the accuracy akin to my jump shot, which is non-existent. Also, only cowards hedge, so I won’t be giving myself any outs.

It’s good to know that I’m not the only one pounding the table for Jones. Ian Wharton recently dialed in on seven “up-and-coming” cornerbacks. The list includes some personal favorites of mine like Taron Johnson (Buffalo Bills) and J.C. Jackson (New England Patriots). It also includes one from the Philadelphia Eagles; that being the aforementioned Sidney Jones.

“If we’re just going off 2018, it’s fair to say that second-year corner Avonte Maddox may be the one to watch in this unit, but both are notable talents capable of jumping. The difference in this nod is due to Jones’ peaks, even in 10 games, are that of an elite NFL corner because of his athletic traits... Jones’ quick-twitch lower body and knack for playing the ball bodes well for him to establish himself as long as he’s healthy.” - Ian Wharton

Now, I’ve been down this road before. Early in the 2018 season, Jones came flying out of the gate with three stellar performances that highlighted his knack for making plays. According to PFF, in that stretch he allowed 8 receptions (23rd), 39 yards (6th), 0.41 yards per coverage snap (7th), with a 62.2 QB Rating when targeted (15th). After that stretch is when things fell apart, in part due to a lingering hamstring injury.

When asked about Jones earlier this week, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz let us know he didn’t forget what healthy Sidney brings to the table.

“He made a play against the Colts last year, it was one of the freakiest plays I’ve seen, I mean, it was a great play.”

I’m going to assume the play below is what Schwartz is referring to, which gained national attention and praise from Malcolm Jenkins on Twitter.

Schwartz also noted an “expensive start-up cost” with Jones as the Eagles have been uber-patient with his development. To justify that cost, Jones is going to have to stay available and play up to his potential. Even if he is available, he can’t afford to suffer nagging injuries that impact his play like they did when he could barely run full speed against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 14 last year. Granted, with a healthier defensive backfield he likely doesn’t have to suit up for that game but it points to a bigger problem about his contributions to this point.

Jones is garnering praise from the coaches and media for his standout camp to this point. In the first week practices, he’s racked up several pass breakups and a few interceptions. He’s also admittedly been burned by DeSean Jackson, but the list of defenders that’s happened to grows by the day. Overall it’s an encouraging sign for Jones, but he’ll still have plenty of doubters regarding his ability to stay healthy and play at a high level. I’m not among them.


Is Sidney Jones primed for a breakout season?

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